Chelsea Exhibition – June 2014

Event date | Jun 02, 2014

Building Aeroplanes in Chelsea

With the logistics for the 2014 Exhibition in place attention has now turned to the interesting part, the research and making ‘new’ discoveries of what was happening in Chelsea during the Great War.

While going through the three First World War scrapbooks, assembled by Mr Quinn the Borough Librarian for Chelsea, a piece of notepaper headed Wells Aviation Ltd of 10A Elystan Street was discovered. Intriguing an aviation company in Chelsea? Then a 1981 newspaper cutting with a picture of women working on aircraft wings appeared, surely this must be Wells Aviation. The only clue to the whereabouts of the photograph was a credit line from GLC library.

In a former life I had worked at the London Metropolitan Library and remembered their excellent photographic collection. A quick e-mail to a former colleague and finally after an extensive hunt a set of 20 photographs were located. With great anticipation a trip was made to 40 Northampton Row and I was not disappointed by the photos, but I was perplexed. Indeed a magnificent set of 20 photographs all dated July 1918 and in excellent condition were placed in front of me but they showed exterior and interior views of the aircraft department of John Garlick (1910) Ltd based at the Cadogan Works, Manresa Road. But what about Wells Aviation – surely Chelsea couldn’t boast two aviation works? Indeed there were two as I then found plans for a factory in Sloane Avenue submitted by Wells Aviation and approved in 1916.

Some of the images found have been used to create our first exhibition board; one completed, only another 49 to go! We are still looking for more firsthand accounts of life in Chelsea during the Great War if you can help please contact me either at Carrie.Starren@chelseasociety.net or by letter C/o 36 Walpole Street, London SW3 4QS.

Chelsea in the Great War, the Society’s 2014 Exhibition, will be held at the Duke of York’s Centre from 2 to 15 June 2014, please make a note in your diaries as it promises to be a very interesting show.

Carolyn Starren

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