Take-off: Walthamstow aviation memorial is back on show after Loving Dalston flies into action

Seconds after liftoff the great flapping thing from the arch fell to earth in one of several prangs
Seconds after liftoff the great flapping marshes thing fell to earth in one of several prangs

PlaqueRoView: Walthamstow Marches by Lee Navigation Clapton London NE 180616 © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com
Overgrown: how the undergrowth overtook the approach to the west-side plaque
PlaqueRoe: Walthamstow Marches by Lee Navigation Clapton London NE 180616 © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com (see also Roe.peg)
Memorial to a brave original
ON WALTHAMSTOW MARSHES are two plaques marking the first powered flight in Britain. They were, however, slipping from public view.

A reader told Loving Dalston that brambles and other undergrowth were overtaking the approach to the memorials to Alliott Verdon Roe (1877-1958), making it impossible for anyone to get close enough to read the words. A reader told Loving Dalston that brambles and other undergrowth were overtaking the approach to the memorials to Alliott Verdon Roe (1877-1958), making it impossible for anyone to get close enough to read the words.

In a season of rain and sunshine, this was understandable. But the editor decided that the imminence of the 13 July anniversary of the, uhm, groundbreaking flight, all 30m of it, meant that the plaques should quickly be made easily readable to passers-by. A quick quiz of walkers revealed that most had not noticed the plaques, let alone read them.

Daring: inventor, entrepreneur, designer, test pilot (Wikimedia)

They were erected by Waltham Forest council in 2009, a century after the flight, although the land is administered by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

Loving Dalston pressed the council and the authority for action and this week park ranger Eamonn Lawlor phoned the editor to say a path would be cut through the undergrowth to allow close-up viewing.

Particular care had to be taken with undergrowth trimming, he said, because the marshes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

On the east side is a locked gate, which, he explained, was used to keep enclosed the cattle that graze on the marsh.

To think, it was a mere 107 years ago that the intrepid Roe took off in the flimsy-looking structure he had built in two  hired railway arches on the marshes. What progress in the following century: another Englishman has just returned from soaring through outer space.

Did Roe profit from his magnificent flying machine? Certainly: his AV Roe Aircraft Co. sold  8,300 Avro 504s and made the Lancaster bomber that helped to keep fascism at bay in the 1940s.

Eamonn Lawlor LVRPA ranger @ aviator AV Roe memorial Walthamstow Marshes London E10 050716 © DavidAltheer[at]gmail.com
Path of glory: park ranger Eamonn Lawlor after clearing a way to the memorial
Nine years after the triplane skimmed briefly over the marshes, Roe bought S. E. Saunders to form Saunders-Roe Aviation, which later made the hovercraft that  carried passengers between Kent and northern France.

Sadly, the flying-saucer lookalikes never caught the public imagination, losing out to more conventional forms of cross-Channel transport. A great English creation became little more than a museum piece.

Hamish Scott 040616

Model of triplane designed by AV Roe Walthamstow Marshes E17 9NH first UK-flight 1909 pioneer Vestry House, Walthamstow photo ex 130216 © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com
Model: this has been on show at Vestry House, Walthamstow
* Backstory: Kate Malone fish statues lost to Leyton

* All pictures on this page © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com (apart from main pic, © verdon-roe.co.uk, and those supplied by Wikimedia) and are for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats

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