Alliott Verdon Roe

Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe OBE, Hon. FRAeS, FIAS (26 April 1877 – 4 January 1958) was a pioneer English pilot and aircraft manufacturer, and founder in 1910 of the Avro company.[2] After experimenting with model aeroplanes, he made flight trials in 1907–08 with a full-size aeroplane at Brooklands, near Weybridge in Surrey,[3] and became the first Englishman to fly an all-British machine a year later, with a triplane, on the Walthamstow Marshes.

Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe
Alliott Verdon-Roe in 1930
Born26 April 1877
Patricroft, Eccles, England
Died4 January 1958 (aged 80)
St Mary's Hospital, Portsmouth, England[1]
Resting placeSt Andrew's Church, Hamble
Occupationaircraft manufacturer
Known forBritish aviation pioneer
Roe III Triplane
Roe in the cockpit of his Roe III Triplane in September 1910 during his visit to the United States

Early life

Roe was born in Patricroft, Eccles, Lancashire. The son of a doctor, he left home when he was 14 to go to Canada where he had been offered training as a surveyor. When he arrived in British Columbia he discovered that a slump in the silver market meant that there was little demand for surveyors, so he spent a year doing odd jobs, then returned to England. There he served as an apprentice with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. He later tried to join the Royal Navy to study marine engineering at King's College London, but, although he passed the technical and mathematics papers, he was rejected for failing some of the general subjects. As well as doing dockyard work, Roe joined the ship SS Jebba of the British & South African Royal Mail Company as fifth engineer on the West African run. He went on to serve on other vessels, finishing his Merchant Navy career as third engineer aboard the SS Ichanga. It was during these voyages that he became interested in the possibility of building a flying machine, having observed the soaring flight of albatrosses.

Aviation career

In 1906 he applied for the job of Secretary of the Royal Aero Club. Although there were other better-qualified candidates, Roe's enthusiasm for aviation impressed Charles Rolls, who interviewed him, and he was given the job, but shortly after this he was offered a job as a draughtsman by G.L.O. Davidson, who had devised a twin-rotored aircraft and had secured the financial backing of Sir William Armstrong of Armstrong-Whitworth. This machine was being built in Denver in the USA. After disagreements about the design of the machine and problems with his salary, Roe, who had been sent back to Britain to deal with patenting the design, resigned.

He then began to build a series of flying models, and won a Daily Mail competition with a prize of £75 for one of his designs in 1907. With the prize money and the use of stables at his brother's house in West Hill, Putney, he then began to build a full-size aeroplane, the Roe I Biplane, based on his winning model. He tested this at Brooklands in 1907–08, recording his first successful flight on 8 June 1908.[4] After encountering problems with the management of Brooklands he moved his flight experiments to Walthamstow Marshes, where he rented space under a railway arch at the western end of the viaduct. Despite many setbacks, Roe persisted with his experiments and there is now a blue plaque commemorating his first successful flight (in July 1909) at the site. His aircraft, Avroplane, a triplane, is preserved in London's Science Museum.[5] In addition, a working replica was unveiled on 7 June 2008 at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

With his brother Humphrey, Alliott founded the A.V. Roe Aircraft Co. on 1 January 1910, later renamed Avro Aircraft, at Brownsfield Mill, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester.[2] His most popular model, the 504, sold more than 8,300 units, mainly to the Royal Flying Corps and later to the Royal Air Force for use by training units. In 1928 he sold his shares and bought S. E. Saunders Co., and formed Saunders-Roe.

Personal and political life

Roe was knighted in 1929. In 1933 he changed his surname to Verdon-Roe by deed poll, adding the hyphen between his last two names in honour of his mother.[6]

He was a member of the British Union of Fascists[7] and during the 1930s he was a supporter of Oswald Mosley. He was a great believer in monetary reform and thought it was wrong that banks should be able to create money by "book entry" and charge interest on it when they lent it out. In this respect he shared the same enthusiasm for reform as the American poet Ezra Pound, who also wrote for the Mosley press.

During the Second World War, two of his sons were killed in action whilst serving with the Royal Air Force. Squadron Leader Eric Alliott Verdon-Roe aged 26, in 1941[8] and Squadron Leader Lighton Verdon-Roe DFC aged 22, in 1943.[9]

Between 1928 and 1940 Verdon-Roe lived at Hamble House, Hamble, in Hampshire.[10] He died on 4 January 1958 at St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth.[1] Roe was buried in the churchyard of the parish church of St Andrew, in Hamble, and there is a commemorative plaque to Roe and his sons inside the church.[11]

On 28 October 2011 a green plaque was unveiled by Wandsworth Council and members of the Verdon-Roe family at the site of Roe's first workshop at West Hill, Putney.

