Highlights of the British Collection:

Aerial Photographs - The Flights of Major Allen

As far as is known, there are no surviving flight plans for any of Allen's flights. However a list of his flights was recreated from the aerial photographs and forms part of the Allen archive at the Ashmolean Museum.

The reasons for some of George Allen's flights and photographs remained a mystery until contact was made with his nephew, Allen Anderson from Northern Ireland, who gave us invaluable family history information which answered some of the queries. For example, he informed us that the photograph of Brympton Grange in Somerset was of his mother's childhood home.

One explanation for the photographs of Donnington village and castle - which include the almshouses and what looks like a new building associated with the hospital - was perhaps an interest in local history. Sir Richard Abberbury built Donnington Castle in the fourteenth century. Sir Richard was a supporter of King Richard II who gave him the manor of Iffley. In 1393 Sir Richard Abberbury founded almshouses in Donnington and gave them the rents from Iffley manor. Major Allen's home, The Elms, probably stands on Sir Richard's Iffley land. There is a road called Abberbury nearby.

Another example of one of Major Allen's flights is a trip on the 5th June 1937 from (presumably) Clifton Hampden, east into Buckinghamshire across Saunderton, then north-east to near Welwyn, up through Cambridgeshire to Welney, taking photographs of the water channels and Romano-British settlements. The return journey probably flying back almost the same route, except slightly to the west of Royston. This would probably have been as far as he could fly there and back without refuelling. The Puss Moth had a range of about 400 miles. We do not know the reason behind this journey.

On 12 May 1934 George Allen flew to Kent, taking photographs of apple orchards. He flew via Holton Park on the outskirts of Oxford, into Surrey, taking photographs of his old school, Boxgrove, near Guildford on the way. (You can see school cricket teams as tiny white specks on the pitches) He took photographs of Canterbury Cathedral, gravel pits and apple orchards - there are no barrows, hillforts or castles nearby. We know from Allen Anderson that his mother's school friend Myee Noakes lived at Longrede Barming, Maidstone.

George Allen photographed areas in and around Belfast, but there is no date given. He made several trips to Belfast. We know from Allen Anderson that George's father came from Comber, Northern Ireland, the family had a farm there. From the plane log we know George took Phebe, his sister, on a visit to Belfast. When he did these trips to Belfast, he flew to Blackpool, stayed overnight, re-fueled and took off for Belfast the following day.

Chronological List of Flights

Chronological list of Allen's flights with archaeological photographs (Ashmolean Museum Archive)

Part of the Hospital at Donnington 1939 (Album Ref 19, 44)

Part of the Hosptial at Donnington taken 27 August 1939 (Album Ref 19, 44)

Apple Orchards at Long Rede, Barming, Kent 1934 (Album Ref 18, 13)

Apple Orchards at Long Rede, Barming in Kent taken 12 May 1934 (Album Ref 18, 13)

Belfast (Album Ref 20, 53)

Belfast - date taken unknown (Album Ref 20, 53)

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Christine Edbury
January 2012