Collecting UWL’s Covid-19 memories

UWL archives NEED YOUR HELP to record the experiences of students and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic

UWL Archives

The situation has had an impact on all our lives and we need your stories to record what life has been like during lockdown. Future generations will look back at the pandemic as a key point in history so collecting records of our experiences will be crucial to help people understand how we have all lived through these past few months.

CC. Philafrenzy

We welcome anything that you have created/collected relating to the pandemic. You may have taken photos during your daily exercise around Ealing or your own local area; perhaps you created video diaries of your studies from home, or were inspired to record musical compositions or performances. We are also interested in collecting physical artworks, social distancing notices or messages of support for key workers hung in windows. Whatever it is, we encourage you to send it to us in order to create an archive of Covid-19 memories.

We are particularly keen to focus on the following areas for collecting:

  • How the physical spaces at UWL and the surrounding area have been transformed from busy and bustling to quiet and eerie;
  • The effects on students and staff working in the NHS and social care;
  • How students have reacted to and coped with the changes of moving learning online;
  • The changes to ways of working for staff including the challenges of working from home

Please contact for further information about this project. Any material donated will be safely stored by UWL Archives indefinitely and will be available to researchers of the future. Donations containing sensitive personal information are subject to the Data Protection Act 2018.


Spotlight on the archive: the end of World War II and the development of Heathrow Airport

Those who have had the opportunity to visit UWL’s onsite exhibition Heathrow: The Journey may recall hearing a sound clip of Neville Chamberlain’s famous declaration of war in 1939. Chamberlain flew via Heston Aerodrome, a short distance from Heathrow Airport, to Munich for the infamous peace talks with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in September of 1938. The end of the Second World War played an important part in the establishment of London Airport (later known as Heathrow Airport) and in the provision of the initial facilities and equipment. For example, the initial terminal buildings were former army tents used by troops as accommodation during the conflict.

Starlight: first aircraft to fly from London Airport, 1/1/1946 (CC Heathrow Archive/Graham Bridges/Cliff Alabaster/British Airways Heritage Centre)

London Airport showing early terminal tents, 1946

The first aircraft which took off from London Airport were often converted bombers previously used during the war. A converted Lancaster bomber ‘Starlight’ took off on 1st January 1946 for British South American Airways (BSSA) to Buenos Aires and is reported to be the first flight from London Airport.

Harold Balfour questions Air Commodore before mission in France,_1st_Baron_Balfour_of_Inchrye#/media/File:Royal_Air_Force-_France,_1939-1940._C337.jpg

Many of the politicians instrumental in the establishment of a commercial airport at land at the rural hamlet of ‘Heath Row’ had a history of RAF service and played key roles in war ministries of World War II, including Harold Balfour and Air Marshal Sir John D’Albiac, first commandant of London Airport.

Whilst crowds were celebrating the end of the brutal conflict inflicted during World War II on Tuesday May 8th 1945, the government were already putting plans in motion for the development of Heathrow Airport, the UK’s global travel hub. Commercial air travel was identified as a key factor in restoring foreign relations and re-establishing trade links between Britain and the rest of the world following a turbulent five years of war time. Professor Patrick Abercrombe masterminded the 1944 Greater London Plan to rebuild London which featured Heathrow as an option for a commercial airport West of London, as part of a ring of airports situated outside the London area. Abercrombe believed London may need as many as ten airports to serve a variety of continental and intercontinental destinations, however also advocated for one single large airport capable of handling a higher volume of traffic to and from a greater number of global destinations. Fifty two sites were considered however the most favourable option was land within the Hamlet of ‘Heath Row’ which was 12 miles west of London and free from the industrial smog of the East, had good drainage qualities and already had transport links via the nearby Great West Road which was opened in 1925. 

Great West Aerodrome (also known as Heath Row Aerodrome), 1936

Richard Fairey had already developed the Great West Aerodrome on land at Heath Row which was used as a base to test aircraft constructed by Fairey Aviation Company Limited at their nearby factory in Hayes. Around the same time that Abercrombie was developing his Greater London Plan, Harold Balfour was Under Secretary of State for Air and had been watching Richard Fairey’s Great West Aerodrome at Heath Row with interest. He recognised the surrounding land as ideal for a commercial airport for London.