In 1980, Verdon-Roe was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.[12]

Verdon Roe was the grandfather of professional racing driver Bobby Verdon-Roe.[13]


  1. ^ a b Pritchard, J. Laurence; Adams, Sylvia (2008) [2004]. "Roe, (Edwin) Alliott". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36641.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b "A. V. Roe biography" at
  3. ^ Gibbs-Smith, Charles H. (3 April 1959). "Hops and Flights - a Roll-Call of Early Powered Take-Offs". Flight - Official Organ of the Royal Aero Club
  4. ^ Roots In The Sky - A History of British Aerospace Aircraft, Oliver Tapper (1980), ISBN 061700323 8; p. 7. "This historic flight, variously recorded as being between 75 and 150 feet in length, took place . . on the Brooklands motor racing track at Weybridge."
  5. ^ Roots In The Sky, pp. 7, 15. The craft was unusual in that pulling/pushing on the "stick" altered the incidence angle of the three main wing surfaces, while the three horizontal tail surfaces remained fixed. Bank control was by wing warping. By July 1909 it had achieved flights of 900 feet length.
  6. ^ "No. 33936". The London Gazette. 22 May 1933. p. 2983.
  7. ^ Julie V. Gottlieb, "British Union of Fascists (act. 1932–1940)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online ed., Jan 2008 (Accessed 5 February 2014)
  8. ^ "Casualty". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Casualty". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Tony Blackman's Page". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  11. ^ "History of The Priory Church of St Andrew the Apostle" at Archived 23 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Sprekelmeyer, Linda, editor. These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Donning Co. Publishers, 2006. ISBN 978-1-57864-397-4.
  13. ^ "Strakka Racing Goodwood Revival summary". 26 July 2016. Retrieved 15 August 2016.


  • Holmes, Harry The Archives Photographs Series – AVRO,Chalford, 1996
  • Holmes, HarryAvro: The History of an Aircraft Company, Marlborough: Crowood, 2004. ISBN 1-86126-651-0
  • Jarrett, Philip Trials, Troubles and Triplanes – Alliott Verdon-Roe’s Fight To Fly Ringshall, Suffolk: Ad Hoc, 2007, ISBN 978-0-946958-65-8
  • Jackson A.J. Avro Aircraft since 1908 London: Putnam, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-834-8
  • Ludovici, L.J. The Challenging Sky: The Life of Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe London: Herbert Jenkins, 1956
  • Penrose, Harald British Aviation: the Pioneer Years London: Putnam, 1967

External links

A.V. Roe

A.V. Roe may refer to:

Alliott Verdon Roe, British aircraft pioneer and manufacturer

A.V. Roe and Company (generally known as Avro): British aircraft manufacturer founded by Alliott Verdon Roe

A.V. Roe Canada (known as Avro Canada): Canadian subsidiary of Hawker Siddeley (the parent of Avro)


Avro was a British aircraft manufacturer. Its designs include the Avro 504, used as a trainer in the First World War, the Avro Lancaster, one of the pre-eminent bombers of the Second World War, and the delta wing Avro Vulcan, a stalwart of the Cold War.

Avro was founded in 1910 by Alliott Verdon Roe at the Brownsfield Mill on Great Ancoats Street in Manchester. The company remained based primarily in Lancashire throughout its 53 years of existence, with key development and manufacturing sites in Alexandra Park, Chadderton, Trafford Park, and Woodford. The company was merged into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1963, although the Avro name has been used for some aircraft since then.

Avro 500

The Avro Type E, Type 500, and Type 502 made up a family of early British military aircraft, regarded by Alliott Verdon Roe as his firm's first truly successful design. It was a forerunner of the Avro 504, one of the outstanding aircraft of the First World War.

Avro Type D

The Avro Type D was an aircraft built in 1911 by the pioneer British aircraft designer A.V. Roe. Roe had previously built and flown several aircraft at Brooklands, most being tractor layout triplanes. The Type D was his first biplane.

Daily Mail aviation prizes

Between 1906 and 1930, the Daily Mail newspaper, initially on the initiative of its proprietor, Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, awarded numerous prizes for achievements in aviation. The newspaper would stipulate the amount of a prize for the first aviators to perform a particular task in aviation or to the winner of an aviation race or event. The most famous prizes were the £1,000 for the first cross-channel flight awarded to Louis Blériot in 1909 and the £10,000 given in 1919 to Alcock and Brown for the first non-stop transatlantic flight between North America and Ireland.

