Cardington Airship Sheds

Official website: Cardington Studios Website

Built during the First World War for Airship construction, one of the sheds at Cardington (Bedfordshire, UK) has been put to good use to house the cavernous sets for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception by Warner Bros and many other movie projects.
The production company worked at the site for 10 months prior to Batman Begins to prepare the run-down structure for use as a massive stage.

Following Warner Bros’ use of the sheds from 2005 to 2012, new owners have refurbished the sheds and set up support facilities for production companies to use. (August 2013)

Cardington Sheds (still from Batman Begins Extras DVD release)Dimensions (each shed):
Length: 812 ft (247m)
Width: 275 ft (84m) total, clear width is 180 ft (54.9m)
Height: 180 ft (55m) total, clear height is 157 ft (47.9m)

Although it’s not soundproofed (and therefore not a ‘soundstage’), the shed is proving very useful for building massive sets, and as post-production sound technology improves, the need for soundproofed stages is reduced. The total amount of floor space available (223,000 sq feet, or 5 acres) is over 5 times the size of the largest soundstage available in Hollywood (Stage 15 at Sony Pictures 41,985 sq ft), and is almost 3 times the size of the largest soundstage in the world, Stage 15 at Babelsburg Film Studio in Germany (78,954 sq ft).

The signage that used to be outside the site ‘T.I.G. Cardington’ (see right) is said to stand for ‘The Intimidation Game’ which was the codename for Batman Begins.

History

(Partly from Wikipedia)

RAF Cardington was built by aircraft manufacturing company Shorts Brothers to build airships for the Admiralty. Shed 1 (700ft / 210m long) was built in 1915 to enable it to build two rigid airships, the R-31 and R-32. A housing estate was also constructed opposite the site, and named Shortstown.

The airships site was nationalised in April 1919, becoming known as the Royal Airship Works.

In preparation for the R101 project the No 1 shed was extended between October 1924 and March 1926; its roof was raised by 35 feet and its length increased to 812 feet. The No. 2 shed (Southern shed), which had originally been located at RNAS Pulham, Norfolk, was dismantled in 1928 and re-erected at Cardington.
After the crash of the R101, in October 1930, all work stopped in Britain on airships. Cardington then became a storage station.
In 1936/1937 Cardington started building barrage balloons; and it became the No 1 RAF Balloon Training Unit responsible for the storage and training of balloon operators and drivers. In 1943 until 1967 it was home to the RAF Meteorological research balloons-training unit, undertaking development and storage (after 1967 this was undertaken by the Royal Aircraft Establishment).

For both airships and barrage balloons, Cardington manufactured its own hydrogen, in the Gas Factory, using the steam reforming process. In 1948 the Gas Factory became 279 MU (Maintenance Unit), RAF Cardington; and then, in 1955, 217 MU. 217 MU, RAF Cardington, produced all the gases used by the Royal Air Force until its closure in April 2000; including gas cylinder filling and maintenance.

The two airship sheds ceased being part of the RAF Cardington site in the late 1940s and they were put to other uses. The fence was moved, so they were outside the main RAF Cardington site.

In the 1950s, during the time of National Service, RAF Cardington was the reception unit, where thousands of recruits went to be issued with their kit. The Parachute Regiment was stationed there as one of the hangars housed the balloons from which trainees made their first drops. In 1954 RAF Maintenance Command used Shed No.1 for its rehearsals for the Royal Tournament. The Royal Engineers also used Shed No.1 for its rehearsals for the 1987 Royal Tournament.

Hangar 1 was used by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) to operate balloons on behalf of the Met Office carrying instruments to measure conditions in the atmosphere. The balloons were also used in parachute development (although they were unmanned – using a heavy dead weight); much of this work was carried out in secret.

The northern part of the site has for many years been used by the UK Government Driving Standards Agency Training and Development Centre to train Driving Examiners.

Building Research Establishment

In 1971 Hangar 2 became the Fire Research Station (part of the Home Office) which conducted gas explosion experiments and for investigating fires, a 20 lease being given by the MoD.

Following the fire that engulfed the Stardust disco in Dublin on February 14 1981, a mock-up of a section of the building was built at the shed, including the same fabrics and furnishings to examine the spread of the fire. 

Full scale testing and fire research was undertaken from 1989. In 1990 the facility was transferred to Building Research Establishment as a whole building test facility for the Cardington tests. Here, multi-storey steel, concrete and wooden buildings were constructed and then destructively tested within the huge space available. This shed was repainted and maintained in comparison with Shed 1.

The buildings tests were mentioned during the course of the BBC series The Conspiracy Files as evidence in the controversy surrounding the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 on 11 September 2001.

If you’re on Facebook, join the We Love the Cardington Sheds group for updates and historical information.


Productions shot at Cardington Airship Sheds


Feature Film (17)

TitleReleasedDirectorIMDB
Dumbo2019Tim BurtonIMDB Database page about Dumbo
Shooting took place at the sheds August - September 2017
Jungle Book: Origins2017Andy SerkisIMDB Database page about Jungle Book: Origins
Justice League2017Zack SnyderIMDB Database page about Justice League
Greenscreen sequences and reshoots in Summer 2017
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them2016David YatesIMDB Database page about Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Filming in Shed 2 during November 2015
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story2016Gareth EdwardsIMDB Database page about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Yavin 4 rebel base
Pan2015Joe WrightIMDB Database page about Pan
Filming in Shed 2, May-September 2014
The Dark Knight Rises2012Christopher NolanIMDB Database page about The Dark Knight Rises
The underground sewer system, including Banes base and the 60 foot tall four-level underground prison were built inside the shed at Cardington. The airfield at the opening of the movie is just outside the sheds - they appear in the background of one shot.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 22011David YatesIMDB Database page about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Inception2010Christopher NolanIMDB Database page about Inception
The revolving hotel corridor set and elevator shaft (constructed horizontally) were built at Cardington, Shed 2. Elements of the shed structure were incorporated into the elevator shaft set and can be seen in the finished movie.
The Dark Knight2008Christopher NolanIMDB Database page about The Dark Knight
Fred Claus2007David DobkinIMDB Database page about Fred Claus
Batman Begins2005Christopher NolanIMDB Database page about Batman Begins
Shed 2 at Cardington had an entire section of Gotham City 'Narrows' built inside it.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow2004Kerry ConranIMDB Database page about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The White Diamond2004Werner HerzogIMDB Database page about The White Diamond
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope1977George LucasIMDB Database page about Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
One of the sheds was used as the exterior of the Massassi Temple, heavily disguised by a matte painting. The interior of the shed can be seen beyond the matte painting.
Zeppelin1971Etienne P&ecute;rierIMDB Database page about Zeppelin
Exterior shots of sheds.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang1968Ken HughesIMDB Database page about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Some scenes believed to be shot at Cardington. To be confirmed.

TV Series (2)

TitleReleasedDirectorIMDB
Top Gear (UK)2002 - 2015VariousIMDB Database page about Top Gear (UK)
Shed 1 was used to launch the caravan/hot air airship.
Red Dwarf1988-IMDB Database page about Red Dwarf
Shed 1 was used for shoot the episode involving a budgie and a T-Rex.

Music Rehearsal (1)

TitleReleasedDirectorIMDB
Take That 'Circus' Tour2009
Shed 1 used for concert rehearsals. The music could be heard all over the local fields, prompting complaints from residents.

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