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British Industrial History

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Bristol Aeroplane Co

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November 1927.
December 1939.
1940s. Finishing aircraft parts.
April 1943.
1946. Aeroplane engines being built at Bristol Engine Co.
October 5 1946..
August 1949. (The Bristol Aeroplane Company (Housing) Ltd.
August 1951.
October 1951.
January 1952.
1953. Ramjet Test Vehicle in Flight.
March 1960.

Formerly the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co


1920 The company's products had always been referred to by the name 'Bristol' and this was formalized when The British and Colonial was liquidated and its assets became the Bristol Aeroplane Co.

1920 The Company bought the failing Cosmos Engineering, to form the nucleus of its new aero-engine operations; the Bristol Engine Co.

1920 New seaplane announced. [1]

A major product during the inter-war years was the Bristol Bulldog fighter, which formed the mainstay of RAF fighters between 1918 and 1935. During this time Bristol was noted for its policy of 'all-steel' airframes, preferring steel to the light alloys generally used in aircraft construction. Bristol airframes were built up from high-tensile strip steel rolled into section, and were powered exclusively by Bristol's own engines.

1924 The Company, like other firms, was engaged on confidential work for the Air Ministry. Among that work reference is permitted to the "Bloodhound," a two-seater reconnaissance and fighting machine embodying an all-metal system of construction, except as regards the wing, tail and fuselage coverings. [2]

c.1925: Awarded £50,000 by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors for the Bristol Fighter aeroplane and £2,500 in respect of communication to the US government of inventions, designs, etc in relation to aircraft and aircraft accessories[3]

1933 Constructors of aircraft for all purposes and air-cooled aero engines. Head Office and Works: Filton House, Bristol.[4]

1935 June 15th. The Bristol Aeroplane Company became a public limited liability company. By this time the Company had a payroll of 4,200, mostly in the engine factory, and was well positioned to take advantage of the huge re-armament ordered by the British Government in May of that year. Bristol's most important contribution to the expansion of the RAF at this time was the Blenheim light bomber.

1937 Listed as Aeroplane constructors and aero-engine manufacturers. "Aquila" Sleeve-valve Aero Engine. "Bristol" Aircraft and Aero Engines. "Mercury IX" Aero Engines. "Pegasus X" Aero Engine. "Perseus VIII" Aero Engine. "Phoenix" Diesel Aero Engine. [5]

1937 May 13th. The Bristol Aeroplane Co and Rolls-Royce combined their propeller developments to form Rotol Airscrews.

1938 August. Frank Barnwell was killed in a light plane crash, and was succeeded as Chief Designer by Leslie Frise.

WWII By the time war broke out, the Bristol works at Filton were the largest single aircraft manufacturing unit in the world, with a floor area of nearly 25 hectares (2,691,000 square feet). WWII During the Second World War Bristol's most important aircraft was the Beaufighter heavy two-seat multi-role aircraft; a long-range fighter, night fighter, ground attack aircraft and torpedo bomber. It was used extensively by the RAF and Commonwealth air forces, and by the USAAF. The Beaufighter was derived from the earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber, itself a derivative of the Blenheim.

1940 A shadow factory had been set up at Weston-super-Mare for the production of Beaufighters.

WWII The company's wartime headquarters was in the Royal West of England Academy.

1941 A joint venture company was formed by the Bristol Aeroplane Co and Aerojet General of the USA called Bristol Aerojet. A factory was built in Banwell near Weston-Super-Mare which was operated by the Bristol Aeroplane Co.

Post-WWII When the war ended Bristol set up a separate helicopter division in the Weston-super-Mare factory, under helicopter pioneer Raoul Hafner.

Other post-war projects included Bristol Cars, which used pre-war BMW designs as the basis for a new car, the Bristol 400. The car company became independent in 1960, around the same time as the consolidation the British aircraft industry, but is still based at the Filton site.

Prefabricated buildings, marine craft and plastic and composite materials were also early post-war activities, but these were eventually sold off.

1949 Bristol was involved in the post war renaissance of British civilian aircraft as inspired by the Brabazon Committee report. In 1949, the Bristol Brabazon airliner prototype, at the time one of the largest aircraft in the world, first flew. The Brabazon airliner project was a step in the wrong direction and ultimately cancelled in 1953. At the same time the Bristol Britannia turboprop-powered airliner proved a huge success and it and the Bristol Freighter transport aircraft were produced in quantity during the 1950s. Bristol was also involved in helicopter development with the Bristol Belvedere and Bristol Sycamore helicopters going into quantity production.

1949 Advert for The Bristol Aeroplane Company (Housing) Ltd. of Weston-Super-Mare.

1954 Acquired an interest in Short Brothers and Harland

1955 Formed 3 subsidiaries to take over the aircraft (Bristol Aircraft), engine (Bristol Aero-Engines) and car (Bristol Cars) divisions[6]

1956 Another post-war activity was missile development, culminating in the production of the Bristol Bloodhound anti-aircraft missile. The company produced a range of rocket motors and ramjets for missile propulsion and this became Bristol Aero-Engines

In the late 1950s the Company undertook supersonic transport (SST) project studies, which were later to contribute to Concorde. A research aircraft, the Bristol 188, was constructed in the 1950s to test the feasibility of stainless steel as a material in a Mach 2.0 airframe.

1959 The company merged with the aircraft interests of English Electric Co and Vickers-Armstrongs, and with Hunting Aircraft to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), which became one of 2 large airframe manufacturing groups in the UK.

1960 The Helicopter Division of Bristol was taken over by Westland.

1963 English Electric's guided weapons development and production facilities were integrated with those of Bristol Aircraft in a new subsidiary British Aircraft Corporation Guided Weapons. [7]

Aero Engines

Aero-engines see:


See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1920/11/12 p488
  2. The Engineer 1925/01/02
  3. The Times, Jan 13, 1925
  4. 1933 Who's Who in British Aviation
  5. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  6. The Times , May 15, 1956
  7. The Times, Apr 24, 1963
  • Wikipedia
  • AA. [1] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry
  • The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) by J. M. Bruce. Published in 1982. ISBN 0-370-30084-x
  • The Encyclopedia of British Military Aircraft by Chaz Bowyer. Published in 1982. ISBN 1-85841-031-2
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • Warplanes of the World 1918-1939 by Michael J. H. Taylor. Published 1981. ISBN 0-7110-1078-1