The prizes are credited with advancing the course of aviation during the early years, with the considerable sums offered becoming a much-coveted goal for the field's pioneers.

Gustavus Green

Gustavus Green (11 March 1865 – 29 December 1964) was a British engineer who made significant contributions to the design of early aircraft engines.

He was born in Hounslow on 11 March 1865. He opened a bicycle factory in Bexhill-on-Sea, and in 1905 he built his first lightweight, water-cooled aircraft engine. He established the Green Engine Co. to produce them. Green engines were much used by pioneers of British aviation like Alliott Verdon Roe and Samuel Cody. But his later engines were too heavy for the aircraft of the time. They were used to power torpedo boats during World War I.

In 1909, Green was awarded a £1,000 prize by the British government for his work on aero engines, and he was awarded another prize of £5,000 in 1914.

After World War II, Green became involved in the development of the 'flexible deck' concept for aircraft carriers. His ideas for such a deck culminated in the successful landing of a de Havilland Sea Vampire, flown by Eric "Winkle" Brown, on an experimental rubber deck installed on HMS Warrior.

Green became an honorary companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1958. He died in December 1964 at his home in Twickenham, only a few months before what would have been his 100th birthday.

Laurence James Ludovici

Laurence (Lorenz) James Vernon Ludovici (19 September 1910 – April 1996) — an American non-fiction author. He was born in Colombo and died in London


Patricroft is an area of Eccles, Greater Manchester, England.

Roe (surname)

Roe is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Alban Roe (1583-1642), English Benedictine martyr

Alliott Verdon Roe (1877–1958), British aircraft manufacturer

Allison Roe (born 1956), New Zealand marathon runner and politician

Anne Roe (1904-1991), American clinical psychologist and researcher

Arthur Roe (politician) (1878–1942), American politician and lawyer

Arthur Stanley Roe, medical doctor from Queensland, Australia

Arthur Roe (footballer) (1892–1960), English football half back

Brian Roe (1939–2014), English cricketer

Charles Roe (1715–1781), English industrialist

David Roe (born 1965), English snooker player

Edward Payson Roe (1838–1888), American novelist

Erica Roe Twickenham streaker (born 1957)

Francis Asbury Roe (1823–1901), United States Navy admiral

James M. Roe (born 1943), American astronomer

Jane Roe (pseudonym), a legal pseudonym similar to Jane Doe

Jerry D. Roe (born 1936), American academic

John B. Roe (born 1942), America lawyer and politician

John Septimus Roe (1797–1878), first Surveyor-General of Western Australia

Kris Roe, member of The Ataris

Marie Roe, married name of Marie Stopes

Marion Roe (born 1936), United Kingdom politician

Marrion Roe (1935 - 2017), New Zealand Olympic swimmer

Michael Roe (born 1954), American record producer

Philip L. Roe, professor of aerospace engineering

Reginald Heber Roe (1850–1926), 2nd headmaster of Brisbane Grammar School, 1st vice chancellor of University of Queensland

Richard Roe (pseudonym), a legal pseudonym similar to John Doe

Robert A. Roe (born 1924), member of U.S. House of Representatives

Sir Thomas Roe (or Row, c. 1581–1644), English diplomat of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods

Tim Roe (born 1989), Australian cyclist

Tommy Roe (born 1942), American pop music singer and songwriter

William Gordon Roe, Bishop of Huntingdon

Roe III Triplane

The Roe III Triplane was an early British aircraft. In configuration, it was similar to the Roe II Triplane, with a triplane tailplane and an open-top fuselage of triangular cross-section, but the Roe III was a two-seater, and featured ailerons for the first time in a Roe design. The five (some sources give three) production machines differed from the prototype in having the ailerons fitted to the middle wing (the prototype's were on the upper wing) and in being powered by a Green engine in place of the prototype's JAP.

One example was sold to the Harvard Aeronautical Society, one was exported to the United States, and two others suffered a curious fate while en route to the 1910 Blackpool Meeting - sparks from the steam locomotive taking them to Blackpool set fire to the aircraft. Roe was able to quickly replace them with new aircraft built from spare parts.

Roe II Triplane

The Roe II Triplane, sometimes known as the Mercury, was an early British aircraft and the first product of the Avro company. It was designed by Alliott Verdon Roe as a sturdier development of his wood-and-paper Roe I Triplane. Two examples were built, one as a display machine for Roe's new firm, and the second was sold to W. G. Windham. The longest recorded flight made by the Roe II Triplane was 600 ft (180 m).

Roe IV Triplane

The Roe IV Triplane was an early British aircraft designed by Alliott Verdon Roe and built by A.V. Roe and Company. It was first flown in September 1910.

