Forgotten buildings: the West London Air Terminal

This forgotten building still exists, at least in its physical manifestation as a 1960s tower block overlooking the Cromwell Road. In all other respects it is forgotten and when I wander around the extensive interior of Sainsbury’s Gloucester Road I never think of what was there before, or of the original purpose of this strangely sited structure. Because this building served a purpose which could now be regarded as obscure and archaic. It was British European Airways’ West London Air Terminal.

WLAT vehicle entrance

[A Rover 3.5 litre coupe, a car much favoured by managers in the 60s heads to the car park bypassing the ramp to the departures area on the first floor.]

The idea of an air terminal away from the actual airport it served goes back to the days when Croydon was London’s Airport. It had a remote terminal at Victoria Station. In the period after the war Heathrow was in the ascendant so the search was on for a site in West London. The airport authorities settled on an area in Kensington already occupied by another form of transport: the Cromwell Curve where the District and Circle lines came together and tube trains from Gloucester Road, High Street Kensington and Earls Court passed each other. It was decided to build a concrete raft over the train lines and construct the new terminal above them.

The need for the terminal was so great that they couldn’t wait to build a full scale versionl. A temporary two storey terminal was completed in 1957.

WLAT K61-474 first terminal

This is a truly forgotten building, barely recalled at all I should think except by those who used it.

WLAT K61-475 first terminal showing Cromwell Curve

This picture has something for everyone: some unusual buses, a glimpse of one of the demolished towers of the Imperial Institute and a view of the Cromwell Curve still in the open air, before the concrete platform reached its full extent. Although temporary, the first terminal was celebrated in print as this cutaway diagram from the Illustrated London News shows:

WLAT first terminal 1957 K61-476

The first terminal’s time was limited. In a few years the new version was under construction.

WLAT K63-924 construction

The new tower rose and the platform was extended to accommodate a second entrance.

WLAT K64-13 east entrance

This view of the east entrance shows the other end of the ramp and the lift tower. That lone pedestrian looks like he’s taking his life in his hands.

Here at the west entrance an early photo shows some minimal signage for BEA.

WLAT K64-183 west entrance

Inside was a modern concourse with flight information displayed on actual television sets.

WLAT K64-8 interior

It looks a little under-populated but that may be what the photographer was asked to produce.

Down in the restaurant it looks lively enough with people sitting around some bar style tables.

WLAT K64-9 interior - resturant

At this point I have to ban the word modern from any further use.

The idea in case I haven’t spelt it out was that you checked in for your flight here and then you and your luggage were transported to Heathrow in special airline buses.

WLAT K64-12 interior

I tried to explain to a younger person why this might have been thought to be a good idea but I didn’t succeed. It is enough to say that for many years the airline and its passengers agreed that it was.

The Cromwell Road location, a short convenient distance up the road from Gloucester Road Station meant that when the time came to fly you could put on your sheepskin coat, walk down some stairs, put your case in the coach and be on your way. On the way back the airline deposited you back in Central London.

WLAT K64-10 interior

They even had a baggage carousel, with uniformed porters on hand to help. It doesn’t look too busy.

Copy of WLAT K64-11 interior

I suspect the whole arrangement was something to do with the relative novelty of regular air travel and once people were used to the idea of going to airports, and there were plenty of options for getting there, it was just as easy to make your own way.

So the exciting days of air travel were over.

WLAT pedestrian entrance

Nice dress, Madam.

And as I said the actual building, now remodelled under the name Point West is still with us. Look at this aerial view:

WLAT K65-108 aerial view 1965

The curling ramps are gone and the building is clad in an inoffensive colour.

As always with aerial photos you can spot some interesting detail you can’t see from below. That light well in the centre for example. What does it look down on these days? An ornamental garden, or a sports field?

Next time you travel on the tube between Gloucester Road and High Street Kensington you can look for the steel girders holding up the concrete platform you are travelling beneath. You can also look all the way up, and wonder what the view all the way down looks like to residents.

