7th December 2022

The Brabazon Hangar | The Perfect Backdrop

BRABAZON HANGAR BRISTOL

Finding the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot is never easy. It is even harder when the product can be over 4 meters long. So, when we caught wind of a spacious aircraft hangar just down the road from our workshop, we were undoubtedly excited. 

The Brabazon Hangar is part of Filton Airfield, in North Bristol and boasts a rich history of aviation and manufacturing. It should come as no surprise that we love using industrial spaces with a story to tell. The Brabazon Hangars were no different – we knew it was meant to be. Filton Airfield 

Filton Airfield is a prominent part of Bristol – rich in aviation history and currently home to Aerospace Bristol, which houses the last Concorde built and the last to fly. The airfield was initially constructed in 1915 and has been a significant part of Bristol’s aviation heritage. During World War I, Filton Airfield was used as an operational base for the Royal Flying Corps. In World War II, it became home to No. 262 Squadron RAF, which flew Supermarine Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. Nowadays, Filton Airfield is primarily used by private aircraft owners and small commercial operations. It is also home to several museums, including the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum and, of course, the Brabazon Hangar.

The Brabazon Mark I 

Following the end of the Second World War, while the country was trying to put itself back together, transitioning from building military aircraft to commercial airliners was the obvious step. So much so that when Bristol Aeroplane Company was awarded the contract to make the first commercial aircraft, they already had the perfect location. Construction of the Aircraft Assembly Hall (or AAH, later nicknamed the Brabazon Hangar) was started in 1946 to the west of the aircraft factory on Filton Airfield. 

Following the hangars’ completion, it became the home of the new Brabazon Mark I – having been partially completed at the original factory site. The Brabazon Mark I was the first British commercial airliner and the world’s first pressurised, four-engined long-range passenger aircraft; with a wingspan of 70m, it was the largest civil aeroplane in the world. On 4th September 1949, the Brabazon Mark I prototype made its first flight from the AAH – however, this success was short-lived. In 1952 – due to the rapid technological advancements in the aviation industry, it was decided that the Brabazon Mark I was no longer required. It took its last flight from the Brabazon Hangar on Filton Airfield, Bristol. 

For the next five years, aircraft built with the assistance of AAH continued to be used for additional purposes. For example, ex–USAF B-29 bombers were converted into airliners (e.g., British Airways), and prototypes for other commercial planes, such as Britain’s Bristol Britannia airliner, were developed in 1952 and first flew by 1955—with production lasting until 1960.

The Concorde 

In the 1960s, the focus was on speed, and with that came supersonic travel – the Concorde. The manufacture of sub-assemblies for the Concorde was distributed around aircraft factories in the UK and France. Final assembly lines were based in the AAH, Filton and Toulouse. 

The first British Concorde took off from Filton Airfield in 1969, and production of ten more continued in Bristol. Following the Paris Concorde crash in 2000 improvements were carried out. Bullet-proof doors were also added following the terrorist attacks in the USA in 2001. The final British Concorde to be made took its last flight, landing at Filton Airfield in November of the same year. BA and AirFrance jointly announced the grounding of Concorde in 2003, with all aircraft being distributed for preservation.

A visitor centre opened on the airfield the following year, containing the last Concorde ever flown and other decommissioned aircraft. After thousands of pounds of investment, Aerospace Bristol became what it is today. 

Blank Canvas

The Brabazon Hangar is one of Bristol’s most unique and atmospheric settings, spanning 26 acres in total, with concertinaed doors running the entire building length (1,052 feet). Split into three separate hangars, each used initially for different aspects of aviation manufacturing and slightly different in design. 

The central hangar, the largest of the three, was predominantly used for the final assembly of the Brabazon Mark I and the Concorde, which is understandable when you realise the vast space inside. An old aircraft lives in the left hangar while the right is empty. 

It’s hard not to want to explore when you visit the hangars; not a lot had changed. You could still see where they used daily to build, fix and paint different types of aircraft – even to the “no smoking” sign painted on the rear wall. The vast expanse of steel pipework forming the ceiling of the central hangar is nothing short of a work of art. It’s the kind of thing you could spend hours staring at, imagining what it would have been like when there were hundreds of people working in these hangars. Just with old, hangar-type buildings – industrial features like exposed pipes and cables are standard, and the Brabazon did not disappoint.

The hangars were designed by the same architect who created some of London’s most iconic buildings; including Selfridges on Oxford Street and the Shell Centre. The Brabazon Hangars are Grade II listed for their architectural merit and contribution to British engineering history.

With its history of aviation, exposed industrial features and sheer size, it was the perfect spot for our photoshoot. Considering, our latest boardroom tables range between 1 – 4m long. 

Future of the Brabazon 

The wheels are in motion for the Brabazon Hangar to be transformed. With the plans including the YTL Arena, Bristol, a 17,000-capacity arena dedicated to living music, comedy and performance. Each of the three sectors of the hangar will have its use – ensuring the space does not go to waste. The central hangar will be home to the arena itself in addition to a 3,000-person bar aptly named the Runway Bar. The bar itself will cover the entire width of the hangar. The west hangar will become a 365-day-a-year venue for leisure, food, drinks and workspaces. With the East being used for trade shows, exhibitions, conventions and other events. 

It doesn’t stop there, YTL are also planning to introduce parks, 2,675 new homes and 62 acres of commercial space. In addition to this, there are also plans for the largest new urban public park in the south west for over 50 years. Read all about what they have planned here

The Perfect Setting

The Brabazon Hangar is a unique setting. The hangar is the perfect size for a photoshoot, with each location having a stunning backdrop. The hangar’s history of aviation and its clean lines make it the perfect blank canvas for a Steel Vintage photoshoot. 

We spent the morning exploring while our photographer got set up, and we were all blown away by the space. As well as the vast expanse of the central hangar, there were so many little details around every corner; from creepy to an abandoned plane. 

We found three perfect spots to act as backdrops for our new office-based products: two new Quad Leg Table designs; the Steampunk Quad Leg Table & the Pilot Quad Leg Table. Two new Desks, the Steampunk Corner Desk & the Grand X Modular Desk. In addition to one new table design – the Steampunk Round Table. 

We can’t wait to go back when it has been transformed into the YTL venue!


Paige Allison

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