Roe I Biplane

The Roe I Biplane (often later referred to as the Avro Biplane) was the first powered aircraft to be designed, built, and flown in England. Designed in an attempt to claim a prize offered by the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club, it was designed and built by Alliott Verdon Roe, who based it on a powered model with which he had won a Daily Mail prize of £75 at Alexandra Palace in April 1907. This prize was substantially larger: the club committee was offering £2,500 for the first person to fly a circuit of their three-mile (4.8 km) race track by the end of the year. In addition the Daily Graphic was offering a £1,000 prize for a flight of more than a mile (1.6 km).The Roe biplane was built in the coachhouse of Roe's brother in Putney and transported to Brooklands for testing in September 1907. It was an unequal-span canard configuration two-bay biplane without any vertical stabilising surface or rudder and was originally powered by a 9 hp (7 kW) JAP engine mounted in front of the wing and driving a two-bladed aluminium pusher propeller mounted behind the wings. This proved insufficiently powerful to get the craft airborne. Roe continued work on his aircraft, borrowing a French Antoinette engine of 24 hp (18 kW) to use instead. In order to carry the additional weight of this engine, Roe fitted additional lifting surfaces at mid-gap in the inner bay of the wing structure. With this motor, Roe was able to make several short flights in the aircraft; the first on 8 June 1908.One of the conditions of Roe's occupation of his shed at Brooklands was that it was to be used as a refreshment room on race days and on the first of these the aircraft was damaged when being manhandled over a fence by Brooklands racetrack attendants. Roe repaired the machine and some further short flights were made before he was evicted from Brooklands on 17 July 1907. Roe dismantled the aircraft and returned the engine, since he could not afford to buy it.In 1988, a non-flying replica was constructed for the 80th anniversary of Roe's first flight and is displayed at the Brooklands Museum. In 2008, a taxyable replica was constructed for the museum to celebrate the flight's centenary.

Roe I Triplane

The Roe I Triplane (often later referred to as the Avro Triplane) was an early aircraft designed and built by A.V. Roe which was the first all-British aircraft to fly. (Roe's previous biplane had a French engine).

Spartan Air Lines

Spartan Air Lines Ltd was a British private airline company, in the period 1933-1935. In 1933, it started operating passenger services from the London area to the Isle of Wight. In late 1935 it merged with United Airways Ltd to form British Airways Ltd.

Trafford Park Aerodrome

Trafford Park Aerodrome (Manchester) was the first purpose-built airfield in the Manchester area. Its large all-grass landing field was just south of the Manchester Ship Canal between Trafford Park Road, Moseley Road and Ashburton Road and occupied a large part of the former deer park of Trafford Hall. Today's Tenax Road runs north-south through the centre of the site of the old airfield, which was 0.7 miles northeast of today's Trafford Centre.

Vero Precision Engineering Ltd

Vero Precision Engineering Ltd (VPE) was a UK machine-tool manufacturing company which operated from premises at 7 South Mill Rd, Southampton SO15 4JW.

The 1933 O.S. Map shows this location as Crown Works occupied by an electrical engineering company which by 1934 had been replaced by Weir Precision Engineering Ltd.Weir Precision continued their engineering operations at South Mill Rd until 1955 at which time they were taken over by High Precision Engineering Ltd - a company recently formed by Geoffrey Verdon-Roe and associates.The chairman of the new company was Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe (until his death in 1958) and managing director was his son Geoffrey Verdon-Roe. Among the names of other directors found on the VPE Letterhead were Lawrence Leech and also son Royce Verdon-Roe.To avoid confusion with another firm the company name was changed to Vero Precision Engineering Ltd. soon after incorporation - the new name following the tradition of acronyms set by Sir Alliott at A.V. Roe and Company (Avro) and Saunders-Roe Ltd (Saro).

Walthamstow Marshes

Walthamstow Marshes, is a 36.7 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Walthamstow in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It was once an area of lammas land – common land used for growing crops and grazing cattle.

Woodford Aerodrome

Woodford Aerodrome or Manchester Woodford Aerodrome (ICAO: EGCD) is a former private airfield and aircraft factory located at Woodford, Greater Manchester. The site, which is 6 NM (11 km; 6.9 mi) north of Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, was opened by the Avro company shortly after the First World War. It became an important production centre for military aircraft during the Second World War. Notable planes made at the factory include the Avro Anson, Avro Lancaster, Avro Shackleton and Avro Vulcan.

After almost 80 years of continual aircraft manufacture at the site, Woodford was closed and sold off by BAE Systems in 2011.

Avro aircraft

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