94 responses to “Forgotten buildings: the West London Air Terminal

  • Robin Greeley

    Fantastic! Is this the air terminal that appears in an episode of The Avengers, in which John Steed returns from holiday to find Mrs. Peel kidnapped by a set of art thieves?

  • William

    Hi Dave
    This one brings back memories. My wife worked at BOAC (Buck Pal Rd) as a booking officer in the mid sixties and we used the west London air terminal several times as we got to travel at only 10% of the fares, and sometimes had free accommodation at the other end. This was magic for us as we lived in a garret in Redcliffe Sq. I remember buying a book at the WLAT to read on one journey – a recently de-banned thick PB volume by Frank Harris ‘My Life and Loves’, which makes that trip 1966. Strange, I recall the book but not the trip!
    Great work.

  • Hasenschneck

    It was the (to me) helter skelter-like ramp that caught my imagination as a child.

  • Giblets

    I actually live in the building, wanted to know a little bit of the history, didn’t realise it used the same structure (I assumed it was entirely new build), but you can still see the round columns when you are in the apartments now!
    The lift tower contains the exclusive penthouses
    It is now known as ‘Point West’ 116 Cromwell Rd.
    Image of it today:

    • Dave Walker

      It’s good to hear from an actual resident. So can you tell me if the light well in the middle is used for anything now – it would make an interesting hidden space if there was a garden or something there. Or are you going to tell me it’s just a roof for whatever’s undeerneath?

  • Russell Tait

    this building was designed by my father, Gordon Tait of Burnet Tait and Ptnrs.
    Is it possible to obtain copies of the photos?
    Many thanks

  • Giblets

    Hi, there is a David Lloyd gym in the building on the ground floor. The ‘courtyard’ is open down to that level where there is a glass roof over the running machines, not very exciting am afraid.

  • Ian Todd

    Hi, I used to work in this building from 1977-1985 when it housed part of BA’s IT department including a data centre, and Telephone Sales. It was a great place to work and featured an iconic bar in the basement called the ‘Comet Club’. This place was so liked that that we recently had a reunion to celebrate the place and the friendships it spawned. We even have a Comet club group on facebook. It was a sad day when the building was sold off in BA’s asset stripping prior to privatisation and we were all farmed off to the desert that is Hatton Cross.

  • Sydney25

    Hi Dave, I am also a resident of Point West so it has been with extra interest and enthusiasm that I have been reading you blog on the history of this fascinating building. There is very little about it online so I thank you for your blog. I live in that light well and as my fellow resident says it looks down on the David Lloyd Gym. You can see people sweating it out on the cross trainers and treadmills through the glass window. I am also a member of the gym and so I get both views. I have vague memories of the terminal as a boy but remember it being redeveloped in the 1990s. Thank you once again for sharing this fascinating piece of history. I am really enjoying your blog.

    Best wishes


  • Tony C

    Hello, everyone.

    I worked in reservations from April 1974 to October 1977; originally on the 4th floor, on Univac unisets connected to BEACON and later, downstairs on the 2nd floor on VDU’s connected to the BEACON replacement, called BABS.
    Very high-tec for its day.

    We answered between 14,000 and 19,000 calls a day!

    24-hour shifts, lots of friends, fun and good memories, but BEA were taken over by BOAC who only had one way of doing anything – theirs!

    All downhill from there, I’m afraid….

    Tony C.

  • charles stuart

    Great article thank you. In the 60s and 70s I used to pass it a lot. Now I just passed daisies on a 74 bus and wondered whether or not the whole thing went. Didn’t know it say on top of the tube junction which I travel through most days. Very interesting. .. Thanks.

  • Angelina

    Hi Dave

    Many thanks for the article. How fascinating! Being a resident at Point West, I was intrigued to find out more about the building when recently I came across a short article on this building in the British Airways in flight magazine High Life. (

    In the magazine (sadly not on the online version), it shows the inside of the terminal with passengers checking in as well as the routemasters with luggage trailers.

    Is there any chance those additional photos from BA magazine are added to here so that this article here holds the most comprehensive archive of the building as the West Terminal.

    Thanks again for safekeeping this piece of interesting history.


