Barton Hall, Preston Air Traffic Control Centre (now with early RAF at Barton Hall too)

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 ties

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,

EGNN !951BH1



Scan_20160426  BH4 1969

initial photo courtesy of the ‘Old Bartonians’ Facebook group  and now this copy updated by Les Tranter

EGNN 1970s n BH5 1970s

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.


EGNN 1966 1BH7

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.

EGNN 1966 3 [339015] BH8

the source of the maps is   ‘Old’,

Preston Air Traffic Control Centre was located at Barton Hall and controlled the old Northern FIR from 52.30 n to 55N. Flight plan infomation arrived at the data extrcation cell on the left. and the Air Traffic Control Assistants (old title) prodced a starterBH9

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

Preston ATCC D side 2BH10

Preston ATCC D Side 1BH11

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

Preston ATCC D Side 3BH12

EGNN [241898]BH13

is that Tim Russian far left alongside Jock Deans?

EGNN HBD [241897]BH14

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.

Scan_20160426 (2)BH15

Civil Ops Room

Scan_20160426 (3)BH16

FIR Controller left, with with ATCA and Movements Clerk on the right.

Scan_20160426 (4)BH17

 Communications Room

Communicatos CubicleBH18

 Communications Cubicle

EGNN Military ATCO in front of triangulation mapBH19

 EGNN Military ATCO in front of triangulation map

Miltary movements.BH20

Miltary movements.

WRAFS on AOC Parade.BH21

WRAFS on AOC Parade.


PBX (telephone exchange)

Multi channel Tape Recorder.BH23

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.

new preston (2)BH24

new preston (4)BH25

new preston (5)BH26

new preston (6)BH27

Screen Shot nBH28

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

new preston (3)BH29

new preston (1)BH30

                                  The End

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.


IMG_0682 (1)nBH32

two more photos from Paul Funnell

Preston Centre No 8

BH33  Preston Centre: No. 8 Cadet Course members & training section staff in this photo taken outside Preston Centre August 1966.

Left to Right:
Paul FUNNELL, ‘Wally’ WALLACE (we think, Training Officer), Pat HARPER (Training Assistant), F R (Mike) HUNT (odd-numbered cadet course supremo), Roger BUDGEN, Colin SMITH (ginger hair) and Penny MANT. John GILBERT was behind the camera.

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.

Pat Harper awards sources

Geoff was sad to learn that Pat died in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary on 1 November, 2015. She was 90.

Terry Clark thinks Pat Harper had an MBE . He remembers seeing it on her nameplate on the door of her office during his brief stays at Barton Hall in late ’72 and early ’73 during his Area Control Training.  She, like Terry, was a member of the Royal Observer Corps and he had a few long chats with her about that. Does anyone else remember if Pat had a further/third award?

Preston No 8 outside Centre


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)”

42 thoughts on “Barton Hall, Preston Air Traffic Control Centre (now with early RAF at Barton Hall too)”

  1. My father John Fry was based here, he did his national service in the RAF as teleprinter operator between 1956 and 1958. He often spoke about his time here an how much he enjoyed his time. He told me that they lived in the huts and when working nights in the summer would sleep outside as it was hot inside. Sadly he passed away a few years ago.


  2. My father, Steve Beeson, was an ATCO at Barton Hall from around 1957 to 1966. He was previously based at Ringway when the tower was a little box on top of a hangar, and moved on to Cardiff Rhoose. He sadly died from cancer at home near Bridgend a few days before his 65th birthday.


  3. Wondering if the green Post Office van was my brothers. Stan Mayor worked for GPO on the teleprinters at Barton Hall.


  4. My dad ( Ken Little) was ATC there in the 60s. He later worked at Manchester and Liverpool airports, before retiring and doing a short stint at BAE Warton.
    I remember the Xmas parties as a child.


    1. I’m Chris Thorburn and my Dad George Thorburn worked as an ATC at Barton Hall from the 1950’s to the 1970’s when it closed. We lived in Preston. (I’ve seen the name Anne Tomlinson on here who was in my year at the Park School). I also remember the Christmas parties and still have some photos somewhere! Sitting on Santa Claus’s knee !!! They used to give each of us a present! Growing up with a Dad who worked shifts was a different upbringing… no noise allowed during the day when “Dad” was sleeping, ready for his 8pm night shift!


