Preston Air Traffic Control Centre was located at Barton Hall and controlled the old Northern FIR from 52.30N to 55N. Barton Hall was one of three domestic ATC centres in the UK. It closed in the early 1970s as part of the reorganisation of area control services when the West Drayton air traffic control centre opened.
Preston ATCC ties – Pete Clarke
New in from Steve Balfour are many more photos of the Preston Air Traffic Control Centre EGNN at Barton Hall. Steve says that the picture with the sheep is dated 1951, the second one has no date, but it looks as though whoever printed it has made an attempt to remove the crossed antennae at the top of the mast. The third one Steve judges to be in the 60s the looking at the cars,
initial photo courtesy of the ‘Old Bartonians’ Facebook group and now this copy updated by Les Tranter
there is a new bit which has been constructed over the ‘bay-window’ feature on the first floor and the original comms mast appears to have been replaced with a taller structure.
above is part of the O.S. 1:10,560 sheet, dated 1961-’68, showing the location of Barton Hall, (indicated). Also of note is the M6, which as the ‘Preston By Pass’ parts of which were still under construction at that time.
The landscape-format one above shows the site in relation to the M6. The portrait format below is an enlargement, showing the layout of the buildings, with location of the mast.
the source of the maps is ‘Old Maps.co.uk’,
Flight plan infomation arrived at the data extraction cell on the left. and the Air Traffic Control Assistants (old title) produced a starter. At the far end of the room was the FIR position
I don’t know the (nearest? – JL) chap, but the gentleman in the dark jacket is Gerry Hall, behind him is Dave Schofield and then Jock Burnett. Sitting back on the chair is John Whyte. All 4 re-located to EGCC. Steve Balfour
is that Tim Russian far left alongside Jock Deans?
Steve Balfour sent in the two photos above
On the picture with the ATCOs facing to the right, the chap at the far-end in the white shirt is Bob (Percy) Walton. The other shot is , Steve believes, the same ‘D’ side, taken from the opposite end of the room. the gentleman with the beard is believed to be Cec’ Springate, while the gentleman at the far end he believed to be Dixie Dean. Looking at the hair-styles, possibly late 1960s/early 1970s? (Dixie has confirmed it is indeed him – atchistory 6/12/2015).
BH14a Preston A side
Steve also sent in the next nine photos on behalf of courtesy of Tass Cotton of the ‘Old Bartonians’ Facebook group. atchistory has now updated some of these thanks to Les Tranter who has contributed to some superb hard copy originals.
Civil Ops Room
FIR Controller left, with with ATCA and Movements Clerk on the right.
WRAFS on AOC Parade.
PBX (telephone exchange)
Multi channel Tape Recorder.
These next 4 shots are reportedly of members of staff during their time off, which came out of an MACC-closure history event, featuring among others, Frank Byatt, John Dale and Paul Ravenscroft. The shots with the huts in the background were taken on-site.
what where these huts were for, possibly accommodation for RAF staff and/or is this the civil hostel?.
Bob Ochonski tell us
“The huts were part of the men’s hostel. There were more ‘billets’ of a more solid construction sited in the area of the photographer which were ‘inhabited’ by such as Pete Wilde, Paddy Holt and the unit hedgehog [Andy Petch] during the year or so of my residence. Not all of the ‘rooms’ in the wooden buildings were used as accommodation and I recall one of the worst being used by Laurie Grimshaw to rebuild his motorbike!”
Preston closure NOTAM
The local press covered the closure. BH2 PRESS CLOSURE 1 the accompanying two photos are below BH30a and BH30b
or not quite –
the current Preston Tx site in September 2011.
two more photos from Paul Funnell
BH33 Preston Centre: No. 8 Cadet Course members & training section staff in this photo taken outside Preston Centre August 1966.
Geoff Wild says he is very grateful to Paul Funnell for identifying Pat Harper in his August 1966 photo (BH33). Pat was the second person Geoff met in air traffic, and he recently came across a 1953 article in the Lancaster Guardian (she lived in Morecambe) about her “Mysterious Coronation Medal Award.” Another article in the Staffordshire Advertiser (she was born in Leek) carried the same story. Both those articles briefly mention her service in the Observer Corps during the war. He remembers the buzz going round the Ops room in 1969 when news that Pat had been awarded the British Empire Medal became known. The award was announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette on 14 June 1969.
Geoff was sad to learn that Pat died in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary on 1 November, 2015. She was 90.
No. 8 Cadet Course members taken outside Preston Centre August 1966.
Phil Holt sent in the photo of the Preston ATCC club Membership card below
BH35 a and b
and his recollections of Barton Hall
“Hi everyone, I thought I’d share my experiences of Barton Hall. I’m referring principally to the Barton Hall post and in particular to photo’s BH9 to BH14.
Upon arrival I was given the excellent news that I was promoted from ATCA 2 to 3 (or was it 3 to 2?), to be trained as an FPBA (Flight Progress Board Assistant). I had to go on a course in the training section, ran by the Unit Training Officer, Jack Day and his assistant Pat Harper. Interestingly the Centre superintendent was George Jones and you can see both George and Jack on the GATCO 40th photo under Manchester Airport and Sub Centre posts.
I thought I knew how to write fairly quickly until I had to do the first practice strip sequence!
(Interestingly, the training section used perforated strip sheets and had the prototype strip loading machine of the type which I had previously been using at LATCC!). A thorough knowledge of the routes and Compulsory Position Reporting Points had to be mastered first (you certainly didn’t have time to study maps!), then practice in “putting the wind up” your strips to calculate speed / time. The upper winds were posted on a bulldog clip above your board and a type of “Dalton Computer” used to read off the elapsed times. You also had to learn coordination procedures and passing of estimates.
Once Pat assessed you were ready for “validation” a board was organised. An ATCO was rostered as your ‘D’ man and joined Pat & Jack to form the board members. My ATCO was Jock Deans. He is pictured on BH13. There is a “before” and “after” story here. Before – I was an Air Training Corps Staff Cadet on number 10 Air Experience Flight at RAF Woodvale for 2 years before joining the CAA. Jock was a pilot on the flight (as was Pete Reggate – hope that’s the right spelling – and Pete Holland). After – Jock became Chief Officer at Edinburgh in the mid 80’s and I was his Unit training Officer.
The “starter” strip came over from DEC (Data Extraction Cell) via the ancient (and noisy – they had the line the cell with noise absorbent tiles) 1950’s telex machines. In photo BH9 you can see this clearly – also the drawer open on our “stored fpl’s” box. Each regular flight had an index card to make the starter strip! Once the strip sequence was live following a departure time or entry point estimate, you had to get the strips over to the ‘D’ side quickly. The route requiring the most strips, if my memory is correct (ex FPBA’s check this) was Blue 1 east to west FL130 & below – BLUFIR, DOGGER, OTTRINGHAM, MILLBROOK (2), ABEAM BARTON (2), WALLASSEY, POINT LYNAS, LIFFY. 2 strips were required for MILLBROOK and / BTN, the second for Sector 5 (Manchester TMA ATCO). It also got very intense if the NAT tracks were northerly as our upper sectors were very busy with overflights. One piece of coordination I remember well on sector 3 (Irish Sea) was to pass a “Mid-Point” estimate to the Eskmeals Range controller. Advisory Route Delta White 11 went straight through the middle of it, between Carnane and Dean Cross and the estimate was passed to stop them firing whilst the aircraft passed through! Quite a daunting responsibility for a 20-year-old ATSA!
Preston was the place for characters. Here are names I remember from my watch (which I think was “D”) – Norman Alty, with the ever-present Betty or “Bettykins” “yes Normsie”. Denis “where you from and where are you bound” or “Golf alpha mappa mappa pike” Brown on the FIR? Louise from Oswaldtwistle and her cats. Eric “lampost” Lampkin. Who can forget Jim Woodman? You certainly knew he was in the ops room even if you couldn’t see him! He was always sparring with all of us, especially Ron Tuck – “come on Tucky, get your finger out!”. He had the habit of setting fire to a FPS then sending it down the tube used to deposit “dead” strips and their holders! His surname was apt as he looked more like a lumberjack than an ATCO. There was more than one rendition of Monty Python’s “I’m a lumberjack…” heard in the ops room!
I’m not going to expand upon the goings on in the on-site accommodation – I’ll leave that to anyone brave enough to put pen to paper!
Barton Hall Club! I still have my last membership card signed by Eric Holloway, counter stamped to show I’d paid to attend the famous closing down function (see photo elsewhere). Well, that was the official one – there were many unofficial ones – less said about those the better! The Salthouse’s ran the club, George was bar man and handyman and his wife (Mary?) and her team did the cooking. I remember cursing the hot pies left for night shift staff upon returning home one morning. I had indescribable pain in my lower abdomen – but it turned out that my appendix had burst a few days before on a Viscount flight back from Jersey and it was peritonitis! The “one armed bandit” in the bar helped subsidise the club’s income. The food & drink at the final ‘do’ was incredible, as the remaining money from the “bandit” had to be spent.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end and at 0001 on 30th January 1975, we handed over control to Manchester Sub Centre (FL130-) and LATCC. I have a memory of the ops room at that moment. I’m looking for further accuracy on this, but I think John Penwarne was the single “D” man on duty. John Hollingsworth was supervisor. As midnight approached quite a few who had been “languishing” in the club came in. I think John P graciously allowed Roy Quale to “work” the last aircraft as he was, at that time, the longest serving “D”. The aircraft was an Aer Lingus 737 EIDW / EGCC or it could have been EGCC / EIDW. The crew were very sombre when Roy informed them that they were the last aircraft. A plaque was presented to EIN ops – does anyone know if it’s still there? We waited for the first aircraft to call on 127.45 and at first, he got know reply, then a disembodied voice announcing “London Control” answered by much booing! It was a BEA Vanguard Merchantman EGPH / EGLL doing the paper run. John H waited 15 minutes to make sure our services were no longer required, then broke out champagne which he’d secretly stored in the safe (making sure George Jones had left!).
Incredible memories, incredible people, incredible changes over the last 46 years!!
Phil Holt ATCA 3/2. ATCO 2 (ex 35 course)”