    • Dave Walker

      Thanks for your comment. It’s good to hear from another modern resident of the building.
      In almost all cases the images on the blog are from the Local Studies collection or books in the Library. I try to present pictures that are unfamiliar or not available elsewhere. I imagine BA has its own archive of images for which they hold the copyright image rights.

  • Alexandra Arad

    Hi Dave,

    Do you happen to know when was the present sainsbury’s built? I’m an architecture student and currently doing a project on this site so any information would be very much appreciated. Also thank you for this post, very good insight on the history of the place.


  • Peter Warden

    As a prep-school boy in the 1960s with parents living in Spain I had several trips from this terminal, usually meeting up with my sisters who were at another school in Kent. On the first occasion I was supposed to meet a Universal Aunt at Victoria Station…I gave her the slip and made my own way to Cromwell Road. There I made the acquaintance of another boy and his sister who had their own Universal Aunt….Due to dense fog at Heathrow my flight was postponed and I was billeted with this 2nd U. A….because the original one, who by then had found me ..was not able to put me up ( more likely she wanted nothing to do with such an ill-behaved charge! ). My sisters , however, had no such recourse to lodgings in the capital and had to be driven back to school for the night ( by a very accommodating school taximan ), returning next day for the successful flight !

  • Linda Shore (Wheeler)

    I worked at the terminal from 1970 until 1978 and had a great time working as a Passenger Service Assistant. We worked shifts and moved around the different venues. Most of us were in our twenties, so the social life was good and we often met in the Comet Club for a few glasses of wine in our lunch break. The men probably enjoyed themselves too as the majority of staff were female and some the girls including me ended up marrying one of their colleagues. I am still married to him after 41 years and we share a great love of the place we met.

  • Phil

    I worked there from 69 through 72 as a programmer on what were then very powerful mainframes, see for arcane machine details. It was a great job. I would walk down Cromwell Road at lunch hour and spend time in the then free museums staring at Tielke guitars and parts of Babbages’ calculating machine.

    • BJGreene

      I can’t get to your page Phil!
      Sperry-Rand Univac 494 – Fast-rand drums with parallel access.
      Have you any photos of the computer room and /or the reservations hall showing the terminals?
      I remember the restaurant & the Silver Wing Comet Club and those museums. What a great craic it all was!
      Although based at LHR I also worked on the (wanna say) the 6th floor on Terminal systems aside from ASRS. Some of the team were engaged on terminal maintenance and telephone systems – was it a Siemens exchange? I have a strong feeling that the 494’s were on the 4th floor but…. ??
      Any info to fill out my memory would be welcome. I left airline in 1979 BjG

      • BjG

        To correct myself – It was an STC exchange that I was thinking of which might have been only at LHR after all. It’s not the point! The point is that I cannot find photos of the Reservations (ASRS) area. Surely that would make a good picture?

      • John Grafham

        Hi. I posted earlier in this (long term!) thread. But I worked in the Computer Room from 1968 to 1974. Cutting edge technology for those times, largest real-time system in Europe with a core memory of 132K !
        Have a couple of pics of the computer room which may be of interest, but cant see how to attach them on here. If you give your email I will send them to you. Regards, John Grafham.

      • Phil Mayes

        Oops: link-rot. Try and I’ll try to put a redirect for the broken link.

  • Martin

    Very interesting! I found this blog after searching for info on the Cromwell Road terminal because it features briefly in the book I am currently reading – Michael Crichton’s recently republished “Scratch One” copyright 1967. The protagonist flies to Nice via Air France. Having been a Londoner for 16 years and visited that area several times but never heard of the terminal my curiosity was piqued. Thanks!

    Incidentally to follow Phil’s comment above, the museums are still free, at least for the moment.

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  • Mark.

    A character in Agatha Christie’s novel _At Bertram’s Hotel_ (1965) goes to the terminal only to find his flight was the day before. I’d never heard of it and was greatly pleased to see this site. Nowadays it’s airport car-rental facilities that are sometimes far from the airport, notoriously so in for instance Phoenix, Arizona.

