From a racecourse to Amy Johnson - the amazing history behind Hull's planned £200m business park

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 17 May 2017

Plans for a new £200m energy and business park on the edge of Hull will maintain the site's sporting heritage.

Most of the land earmarked for the development between the city boundary and​ Hedon is currently open pasture. However, one corner of the site is occupied by the Eastside Community Sports Trust.

The trust is home to a number of amateur sports clubs, including Skirlaugh RLC, BP RUFC and Hedon Rangers AFC.

Under the plans, the trust will move to a new clubhouse while new sports pitches will also be laid out.

Dave Thompson is the secretary of Hedon Rangers. He said: "The plans are an improvement on the previous proposals because the lay-out of the pitches is much better.

"I think it will be good for the club and the community trust and, overall, it has to be a good thing because of the jobs it will bring."

Around 1,000 new jobs are expected to be created should the plans get the go-ahead from East Riding Council.

Dave Thompson on plans for the £200m business park:

But it's not just the current sports facilities at the site that will undergo a facelift.

The historic Mile Straight - from the site's days as a racecourse - is also being given a new lease of life as 'green lung' running through the middle development, including footpaths, ornamental gardens, water features and seating.

The origins of the racecourse date back to 1883 when the newly-formed East Riding Club and Racecourse Company bought Twyers Farm and surrounding land with the aim of creating a new horse-racing venue.

The venture took five more years to get off the ground, with the first meeting being held in August 1888 with a six-race card.

A feature of the course was its one-mile straight, the longest of its kind in the country at the time.

Another notable feature was the course's very own railway station, making it easily accessible from Hull.

The station formed part of the North Eastern Railway's Hull and Holderness service but it was not included on any timetable and only operated on race days.

The Hull Racecourse Company took over the running of the track in 1901 but within eight years it was all over.

The final meeting took place in September 1909 before the site was sold again and re-developed as an aerodrome with the racecourse's Mile Straight being used as the main runway and landing strip.

Initially, flying was seen as a sporting activity with numerous contests being staged for pilots to compete in.

Among them was Hull-born aviator Amy Johnson, who flew into Hedon for a homecoming celebration following her record-breaking solo flight from London to Australia.

By the mid-1930s the aerodrome appeared to be on the verge of becoming a full-fledged operational airport. In 1934 the Royal Dutch airline KLM started a daily service between Hedon and Amsterdam.

Passengers could book their flights from an office at Paragon Station and were taken from the Royal Station Hotel by car to catch their flights.

A brochure produced by Hull's Development Committee, to mark the start of the services, said: "Every comfort is afforded to passengers at the well-furnished clubhouse on the aerodrome, where refreshments can be obtained."

KLM also provided a service at that time between Hedon and Speke Airport near Liverpool. Aircraft were twin and three engine Fokker Monoplanes, which were used on all KLM routes.

The brochure said all planes were heated "so a journey on the coldest day will offer the same comfort and pleasure as during the summer months."

Luncheon baskets were available to passengers for in-flight snacks while freight and even livestock were also carried.

However, the outbreak of the Second World War spelled the end of commercial air traffic at Hedon.

Instead, it was requisitioned by the government and turned over for military use.

After the war, sport returned to the site in the shape of speedway when a team representing Hull raced there for two seasons.

Some of the banking created for the speedway track can still be seen today, while KLM, together with Eastern Airways, remains a mainstay of Humberside Airport's fixed-wing commercial operations. 

Watch as Sewell's Rob Cawkwell describes the project:

Rob Cawkwell, project director for the partnership behind the proposed new business park, said: "Understanding and respecting heritage of the site has been big a part of the design process.

"Maintaining the Mile Straight as a feature running though the site from west to east is a result of that."

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