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Cardington Airship Sheds - History

Year
The Sheds
1916 - 17

The sheds are situated two and a half miles south of  Bedford close to the village of Cardington.  They are enormous, dominating the skyline for miles around. The main doors weigh 470 tons each, including concrete ballast, are mounted on rails, and are operated by electric motors.

Number 1 Shed was built by A.J. Main and Co. of Glasgow in 1916-17 for the Admiralty.  The first two airships built in it were the R31 and the R32.  It was enlarged in 1926-27 by the Cleveland Bridge Company with the purpose of housing the R101.

1928 - 30

Number 2 Shed was built by the Cleveland Bridge Company in 1928 to house the R100.  The R100 arrived in December 1929 from Howden, Yorkshire, where it had been built, and in 1930 successfully flew the Atlantic both ways.  The R101was not ready until October 1930 when it left on its tragic voyage to India, only to crash near Beauvais to the north west of Paris just a few hours later.

The sheds were built to house the development of British airships but this project was abandoned following the R101 disaster.  This loss of confidence meant that the sheds became redundant almost as soon as they were completed.

1939 - 45 During World War II Cardington was used to train barrage balloon operators and has subsequently provided balloons for metrological research and parachute training.
1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang filmed sections at Cardington (to be confirmed - it's unlikely this would have been inside the sheds - it's more likely to have been an exterior shot.)
1971 Exterior shots of the German airship sheds for 'Zeppelin' were shot at the hangars.
1994

Shed 2 is renovated and is used by a range of tenants, including concert rehearsals for Paul McCartney (Band on the Run 25th Anniversary), The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, AC/DC and U2, and as a test-bed for new building construction by BRE.

2001 Shed 2 is put on sale after BRE (a building research consultancy) moves out. The towering blocks of flats used for building testing still remain in the hangar.
Dec.2003 Construction work begins as Warner Bros. start preparing the site for shooting Batman Begins.
Dec.2004 Shed 1 damaged by winter storms - over 50 feet of the side of the building was ripped off.
2005 Shed 2 used for Batman Begins. The Narrows (Gotham City streets) are built full scale inside the shed, along with much of the Arkham Asylum.
May 2007 The Dark Knight (sequel to Batman Begins) is in production in Shed 2.
May 2009 Shed 2 used by Take That for concert rehearsals before their UK tour.
May 2011 The Dark Knight Rises begins production on location before moving to Cardington. Interiors such as the underground prison were shot at Cardington, the there's a fleeting glimpse of the sheds in the background of the airfield sequence at the start of the movie.
July 2012 Repair work has started on Shed 1 to replace steelwork and replace missing sheeting.
  Sources:
Bedford Libraries website

See also

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