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  • Percy Boon

    You can see Kensington Air Station in the 1949 Margaret Lockwood film, Madness Of The Heart, at about five minutes in. The film is currently availabe on YouTube.

  • Geoff

    I used to do an odd shift there sometime after the BOAC/BEA merger in the mid 70s. My normal workplace was network control at Heathrow, SAUDIA had a contract with BA to provide IT and I believe it was originally serviced from the WLAT.

    • S McGuirk

      I saw a friend off from the BEA terminal in 1964 when he was leaving for VSO in Papua New Guinea! Then in 1974 I was going on my own on a Saudia flight to Riyadh and I checked in and left from the West London Terminal. When there was still a BA Flight Sales front of house I remember going in to make bookings. Then when the Sainsbury’s opened, we used to go shopping there once a week. Eventually, from 1999 to 2011 I lived in Point West, in a west facing flat overlooking the car park. So lots of associations with the place.

  • Chris D

    You can read an article about the first terminal (with pictures) here:

  • Garrett

    Excellent article. I was curious about it because I was reading Agatha Christie’s “At Bertram’s Hotel”, and I’d never heard about any air terminal in Kensington. So it was interesting to read about the terminal and its history.

    But sometimes old ideas return – a few years ago Vienna opened its City Air Terminal in the city centre, with a rail link leading directly to the airport, and check-in desks at the city terminal. I think as airports get busier and more crowded, this idea is becoming practical again.

  • joseph

    Can also be seen in Billion Dollar Brain, ultimate part of the Harry Palmer trilogy with my name is Michael Caine.

  • chasbaz

    I worked there for BEA IT from 1968-77. Happy days!

  • joanna walsh

    Is this the terminal that burned sometime around 1960? We watched that from our flat a few blocks away.

    • Dave Walker

      As far as I’m aware, the original two-storey building didn’t burn down. The current building was constructed in 1962-3 and was in use as an air terminal until the early 70s. I’d be very interested to hear more about a fire in the area.

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  • Maria Mercer

    I worked for BEA in the West London Air Terminal in 1971 as a clerk typist for a Systems Analyst for about 3 months. I was on a working holiday to UK, coming from Brisbane Australia. I walked to this building each day from Cranley Place, South Kensington where I lived in a bed sit which was rather primitive then with only a tiny gas operated hot plate for a cooker costing one shilling an hour. No refrigerator, we used the windowsill to keep milk and butter cold ha! Still we loved it, as it was a great adventure for 22 year old girls then. I remember getting stuck in the lift one Friday around 5pm, it was scary, could see myself there for the week end ha! I kept my finger on the emergency button, until a male voice said over the intercom “take your finger off the button” I called out, “please get me out of this lift”. I was in the lift for an hour or so when the doors were prised open with a crowbar by the two men. From then on I walked down the ramp inside the building every day after work. I thought the old BEA terminal building was demolished, but just discovered today it is now residential apartments called Point West. Wish I knew this when I was last in UK in 2013, I could have walked in my old footsteps to revisit my old workplace when revisiting the old bed-sit at 12 Cranley Place, (it was £5 each a week then. Can you imagine the cost today??) something to put on my visit list for next time. Those were the days!

  • Tony Crampton

    Hi, everyone.
    Search on-line for a short film entitled ‘Clear to Land’, about BEA in its hey-day.
    Included is a sequence shot in the West London Air Terminal, showing the 4th floor reservation hall in the late 1960’s, and Univac Unisets in use on BEACON ASRS 4.

  • Gerry

    Hi, I lived in Kensington until moving to Ireland in 1975. I used the West London Air Terminal several times flying BEA to Dublin. It was a magical building which I recall with fond memories of Sunday afternoons walking round to soak up the ‘airport’ atmosphere. There were lifts that had fascinating (for a young boy) with buttons that lit up when you touched the clear plastic surrounds – they didn’t move in or out but lit when simply touched.
    Can anyone please tell me when the coaches changed colour to/from blue to/from red? The trailers that carried the luggage were fab 🙂
    Gerry (now working in Dublin Airport over 36 years!)