In order to stop red tape preventing the acquisition of this land for the airport, Balfour was in favour of using emergency powers to acquire Fairey’s aerodrome and the surrounding area. So in 1944 the government requisitioned the Great West Aerodrome and surrounding land at Heath Row to create an RAF base designated for the transportation of troops and supplies to long haul destinations in the Far East. There was of course opposition due to the loss of high quality agricultural land in the area as well as the loss of opportunities for future housing schemes identified for the area. With Fairey now out of the way, Balfour could begin planning London’s commercial airport with PM Winston Churchill having created a new separate Civil Aviation Ministry. After Labour toppled the conservatives to win office in 1945 the new Aviation Minister, Lord Winster, announced that the intended RAF base at Heathrow would instead be used as a civilian airport for London and the first flight took off from London Airport on New Years day 1946. The Airport was not officially open until May later that same year (see link for video recording:

Heathrow Air Ministry Property Record (ref: UWLA/HA/01/02/001), exterior cover

Heathrow Air Ministry Property Record (ref: UWLA/HA/01/02/001)

Heathrow Air Ministry Property Record (ref: UWLA/HA/01/02/001) opening page, showing 1st transaction as 3rd May 1945

Corresponding map, mid-green coloured area with mumber ‘1’ shows area referred to in 1st transaction

The Heathrow Archive holds a number of interesting documents relating to the history of Heathrow Airport and the development of aviation in general. In May 1945 the Civil Air Ministry began keeping records of transactions of land acquired for the initial development of London Airport. The records were recorded within the Heathrow Air Ministry Property Record (ref: UWLA/HA/01/02/001) which provides details on these transactions and show exactly where the land was situated on accompanying annotated Ordnance Survey maps of the local area. The document provides an interesting insight into the initial expansion of Heathrow Airport and also shows that the process of acquiring land to be used in the development of the commercial airport was taking place before war had officially been declared over on Thursday 3rd May 1945 (the next transaction was recorded on 12th May 1945 – I hope this means here was a pause in records while the country celebrated in style following VE day on Tuesday 8th May, including Ministry of Civil Aviation staff). The expansion and development of the Airport has continued at a significant rate, creating the global travel hub which Heathrow is today. 

1955 plans of London Airport terminal buildings

1955 plans of London Airport terminal buildings

The document also features a number of interesting plans from the initial development of permanent terminal buildings within the Central Terminal Area from 1955. The Heathrow Airport property record is currently in the process of being conserved and digitised.


UWL Archives is currently closed, however for information on any of the documents or references mentioned please see the web pages:

The Heathrow Exhibition is also closed until further notice:


Gallop, Alan, Heathrow Airport: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Aviation, 2019)

Sherwood, Phllip, Heathrow: 2000 years in the making (Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2001)

Spotlight on: Tom Eckersley London Transport murals

UWL Archives is the proud custodian of two Tom Eckersley murals. These are part of a set of nine artworks originally displayed on the platforms at Heathrow Central Station when the extension of the Piccadilly line first opened on this day 42 years ago (16th December 1977). The murals were donated by TfL in June 2018.

Tom Eckersley Concorde tail mural

Mural on display at Heathrow Central Station c.1977










Eckersley was born on 30 September 1914 in Lancashire. In 1930 he began his study at Salford Art School where he was soon awarded the Heywood Medal for Best Student. In 1934 Eckersley moved to London with a desire to become a freelance poster designer. He was accompanied by Eric Lombers, a fellow student and future collaborator on commissioned poster designs.

Eckersley-Lombers posters were both eye-catching and functional and proved popular with advertisers. They supplied full size artwork with hand drawn lettering for their poster designs. Eckersley was also involved in the teaching of graphic design: he and Lombers worked as visiting lectures in poster design at Westminster School of Art. The poster became recognised as a design piece in the 1930s however they were restricted by tariffs imposed for displaying posters in public places. Eckersley’s bold, simple style was well-suited for the workplace safety posters he produced for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) throughout his career.

