Thursday, 12 April 2012

Pulham St Mary airship photographs saved from skip

Pulham St Mary airship photographs saved from skip

What-oh, everyone!  I hope you all had a splendid Easter (or equivalent festival) and are fully recovered from the glut of chocolate, hot-cross buns and whatnot.  I've been so busy-busy this last week it seems Easter was an age ago, and I am grateful for the chance to finally sit down and blog.

Back in November rare photographs of Tower Bridge under construction were found in a London skip and now more unusual pictures, this time of WW1-era airships based in the Norfolk town of Pulham St Mary, have been recovered from another London skip.  I'm thinking we're going to have to organise a "skip crawl" of the capital at this rate; I doubt I'll ever be able to pass a skip without having a rummage now(!).  Once again it amazes me that such historic items were on the verge of being chucked out with the rubbish.

These certainly are pictures of historical importance, too, as they detail the early years of airship development in Britain during and after the First World War.  Showing the R.33 and R.34 airships, precursors to the later R.100 and R.101, undergoing tests (including attempts to use the R.33 as a flying aircraft carrier) and flying from their Norfolk base they are of both national and local significance.  They are also of such high quality that aviation historians have been able to discern aspects of these machines in greater detail than ever before.

Due to its distinctive topography (i.e. as flat as a pancake) Norfolk was the ideal place to base dirigibles and one can just imagine these airships sailing over fields and broads during the 1920s as the area around Pulham St Mary became a hive of lighter-than-air activity.  Would that it were still possible to see these craft soaring above the East Anglian countryside, but at least there are now even more valuable photographs in the possession of the local museum to remind us of that incredible period of British aviation history.


  1. When I was volunteering at the charity shop, I always made a point of checking photo albums and books for interesting items like these, found some good ones too! X

  2. Hello Bruce:
    This post is every reason for each one of us to spend time hunting through skips if treasures such as these are likely to be unearthed.

    Only this morning were we at an exhibition of early photography at the Szépmúvészeti Múzeum here in Budapest which, as it happens, featured an image taken of Tower Bridge shortly after its completion.

  3. always have something interesting to share. With my own boys, I can imagine the faces of little boys back then and their wonder and awe as the airships would pass over them. I am sure there were many little boys that told their mothers they were either going to build them when they grew up or pilot them!


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