  • Karen

    Just been watching a 1958 film ‘Nowhere to go’ starring George Nader and Maggie Smith. Some wonderful ‘old’ London locations including ‘Kensington Air Terminal’.

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  • Basia Korzeniowska

    i used to live in South Kensington until 1971, and the first time i went to Spain by myself in 1970 (I was 17) my mother took me to this terminal – our local one, and off I went. it was very easy and pleasant and near. once you got to the airport you didn’t have to worry abut anything! it was a great shame when it fell into disuse!

  • Basia Korzeniowska

    I lived there till 1974 actually. I can’t work out how to edit my previous comment!

  • mrsredboots

    I worked in an au pair agency in France in the early 1970s, and almost all the families to whom we sent girls said that they would meet them at the WLAT – in the days before the Piccadilly Line and Heathrow Express, it was the only practical way of getting to and from Heathrow by public transport. I used it myself a time or two, and also the Gatwick Airport terminal at Victoria Station (not Waterloo, surely?). So much more pleasant not to have to negotiate public transport with a heavy case, but, alas, impractical in these days of heightened security.

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  • Pierre L'Allier

    When I moved to the UK in 1975, my future wife (Margaret) lived on the Cromwell Road about a block away from the WLAT. She used to work as a programmer, but I don’t remember which system she was on. She used to go home for lunch!

  • woofbarkyap

    I loved the long sloping corridor that went all round the tower and one of my treats was to go up in the lift and run all the way down whilst mum sensibly went back down in the lift to meet me at the bottom!
    You didn’t mention the IRA bomb that took a huge chunk from the tower sometime in the mid 70s, I was in the Osten mews across the tracks and my mum picked me up and threw me behind her smashing my face open on the pebble dash. Many a school teacher still cowering in corners will agree that my mum was infinitely scarier than the IRA!

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  • thecoppicer

    I was a temporary “resident” of the West London Air Terminal for one night around 5th or 6th September 1965. I was a rather naive 20 and had just arrived in London having left (run away from) a stultifying parental home in Bangor, (NI) to London, with my girlfriend. After traipsing around letting agencies all day we couldn’t find anywhere we could remotely afford to stay that first night. (Next day we discovered the suburbs.)

    I knew of WLAT from a previous visit to London when my big sister generously took me to the Proms as a birthday present in 1960. I decided we could probably get away with sleeping on the couches at the terminal for the night. There were other bona fide travelers doing it, although we were a pretty shabby couple in comparison; most of our ‘luggage’ in plastic bags. Slept undisturbed, like a log, and was woken at about 7am by a courteous security guard who called me “Sir” (a first), told me the time and informed me the restaurant had opened and was serving breakfast. Seemed like a lucky visit to heaven at the time. Big, clean, shiny, well-lit and very modern to my provincial eyes. Times have changed.

  • Tony Grant

    My father worked there as a porter and then as security. He used to take me there regularly. In the late 50’s early 60’s what a fascinating place for a young school boy to explore, different levels and hustle and bustle everywhere. Looking back It was quite sedate compared to today. I think it eventually closed as one could check in there with your baggage and then being taken to Heathrow by coach and be assured of catching your flight even if the coach taking you to Heathrow was delayed in traffic.As traffic volumes increased causing delays and there were security issues with baggage which ceased the guaranteed travel and so it closed I believe.

    • Sean O'Reilly

      Also because check-in facilities had been expanded in Terminal 1 and the Piccadilly line was extended to Heathrow (opening in 1976).

  • Liz Altieri

    Trains are great and a vital option but I think if travelers today knew how easy and comfortable that journey was from the West End Terminal to the airport they’d be very pleased to have that option again. I will always miss London and I notice that cushy chartered buses (whose windows are not covered with annoying eye-boggling decals) are the way millennials prefer to commute now that I live here in the San Francisco bay area.

  • fledermaus2016

    ” It had a remote terminal at Waterloo Station.” – for Croydon?
    Surely not.
    No direct trains Waterloo to Croydon, then or now.
    I think you mean VICTORIA?

  • Alex

    There was a short-lived North London air terminal opposite Finchley Road & Frognal station.

  • Chris Hopkinson

    I worked here from 1972 to 1977 on the 4th floor, I was taken on by BEA when they merged with BOAC to become BA. I was taken on for reservations but the whole course and some future ones were put on Inclusive Holidays namely Sovereign Holidays and later Enterprise Holidays. Yes it was a great laugh , mainly girls working there and the Comet Club in the basement some lunchtimes, Christmas parties down in that area as well. Sometimes splashed out on payday to have lunch at the Penta Hotel opposite! We worked shifts from 8am to 6pm I remember being evacuated when a bomb went off on the vehicle ramp in the picture. The canteen was good and cheap buttered toast 1p!! and the trolley coming around to the offices with cheese and ham rolls… I knew about the building going to be made into flats and Sainsbury coming in ….would have been nice to have the flat where my desk had been !

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  • Doonfoto

    Someone else carrying your bags from central London to the Terminal? What a great idea! Have you seen how hard it is for people to squeeze their bags onto Piccadilly trains. But how big a check-in area would they now need in a city centre terminal handling all LHR Terminals, plus or minus LGW?

  • Andrew Lyons

    Great article!!! As a young teenager I used the air terminal twice and remembered it was just as exciting as an airport though without aircraft.

    The BEA routemaster type buses did not hang around and I remember that when driving with my parents towards the M4 the buses were driven purposely and quickly (no cameras in the erly 70’s). The demise of the terminal was entirely due to the underground being completed to Heathrow, though with this service nownot terribly frequent and cluttered the air terminal seems very attractive!

    Any news of the 30s art deco BOAC terminal?

  • Dave Ward

    I worked at WLAT 1962 – 67 and have details I would be happy to post but don’t use any current means (facebook/twitter etc.) so please let me know how to proceed.
    Dave Ward

  • dave ward

    I was honoured to work for BEA joining as a commercial apprentice in September 1959 and after completing my training in ‘passenger service’ worked at West London Air Terminal (WLAT) for five years from 1962 to 1967. The workings of the terminal supplied passengers with all aspects of their journey (apart from an aircraft) in Reservations, Ticketing, Check-in and Departures plus the appeal of being on a flight without the worry of getting to the airport, traffic and parking. It also housed a selection of shops, currency exchange and restaurant plus car-hire and hotel booking service in the ground floor arrivals area. Some previous comments have raised memories for me and perhaps the following could be of further interest.

    There was indeed a major fire at WLAT a year after opening affecting the upper floors or the building where construction work was continuing to house BEA’s Reservations call-centre, IT and Admin. Drawn out of Snows Hotel (and a late after-hours bevy) by the sound of numerous fire engines I was one of many who watched the event from Cromwell Road and it is documented on other web-sites. The location of the terminal attracted a terrific variety of staff in the vibrant period of the Sixties with Earls Court on the door-step, London’s West End a few stops away and good access onto the recently opened M4 to be out of London in a few minutes. It was certainly a very friendly work-place and I do recall being outnumbered by female staff.

    The Comet Club (part of BEA’s Silver Wing Club) was located in the terminal ‘basement’ and provided staff with an amiable location to relax and enjoy a drink in good company. It as at one of their evening events I met my future Wife and after some 50 years still have great memories of WLAT, the Staff and working for what was at that time a great airline. How time flies and things inevitably change.

    David (Frank) Ward

  • Alan collett

    Brings back memories, I was one of the porterstwhile pictured in your photo, is it still in use?

  • BKS Boy

    The Avengers episode was ‘The Girl From Auntie’, series4 b&w, Jan 1966 first transmission.
    I never used WLAT as a passenger but during my first year (1967-68) as an aircraft engineering apprentice with BKS Air Transport at Southend, I used to have to get from Southend to LHR to catch a BKS flight back to Leeds to see mum & dad for the weekend occasionally. I discovered that we were able to get a discount on the BEA Routemaster LHR-WLAT shuttle(posh seats and closing rear door). It was normally five bob (5/-) but we got it for half a crown (2/6) and this was a useful saving on the West London-Hounslow West tube fare and also put me into the airport which the tube certainly didn’t in those days. Bear in mind that the tube was about 5/- single which is 25p in new money but for inflation purposes would be around £7.50 today. It worked in both directions and but a short hop from WLAT to Liverpool St station , for the train to/from Southend.
    In the 1980s I visited the BA lost property stores there but not much else going on in WLAT. I think the tube line extension into LHR probably rendered it superfluous.

  • Bill Fitzwater

    When my wife was a student at Grenoble University 1958-59 for a four month intensive French course she returned from her Xmas break in London via WLAT. On Sunday 4 January 1959 she departed for Geneva and the weather was terrible; iced up wings that had to be cleared before take-off (delays) etc. We have the Thomas Cook Itinerary, ticket (tourist class Stg.16-16-0, excess baggage voucher (charge 17/-), and the airport service charge ticket (5/-). I’m using these memorabilia in a video for our children chronicling the time my wife was a student all those years ago. During this short break she stayed one night with her sister at the Birmingham Hotel in Cromwell Road. Would anyone have any information which would help me find the building, if it still exists, or an archive of pictures of Cromwell Road in 1958/59 or there abouts?

  • Andrew Bendel

    Does anyone remember the TWA office and dedicated buses that left from Olympia? I think it’s the space just to the west of the Kensington Hilton.

  • Ken Kirk

    Thanks Dave, It was exciting to work for Univac on the Beacon system in 1966. Beacon was continually modified, even by Control Data Corp, and used by South American airlines such as Varig for many years.
    Living in a bedsitter near Earls Court was a time warp. Milk was delivered by horse drawn carts and placed into my window box. For a bath, one put pennies into the gas meter, waited until the water had warmed, tore one’s clothes off and leapt through the steam into the water. Getting out saw quick, really quick, toweling off.
    All of the power and storage capacity of the large Univac computer room on the 4th floor compares feebly with today’s PC.
    I enjoyed working with Henry F W Pinkenburg who was a WWII Luftwaffe fighter pilot and a most clever fellow and Ed Mack, a near genius.
    Ken Kirk

    • John Grafham

      Hi Ken. Have commented on this thread before! Yes I remember Ed Mack, and a few other Univac guys. Got to know the engineers well because I was an operator on the 490s then the 494s. Great days. Exciting, state of the art, and a showpiece. Stayed there till they shut it down and moved to Boadicea. Best working years of my career!

    • Phil Mayes

      Hi Ken, I was a programmer at WLAT starting in 1969. Your comment about milk carts made me smile. I used them as an illustration for how quickly things have changed. I remember them from the early 50s in SE London, though my sister, 7 years younger doesn’t, so I was delighted to hear of them still in use many years later!

      • Ken Kirk

        Hi Phil and John, Thanks for your replies. Each day a tea trolley came by at 2:00 to offer tea and sweets. Around 2:00 my room of some 12 programmers would stop working in anticipation of the tea trolley. One day the trolley did not appear at 2:00 or at 3:00 or at 4:00, but no one was working. It turned out the tea trolley lady was ill and did not come in that day. What a hoot !!! There were employees who worked quite diligently and ones who did very little.
        I walked to work from my bed sitter to the WLAT. One evening I crossed the four laned Brompton Road after looking the wrong way. As I reached the middle of the two westbound lanes a car whizzed by on either side. It was pure luck that I wasn’t hit.
        The WLAT toilet paper was this pink waxy insult. Upon becoming raw I began bringing my own to work.
        Barclays had a branch in the reception hall where I had an account, There was also a barber shop, a guest restaurant and an employee restaurant. What memories !!!