World War Two ended the Eckersley-Lombers partnership as they joined different military services. There was a decline in commercial advertising which led Eckersley to create posters for RoSPA which were aimed at factories that were part of the war effort. The posters are striking in their bluntness as with little text it is the illustration that catches the eye.

Eckersley originally joined the Royal Air Force for cartographic work but later transferred to the Publicity Section of the Air Ministry. In 1948 his contribution was recognised with the granting of an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to poster design. The ability of the poster to communicate complex messages was recognised so they became propaganda messages and instigated the development of mass media. The demand for government information posters reduced after the war and commercial advertising was still limited. However, Eckersley was able to gain commissions from new sources such as Gillette and old sources such as the General Post Office.

Eckersley taught poster design at the Westminster School of Art from 1937 to 1939. In 1954 Eckersley joined the London College of Printing (LCP, now named London College of Communication) to teach undergraduates. Here he established the first undergraduate courses in graphic design in Britain. He was Head of Graphic Design at the College from 1957 until 1977. Eckersley also continued to complete commissioned work, adding The United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the National Business Calendar Design Awards and Cooks to his list of clients.

Eckersley was one of the most iconic poster designers and graphic communicators of the twentieth century, who combined practice with education. In addition to poster making and book illustration he also produced magazine covers and logos. His designs put across complex messages by bringing together text and pictures. The range of companies who commissioned both the Eckersley-Lombers partnership and Eckersley individually reflects the wide appeal of their/his striking designs and include: British Petroleum; the British Broadcasting Corporation; London Transport; the Ministry of Information; the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA); the General Post Office; Gillette; London College of Printing; Guinness; the Inner London Education Authority; and many more.

Spotlight on the archive: 100 years of British Airways

100 years of British Airways

British Airways is UK’s largest international scheduled airline with its main hub at Heathrow Airport. Last month the airline celebrated 100 years since the first scheduled passenger flight departed from London. In September’s edition of ‘Spotlight’ we take a look at the history of BA and explore some interesting and eye catching postcards from the Heathrow Archive:

On 25 August 1919 Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), a forerunner company of today’s British Airways, launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service. A single-engined De Havilland DH4A G-EAJC flew from Hounslow Heath (close to Heathrow Airport) to Paris. That first flight carried a single passenger whose ticket cost £9 (approximately £450 today), took two hours and 30 minutes and carried cargo such as newspapers, a consignment of leather, Devonshire cream, jam and grouse.

The Instone Airline Limited soon started Hounslow to Paris services in February 1920. The following month saw the closure of Hounslow Heath and flights switched to Croydon, the new London Airport. In March 1920 all Civil Aviation moved from Hounslow to Croydon.

However British air services were struggling to compete with subsidised European airlines. Later that same year Air Transport and Travel Limited ceased to operate and by February 1921 all British air services ceased operations. The following month a government subsidy was granted enabling Britain’s air services to restart. Daimler International purchased all of AT&T’s assets and operated flights to a range of European destinations including Cologne and Amsterdam.


UWL Archives: Imperial Airways postcard, 1920s to 1930s


UWL Archives: Imperial Airways postcard, 1920s to 1930s

In January 1923 the Civil Air Transport Subsidies Committee was appointed under Sir Herbert Hambling “to consider the present working of cross-channel subsidies and to advise on the best method of subsidising air transport in the future.” The government followed the advice of the committee and on 31st March 1924 Imperial Airways was incorporated. This new airline saw the merger of The Instone Airline Limited, Daimler International Airways, Handley Page Transport Limited and British Marine Air Navigation Company Limited. The Airline served parts of Europe but principally British Empire routes to South Africa, India and the far east.



