Airport House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Airport House, Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 0XZ


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1188970.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 03-Mar-2021 at 18:39:15.


Statutory Address:
Airport House, Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 0XZ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Croydon (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ3114563586, TQ3116163638, TQ3116563629, TQ3116863624, TQ3116963649, TQ3117063592, TQ3117263581, TQ3117763634, TQ3117763646, TQ3119163625, TQ3119163642, TQ3119563604, TQ3119663645, TQ3119863604


Integrated airport terminal building and control tower, 1926-28 by the Air Ministry Department of Buildings and Works. Additional wings were added in 1941. Refurbished as a business centre in the 1990s with an additional storey added and the north courtyard infilled.

Reasons for Designation

Airport House, Purley Way, Croydon, a combined airport terminal and control tower built in 1926-28 by the Air Ministry Department of Buildings and Works at the first London Airport, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: as a very rare surviving example internationally of the first wave of purpose-built airport terminals and as Britain’s first international airport. Croydon saw the beginning and expansion of European and intercontinental air routes and provided the start/finish for record breaking solo flights by Amy Johnson and Bert Hinkler, which endowed the development of air travel with an element of glamour; * Architectural interest: for the incorporation of an integrated control tower, among the first in the world, establishing with its rational layout, the design framework for the majority of Britain’s air terminals until the 1950s; * Technological interest: for its role in pioneering developments in air traffic control, ground-to-air radio navigation and communication and air-cargo and air-mail; * Internal interest: for its impressive booking hall which retains some original features; * Military interest: as a tangible reminder of the airport’s service in the Second World War as a front-line airfield during the Battle of Britain and its origins during the First World War; * Group interest: with the Grade II listed porter’s lodge and the unlisted former airport hotel.


During the First World War an airfield was established to the south-west of Croydon. Known as Beddington (also Wallington) Aerodrome, it was established in early 1916 as one of a number of airfields round London, as a measure to protect the city from Zeppelin raids. In late 1917 one of three National Aircraft Factories was set up at Waddon on a site just to the north-east of Beddington, with a separate test flying-ground known as Waddon Aerodrome on the east side of Plough Lane.

After the war, the RAF eventually vacated Beddington in February 1920 and, in April, the aircraft factory was sold to Handley Page. Plans for the development of post-war civil aviation were already underway and the Air Ministry decided that there should be one international airport serving London (with Lympne in Kent developed as a diversion aerodrome in case of poor weather) and Beddington/Waddon, was chosen in preference to Hounslow, because of its better weather, better facilities and better location for the Continent.

On 29 March 1920, and renamed Croydon Aerodrome or ‘The Air Port of London’, Beddington became the site of Britain’s first international airport. The original accommodation was partly in re-used First World War buildings and partly in newly-built wooden huts. Initially a number of nascent British airlines operated from Croydon including Instone Air Line, Handley Page Transport and Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd (AT and T) but in 1924, as a result of a government review of subsidies to airlines, the existing ones were merged to create Imperial Airways Ltd. Imperial Airways became, therefore, Britain’s only airline and held a monopoly in establishing Britain’s developing international air routes.

Under the Croydon Aerodrome Extension Act 1925, the airport was redeveloped with the two airfields either side of Plough Lane merged and a new terminal area planned on the newly opened Purley Way on the east side of the airport. The combined terminal and control tower building, formerly known as the Administration Building, was designed by the Air Ministry Department of Buildings and Works and constructed by Wilson Lovatt and Son Ltd of Wolverhampton at a cost of £267,000. Construction work began in 1926 with the building becoming operational on the 30 January 1928. The official opening ceremony was performed by Lady Maud Hoare, wife of the Secretary of State for Air, on 2 May. The improvements included a porter's lodge, the 50-room Aerodrome Hotel and two, two-bay, steel-framed hangars.

The Administration Building was the first in the world designed with all airport terminal functions integrated in one building and featured the first purpose-built civil Air Traffic Control Tower, which at 50ft (15m) high was the world’s tallest at the time. It had a carefully considered rational plan which separated the passenger and cargo function and arrivals and departures. The Booking Hall received natural light through a glazed dome and included six passenger check-in desks lining both walls, a post office counter, bookshop and a Departure and Arrival indicator in the form of an octagonal column in the centre of the Booking Hall with clock faces showing the times of arriving and departing aircraft. The terminal also included reading rooms, a restaurant, buffet counter and bullion stores. The control tower featured a radio room, control room, meteorological office and sleeping accommodation for officers on duty. A radio transmitting station placed three miles away from the terminal was equipped with 3-kilowatt Marconi TA 1 transmitters, which, with their four 31m high aerial masts, had a range of over 200 miles and served air traffic into northern France.

Passenger numbers rose dramatically from 2,000 in 1920 to 131,853 by 1936 with the airport handling 62% of Britain's air mail and 84% of its air cargo. The airport was associated with a number of important inter-war advances in civil aviation including the development of ground-to-air radio communication, inset runway lighting and the development of trans-continental air routes and air mail services. Croydon claims to have been the first airport in the world to use modern air traffic control. In 1923 Croydon’s Senior Radio Operator Stanley Mockford formulated the international distress phrase 'Mayday'.

A large number of record breaking flights, which often attracted huge crowds, commenced at Croydon including Bert Hinkler and Amy Johnson’s solo flights to Australia in February 1928 and May 1930 respectively. The Administration Building was also the site, in 1935, of the world’s biggest bullion heist up to that date when £21,000 of gold bullion was stolen from the airport’s bullion store.