  • Graham H

    Was interviewed for, and got my first airline job at WLAT in 1977. At the interview we were shown the very smart and quite plush Passenger Telephone Sales/PTS floor. No mention was made of the rather sparse Agency Telephone Sales/ATS floor where we took our first calls after the 3 months (it certainly felt that long even if it maybe wasn’t) of training. Anyone else remember the shouts of “Fallback!” whenever BABS went down for a prolonged period – and the chance for some overtime later in the day to enter all the handwritten reservations into the system when it was back up? Fare Information Bulletins abbreviated to FIBS 🙂 Lunchtimes and evenings in the Comet Club, where I quite fancied the young barman who always remembered I took a Vodka and Pink Russian. I often crept in to sleep by the vending machines up on the 4th floor after a night of clubbing. Airline work was fun back then, hardly the case now!

    • Geoff F

      I don’t remember the call Fallback but I do remember making the announcement that, “the system is down”, from network control at Heathrow. For the record I was the one with the Lancashire accent.

  • Hans J Gugger

    This brings back memories for me. I was an airline representative/trainee for Swissair Airlines in the fall of 1966 for six months. Swissair had an office and a counter in WLAT where people like me got trained in “living abroad, dealing with customers special needs, etc”. Most exciting time for me was when the fog moved in and every customer had “special needs”, and as the only representative for Swissair that meant long hours. On the other hand, when the weather was good the job was simply to “represent the airline”. That included walking around and look important 🙂 I remember enjoying a great British Breakfast every morning, and terrible lunch and dinners. Those were the days…….

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    […] so the use of ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ in other, half-lost meanings is itself now as period as the BEA/BOAC air terminal in Kensington. The street-names remain, but this London is red-shifting from us into unrecoverable history. Just […]

  • Ceri Green

    My Father had a hairdressers shop,Renetly,in the parade of shops outside this terminal.It was from working as a Saturday girl there that I saw many glamorous ladies come in to have their hair done,including many members of staff of BEA.I applied when it became British Airways and at first was posted to the Victoria Air Terminal in Buckingham Palace R from 1974-1977 and then all reservations staff moved to the old BEA terminal.When BA privatised and the terminal shut down it drastically affected my Father’s business,but in the 1960s-1970s he was very busy and succesful.

  • Andrew Suddaby

    On the evening of Sunday, 20th October 1957, I was in a small group of service personnel ready to fly by B.O.A.C. Argonaut from Heathrow to Hong Kong. Mustering at R.A.F. Hendon we were taken by R.A.F. bus to a small and possibly temporary ‘terminal’ opposite the Victoria coach station. My recollection was that this was on the first floor of what was possibly an Edwardian terrace building and not the new building that features so strongly on this site. Was there indeed a temporary arrangement before the new terminal building was completed or am I wrong and we must have been taken to the new terminal? From there we were taken by B.O.A.C. / B.E.A. half decker coach to the North side of Heathrow, where we waited in what seemed to be a large hut(?) just off the old A4. It was simply furnished with rattan(?) seating, and we were soon told to proceed to gate number 3, from where we were bussed to our plane standing out on the apron.

    • John Grafham

      You are probably referring to the old Waterloo Air Terminal, used between 1953 and 1957.

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      • Andrew Suddaby

        Thank you John.

        The terminal was definitely very close to the Victoria coach station, and we definitely did not cross the river to get to it. I suspect that I have long had a false memory of an event that, after all, only took about half an hour on a dark evening. Seeing the photographs of the ramp leaving the air terminal now triggers a vague memory of looking out of the window of our B.O.A.C. coach (or could it have been a B.E.A. one?) as it went down a curved ramp before joining the road. That seems more likely than my earlier ‘memory’ of being issued with our tickets, etc. taken in an Edwardian building. Memory, especially of a relatively transient event almost exactly 64 years ago, can be very suspect!

      • John Grafham

        I know those “memory moments” Andrew! Just to complicate things there used to be another terminal, used by Imperial Airways and later known as the BOAC Terminal in Victoria itself. So it could have been that one you went from! Check it out on Google!

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      • Andrew Suddaby

        I occasionally check various site on the Internet but nothing rings a loud bell, although the building, whichever one that was, with the curving ramp down to the road now seems to be the most likely place – simply because of the half memory of being driven down a curving ramp!

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