In 1939 Imperial was merged with British Airways Limited into the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). BOAC continued operating overseas services throughout World War II. BOAC was the first airline to use jet airliners such as the De Havilland Comet which was added to the fleet in 1952. In 1958 BOAC operated the first nonstop transatlantic flight using the Comet 4, with further developments in transatlantic flying after the introduction of the Boeing 747-100 in 1971


BOAC postcards, 1940s to 1960s


BOAC BSSA postcards, 1940s









BEA postcard, 1940s to 1960s

After the Civil Aviation Act of 1946 European and South American services passed to two additional state-run airlines, British European Airways (BEA) and British South American Airways (BSSA). BSSA was absorbed by BOAC in 1949 but BEA continued to operate separately to BEA running services to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East from airports around the United Kingdom. The airline was also the largest UK domestic operator, serving major British cities, including London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast, as well as areas of the British Isles such as the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.



BA Aircraft postcard, 1970s


British Airways (BA) was created in 1974 out of the merger of BOAC, BEA and two regional airlines; Cambrian Airlines based in Cardiff and Northeast Airlines based in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Shortly after BA was formed, the airline added Concorde to the fleet, with the world’s first scheduled supersonic passenger service flight on January 21, 1976, initially flying the aircraft from London to Bahrain.


BA Concorde postcard, 2003


After almost 13 years as a state company, BA was privatised in February 1987 and then expanded with the acquisition of British Caledonian in 1987, Dan-Air in 1992, and British Midland International in 2012.  In January 2011 BA merged with Iberia, creating the International Airlines Group (IAG). BA operates flights to over 180 destinations with a fleet of approximately 176 aircraft.




Getting to Heathrow by train………..

On 23rd June 1998 the Heathrow Express rail link service was launched with four trains per hour taking just 15 minutes from London Paddington to Heathrow Terminals 1,2 and 3. On display within the Heathrow: The Journey Exhibition are pieces of clay recovered from 25 metres below the northern runway. The clay was excavated during tunneling for the Heathrow Express rail link. The clay is dated at 30 million years old.

Clay recovered 25 meters below the northern runway as on display in Heathrow: The Journey Exhibition at UWL


A piece of 30 million year old clay


Prior to the Heathrow Express rail link the London Underground Piccadilly line was the other main mode of public transport used by passengers to get to Heathrow from Central London (other than by bus and car). The extension of the Piccadilly Line from Hounslow West to Heathrow Central Station was opened in 1977. Journey time is roughly an hour with trains every 10 minutes and this remains the most cost effective way of reaching Heathrow by public transport.

Tom Eckersley mural on display at Heathrow Central Station in 1977, one of 9 murals displayed on the platform

One of two Tom Eckersley murals now housed at UWL Archives

In 2018 TfL Rail took over the running of the Heathrow Connect rail service which was launched in 2005 from Paddington to Heathrow stopping at various West London stations on route, with journey times of between 31 and 49 minutes. The newly anticipated Elizabeth Line (project previously known as Crossrail) will run between Central London and Heathrow Terminal 5 in approximately 34 minutes.

Spotlight on the Archive: Heath Row Aerodrome album

In 1929 the sleepy hamlet of Heath Row was disturbed by the development of the new Great West Aerodrome, which also became known as the Heath Row Aerodrome. A few years later (1936, to be precise) someone spent the month of May taking photographs in the Aerodrome and gathered them together in this album, which we were lucky enough to receive as a donation last year.

Now part of the site of Heathrow Airport, Richard Fairey originally purchased the land from the Vicar of Harmondsworth for a sum of £15,000 (approximately £900,000 in money today). Fairey Aviation Company Ltd. went on to use the airfield to assemble and test the aircraft they manufactured at their factory nearby in Hayes.

These unique images show a variety of early aircraft, with some in the process of construction within Heath Row aerodrome hangars.




The album also contains holiday snaps from the Isle of Wight, Shropshire and Denbighshire, as well as images of aircraft at Kenley Aerodrome, Surrey, on Empire Day in 1936. The album is now part of the Heathrow Archive held here at UWL Archives and is available to view.

For more information on the collections available to consult at UWL archives, visit our webpage:

UWL Archives

UWL Archives contains historical collections relating to the history of UWL as well as the Heathrow Archive.

The archive is based on the third floor of the Paul Hamlyn library at the Ealing Campus. Visits are arranged by appointment only, please contact the archivist in advance using the contact details on our web page: