A look back at the history of Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport is the second largest airport in the UK flying to 200 destinations and can handle more than 40 million passengers a year. The airport has changed significantly over the last few years and we thought we would take a quick look back at how it all began and some of the history of the airport...

The name, Gatwick itself, dates back to 1241 when Richard de Warwick assigned his rights to a piece of land in the manor of Charlwood to John de Gatwick and his heirs. This land was later known as the Manor of Gatwick and was owned by the de Gatwicks until the 14th century when it was passed to different families.

In 1890 the Gatwick Race Course Company purchased Gatwick and the race course was built. It opened in 1891 complete with its own railway station.

The actual airport dates back to 1930 when the land next to the race course became the Surrey Aero Club, a small enthusiast flying club founded by Ronald Waters. In 1934 the flying club was issued with its first public licence allowing the airport to operate commercial flights.

In 1936 Gatwick’s first custom designed, art-deco circular style terminal building, known as the ‘Beehive’, was opened. And in May of that year passengers boarded the first scheduled flight from Gatwick to Paris.

During World War Two, from 1939 to 1945, the airport was occupied for military use by the RAF and was still a grass airfield when it was handed back for civil use in 1946.

In 1952 Gatwick was given governmental approval to be developed as London’s second airport, a direct alternative to Heathrow. The old airport closed in 1956 for major redevelopment, taking nearly three years to complete and costing £7.8 million to build. The old beehive building was replaced with the South Terminal and the new airport with its 2000 foot runway, a terminal which incorporated a covered pier linking the terminal with the aircraft was opened by HM The Queen II in 1958. The new airport was a huge success and 186,172 passengers flew from Gatwick in the first seven months.

In 1965 the British Airports Authority was established and assumed ownership of Gatwick Airport.

With passenger numbers growing a second runway (mainly used for taxiing) was built in 1985 and the £200 million North Terminal was built. This was officially opened in 1988 by HM The Queen II and The Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1994 the new North Terminal International Departures Lounge and the first phase of the new South Terminal International Departures Lounge opened, costing £30 million.

In 2000 the extension to the South Terminal was completed offering increased seating capacity, new shops and restaurants.

In June 2008, Gatwick Airport celebrated its 50th anniversary and BAA announced that the airport had been purchased by Global Infrastructure Partners.

The airport has seen major growth and development since it started out and I love meet and greet are proud to be part of Gatwick Airport’s history. Our management team have been parking cars at the airport since 1984 and because of our close working relationship with the airport, became one of the first companies to be approved by the Approved Operators scheme for airport meet and greet businesses which launched in July 2013.

Photo: The Beehive building at Gatwick Airport...with special thanks to The Voice of Hassocks for the use of this image.

By Sarah Anglim at 6 May 2015

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