In 1939 the airport was closed to civilian traffic and reverted to military use as RAF Croydon. As part of 11 Group Fighter Command it was intensively involved in the Battle of Britain. On 15 August 1940 the airport was heavily bombed, damaging the south-west corner of the Administration Building and killing 162 civilians in the industrial buildings round the airport. In 1941 the two cargo wings of the Administration Building were extended to the east in a matching style but with an additional storey added.

In 1946 Heathrow replaced Croydon as London’s main airport, partly due to problems with expanding Croydon, and the airport was eventually closed in 1959. The Administration Building had various commercial uses until it was developed as a business centre in 1995. The building was refurbished in the late 1990s with the addition of an extra storey to match that added to the new cargo wings in 1941 and the infilling of the northern courtyard to create a restaurant. In 2002 the aerial on top of the control tower was reinstated. The control tower houses (2017) a visitor centre.


Integrated airport terminal building and control tower, 1926-28 by the Air Ministry Department of Buildings and Works. Additional wings were added in 1941. Refurbished as a business centre in the 1990s with an additional storey added and the north courtyard infilled.

MATERIALS: the building has a steel frame faced with concrete blocks (now painted white) and with reinforced concrete floors and roofs. Fenestration comprises a mixture of original metal windows (some with distinctive margin glazing) by Beacon Windows Ltd of Wolverhampton and later metal or uPVC replacements.

PLAN: the symmetrical east-shaped plan was originally divided into two cargo areas in the flanking wings (with multiple cargo entrances, later extended to the east) and a central spine for passenger traffic with a large booking and waiting hall with a glazed dome projecting to the east. This lead through to immigration, security and customs areas with separate Departure and Arrival gates either side of the control tower on the west elevation. The building is flat-roofed, originally of two storeys but with a third-storey added, initially on the 1941 extensions and later to most of the building. The northern of the two courtyard areas (each reached from the east under a first-floor bridge) has been infilled with a late-C20 single-storey restaurant* (this is not of special interest apart from the surviving elements of the original elevations).

EXTERIOR: neoclassical in style, the symmetrical (east) entrance elevation to Purley Way has a seven-bay booking hall frontage flanked by the three-bay, three-storey eastern ends of the 1941 extensions. The booking hall has two-storey, two-bay wings with a projecting double-height, centre of three rusticated bays. The bays are defined by broad pilasters with relief panels, those to the central section of the booking hall bearing stylised bird reliefs. The wide central entrance bay has a semi-circular window with original metal tracery. The flanking bays have full-height arched windows. All the arches have oversize keystones. The main entrance originally featured a large semi-circular glazed canopy (now removed) with a copper embossed emblem known as the ‘Winged World’ which is now mounted in the booking hall. The six-leaf timber doors have glazed panels in metal frames and are probably original. The façade is completed by a simple entablature with a projecting cornice. A round clock face is set into the entablature. The outer bays have aprons with a diaper pattern between the metal-framed casement windows. The side and courtyard elevations are simpler in style, three-storey in height, of 13 bays with dividing pilasters. Alternate bays either have windows with aprons between the ground and first floor windows, or recessed cargo entrances on the ground floor with deep, moulded, surrounds and keystones. On the north side the double door entrances retain their transoms with diamond lights but the original canopies have been lost. An additional storey has been added with pilasters extended above the original cornice, matching the 1941 extensions at the east.

The west elevation is of 20 bays and three storeys with the central four bays to the projecting four-storey control tower. The stepped-forward ground floor (apart from on the S cargo range) is a later addition. Originally the two-storey elevation was flat apart from the slightly projecting cargo wings and the control tower, which projected by two full bays. The control tower has a balcony on all four sides of the top storey which retains its original metal railings and circular clocks on three sides. The metal casement windows are later replacements. The radio mast*, with its projecting horizontal arms*, is an early-C21 replica. The parapet* and its metalwork is also of early C21 date.

INTERIOR: the interior has been modernised with the conversion to office space and has largely lost its original plan form with the exception of the booking hall and control tower. The offices have modern partitioning*, suspended ceilings* and fittings* throughout.

The booking hall is a square, double-height, atrium with a balcony on three sides, lit by a metal-framed glazed octagonal dome. Four square concrete pillars support the balcony and coffered ceiling. Most fittings, the parquet flooring, dado panelling and glazed wooden screen to the late-C20 restaurant are modern replacements or insertions. The post room in the south-east corner retains its original timber interior frontage with vertical sliding sash windows, panelling and counter. The geometric patterned metal balustrade is original apart from the wooden handrails. The copper ‘Winged World’ sculpture is mounted on the west wall. To the west of the booking hall are two bullion rooms which retain their metal security doors. A number of concrete stairs with original metal balustrades and handrails remain in the rest of the building.

The control tower retains its main stair with metal balustrade, timber hand rail and metal internal glazing to the stairwell. The cast-iron spiral stair which gave access to the top floor control/radio room survives (the main stair now giving access to the visitor centre is a late C20 addition*). The glazed timber partition* in the control/ radio room is a C20 recreation.

*Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historical interest.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 26/06/2017


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Cluett, Douglas, Bogle (ne Nash), Joanna , Learmonth, Bob, Croydon Airport: The Great Days 1928-1939, (1980)
Cluett, Douglas, Bogle (nee Nash), Joanna , Learmonth, Bob, Croydon Airport and the Battle of Britain 1939-1940, (1984)
Hooks, Mike, Croydon Airport, (1997)
Learmonth, Bob , Bogle (nee Nash), Joanna, Cluett, Douglas, The First Croydon Airport 1915-1928, (2001)
RIBA, , Airports and Airways, (1937)
Russo, Carolyn, Art of the Airport Tower, (2015), 158


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 18 Oct 1999
Reference: IOE01/00423/07
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr David Evans. Source Historic England Archive
Archive image, may not represent current condition of site.
To view this image please use Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Edge.

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].