I became familiar with London Airport from the age of 11 in 1954 when we moved to Hounslow. Plane spotting for me and most of my friends was a regular thing rather than train spotting as the planes flew overhead and the airport was close enough to cycle to very easily. I had an “I-Spy” book but there were not really that many types of large passenger planes which flew in so they were not difficult to spot and identify and most pages were blank.
Very soon after my arrival school friends said “Let’s go to the airport” because a tunnel had just been opened that week leading from the main Bath Road into the centre. I decided to try this as it was new. My friends used the old access road which went straight across the main runway to the centre. Big mistake because I never managed to take that route which was closed straightaway after that weekend. Nevertheless there was plenty of access to the main runway as we sat on the grass beside it. There was a low wicket fence which was more or less lying on the ground but there was not really any danger because planes were few and far between. We had to wait ,a long time to see a plane probably 20 minutes or more.
I was not aware of large buildings nearby although I had heard of the Queens Building being built. It was in fact finished in 1955 along with a passenger terminal of the same date. I never saw any passengers and believe that they checked in at white painted wooden sheds which were strung along the Bath Road.
Access to the airport remained free and easy during my school days. There was ring road inside the perimeter of the airport which provided a short cut when cycling in the area. My first entry to the working part of the airport a few years later was when I had a summer job in the BOAC canteen which was located on the floor above the vast main BOAC engine hall. Again I simply cycled to the door and left my bike outside. At lunchtime I was removed from the (huge) main canteen which served the engineers in their overalls (working class)and was sent to wash up in the (elite) staff restaurant serving pilots and airline staff in smart uniforms. This was obviously a hangover from military life as many pilots will have been ex RAF ,such matters of class are still commonplace with the railways and air travel. It was table service with uniformed waiters and special crockery which I had to wash up by hand, unlike the standard crockery in the canteen which was placed in the dishwashers.
The name of the airport was changed in 1966 to Heathrow. It was named after Hounslow Heath, renowned as a former haunt of Highwaymen preying on the travellers to and from London along the Bath Road, on which it was built. In my time there was some heathland left but no highwaymen.
THE HISTORY OF THE RECREATION & READING ROOM FOR THE VILLAGES OF THRESHFIELD & SKIRETHORNES
This was the proud and confident title given to the community organisation established in 1944 in the building in Monkholme Lane in Threshfield now familiar to residents as the place to where they come to cast their votes at election times.
The building was part of the estate of Sir Matthew Wilson and was used by the plumbers for maintaining the estate’s water pipes. It was also the First Aid Post for the Ambulance Committee.
It was felt locally that a meeting place was needed for the community activities particularly for the children. A public meeting was held, a Committee of residents was formed and the first Trustees were Mr Anthony Latimer Dean, Mr John Harrison, Mr Leonard Bradley and Miss Hannah Smith. The premises were rented from the Wilson Estate at the initial rent of £1.00 per annum rising to £5.00 per annum in 1952. Membership was 5 shillings (25p) per annum for adults and 2 shillings and sixpence (10.5p) for juniors.
The premises became a focus of village life. The lower room was used for the provision of newspapers and the upper room for games of darts, draughts, dominoes, cards and quoits.
During the next few years activities were set in train to raise funds for the purchase including whist drives, lantern lectures and bring and buy sales. The Estate was approached with an offer to buy the building. An agreement to sell for £375.00 to include an adjoining plot of land was eventually made. £1,193.00 was raised to cover the purchase, which was completed in 1955, and to build an extension to the lower room. The project was paid for by local efforts without seeking grants and this remains the principle for the maintenance of the premises to this day. All the plumbing and heating was carried out by local tradesmen. Interior alterations including to doors and windows and laying a new parquet floor were carried out by Messrs Merritt and Fryers at a cost of £700.00.
The official opening took place in October 1958 celebrated by a Bring and Buy Sale in the afternoon and a bumper Whist Drive in the evening. From that time the premises were renamed the Threshfield Village Institute.
Many community activities continued to take place in the years which followed. There were annual dinner dances held in different venues. Pantomime trips to Bradford were arranged for the children and there were Mystery Day Trips, for example, to Chatsworth, Edinburgh and Whitby. Other activities including Wine and Cheese Evenings, Scout Group meetings in the upper room, children’s concerts, whist drives, craft classes and bring and buy sales all played their part. The 50th Anniversary of the Institute’s foundation took place with a Gala in the Park in July 1994 opened by Mr S E Birdsall of Rose Cottage.
Times have changed and fewer community activities take place. An Annual Dinner is still held and is well attended and the yearly Domino Drives remains a popular event. A yearly Jumble Sale attracting numerous shoppers, took place until Covid 19 intervened. The upper room now provides storage for Grassington Players’ costumes and props. Several local groups, including the Threshfield and Linton W.I. hire the ground floor to pursue their members’ interests at a modest charge and the Parish Council holds its meetings there.
The Institute continues to pay its way and is there for Threshfield’s and other local residents to make use of.
The attached photo of Monkholme Lane showing The Institute on the right was taken before alterations were made to the building between 1955 and 1958.