Flambards, just outside Helston in Cornwall, opened under the name Cornwall Aero Park and was founded by Lt. Cdr. Douglas Kingsford Hale MBE, a retired Fleet Air Arm pilot who originally joined the RAF when called-up for National Service in 1952. He transferred to the Royal Navy in 1953 and trained as a fighter pilot with the US Navy at NAS Pensacola and NAS Corpus Christi.
Following an ejection seat accident in 1956, when Douglas fractured his spine, he transferred to rotary wing, eventually becoming a flying instructor at the Central Flying School where he trained RAF and Royal Navy pilots to become instructors themselves.
This was followed by more time afloat, serving on the aircraft carriers Eagle, Bulwark, Centaur and Albion before taking charge of the Flying Standards Flight at RNAS Culdrose and then becoming the Commanding Officer of 705 Naval Air Squadron, where naval pilots started their initial flying training.
His final sea appointment was as Lieutenant Commander (Flying) on board HMS Hermes, which at the time was a Commando Carrier, before returning to Culdrose and retiring from the Royal Navy in March 1976.
With his wife Audrey he set up the aviation museum on the border of RNAS Culdrose and on the 10th June 1976 Cornwall Aero Park opened its gates to visitors for the first time. At its heart was the main exhibition hall, packed with aviation memorabilia, engines and air-frames. Outdoors there were more complete aircraft, mostly ex-Fleet Air Arm, a mini-golf course and a boating lake.
In 1979 the Aero Park displayed aircraft that had been used in the Yorkshire TV series Flambards. Set in the early 1900s the 12-part series was centred around a family who lived in a country estate named Flambards, where one of the sons loved to fly aeroplanes. The aircraft were all replicas and consisted of a Demoiselle, a Blackburn 1911 and a Blackburn 1912.
To complement the theme of ‘early flight’ Audrey Hale, who was an avid collector of antique furniture, created a kitchen and nursery of the period. These proved so popular that more period rooms, including a coach house and shop, were added and eventually a small Victorian village street was created, retaining the Flambards name.
In 1984 the first of the theme park rides were added, together with a Britain in Blitz exhibition which was opened by Dame Vera Lynn. By 1990 the park had grown significantly and was renamed The Flambards Experience. Early rides at the park included the Dragon Coaster, the Canyon River Log Flume, Paddle Boats and a hyperglide.
At this time the number of aircraft exhibits were being reduced and slowly the majority of the airframes were dispersed to other collections in the UK and abroad, or scrapped.
In January 2001 Douglas Kingsford Hale was made an MBE for services to tourism and the park carried on expanding to become one of Cornwall’s top attractions. It was bought by Livingstone Leisure Ltd in 2013 and the only aviation elements remaining are the cockpit of Avro Shackleton T.4 WG511 and a Concorde engineering mock-up.
We visited the site way back in August 1989 and the images contained in this article are of a number of the aircraft externally exhibited at this time. The table below is not a complete list of the aircraft located at the museum at the time, only a record of the images shown here and aircraft noted.
|AM561||Handley Page Hampden I||[Parts]|
|F5459||Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5A (Replica)|
|G-APTW||Westland WS.51 Widgeon Mk.2|
|G-BDDX||Whittaker MW.2B Excalibur|
|PZ193||Vickers Wellington 1A||[Parts]|
|WF122/CU-575||Percival P.57 Sea Prince T.1|
|WG511||Avro 696 Shackleton T.4||[Nose]|
|WG754 (Really WG725)||Westland WS.51 Dragonfly HR.5|
|WK122||English Electric Canberra TT.18|
|WM983||Hawker Sea Hawk FB.5|
|WN105 [Really WF299)||Hawker Sea Hawk FB.3|
|WN464||Fairey Gannet AS.1|
|WV106/C||Douglas AD-4W Skyraider|
|XA870||Westland WS.55 Whirlwind HAR.1|
|XD332/612||Supermarine Scimitar F.1|
|XE368/J-200||Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.6|
|XG691||De Havilland DH.112 Sea Venom FAW.22|
|XG831/396||Fairey Gannet ECM.6|
|XJ917/H-S||Bristol 171 Sycamore HR.14|
|XN258/589||Westland WS.55 Whirlwind HAR.9|
|XN647/VL-767||De Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen FAW.2|
|XN967/E-103||Blackburn Buccaneer S.1|
|XP350||Westland WS.55 Whirlwind HAR.10|
|XS887/PO-514||Westland WS.58 Wessex HAS.1|
|XT427||Westland Wasp HAS.1|
© South West Aviation Photographers 2021