  5. My sister worked on the switchboard until she married her husband Brian Haslam he was in the AirForce working up there,I believe a little boy often looked in through the window when when she was on nights ,but nobody could catch him,then when it snowed and he was there again they realised it was a ghost as there were no footprints


  6. I have only just come across this website and found it very interesting. I was stationed there in the RAF from 1953 to 54 as a radio operator, We were billeted at RAF Warton. Fond memories of those distant days.
    In later life I went on to become a Commercial helicopter pilot.


  7. I was an Air Traffic Controllers assistant at Barton Hall for a short time approx. 1964/65. after 5 years in the RAF. I lived in the huts on site and spent most of my leisure time in Blackpool. (Great memories). I was to be transferred to London Heathrow, but, having previously worked there on radar calibration whilst in the Air Force, and enjoying the north west at the time, I declined the transfer. I was informed that there was no alternative, so I left Air Traffic and managed to transfer to the Ministry of Pensions which meant that I could still continue working in the Civil Service, which I did for a further two years. Barton Hall still holds pleasant memories for me. I am now 81 years of age.


    1. You would have worked with my Dad I’m guessing. George Thorburn. He was in ATC at Barton Hall until his early retirement and not wishing to relocate to West Drayton! He died in Preston in 2000 at the age of 83 but retired early (in his 50’s) so had some good retirement years with his telescope in his home built observatory in Fulwood!


  8. Some disparate Barton Hall memory joggers from a very distant past (73-74)
    – Alleged ghost in wing over Tels/Met – one of the lady ATCAs mentioned to newbies
    – Room 64 – some slept in there on nights – Graham ? was one
    – Local employ WAAFs, one was a very bubbly blonde
    – French ATC strike and midair over Nantes where we planned temporary East/West routes to route a/c over Ireland and then 8W to Spanish airspace and kept Northern Europe moving
    – Court Line demise
    – Victoria from Os, Faye, Pam, Linda, Doreen
    – ATCA who was involved with Red Rum’s training
    – Plough at Eaves
    – Informal fam flights, 10%ers, etc
    – Northern radar and infamous quote of “entering my dark area”
    – Preston radar – curtain and edgelit board
    – FPL teleprinters in recess
    – Sir Ivor Broom visiting
    – Stan getting married
    – Foreign visit and disguising of ADNC
    – RAF/USAF bombing comp when a B52 popped up in B1 W of WAL having got lost and caused a flap as EGCC and EGGP outbounds/inbounds in area – I later found out how much better equipped a B52 was compared to a Vulcan yet we regularly spanked the USAF with WW2 radar and chinagraph lines on a window and daglo wrapped around the refuelling probe
    – Evening JAT flight that chopped and changed FPL B1/A1/B1 then on OTR dep swung a right down over Lincoln and beyond

    When I look at what we have today, we excelled with minimal and old technology, especially when we got fogged out across much of UK and into Europe. I learned so much at PATCC which has served me well in other areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The pictures of Barton Hall bring back many happy childhood memories for me. During the 1950’s, my Dad (who worked for Post Office Telephones) used to visit Barton Hall periodically to service and mend teleprinters, and if I was off school he’d often take me with him. I’d spend most of my time fishing in the brook for tiddlers with a net, while he was working. Happy days! One of the pictures appears to show a green Post Office Telephones van, and quite possibly my Dad’s. His name was Raymond Bennett.


  10. Here I am, sitting in New Zealand (ex-Preston) and I find information about Barton Hall! My Dad worked there from 1953 to 1975. George Thorburn. Ex WWll Navigator, 618 Squadron, (testing Barnes Wallace’s bouncing bombs). I was born 1954. He walked a few miles to work each day. Many stories! I remember the name Bertie Umbers. I can still hear my Dad saying “Good Old Bertie”. I think that was ATC, not the war! Also another ATC-er lived near us in Coniston Rd.


    1. Thanks Chris

      If you don’t have it you might want to look out for a book called “A Most Secret Squadron” about 618 squadron and the Highball project and written by Des Curtis, another navigator on the squadron.


      1. Thanks for posting my comment. I’ll read through your site in more detail during the week. I think there’s a photo of my Dad in your site photos. I’ll have another look so I can be more specific. I have a box of his momentos and gear. He retired at 57 when/around the time he had to drive to MCR more frequently. I think the move to West Drayton was a short time later, you’ll know. Des liaised with George when he was doing his research. I’m not sure if you want to post this but he did find a couple of errors that he hand corrected in his printed copy. It would be small things but possibly dates or the order of events or people. His pilot was Hoppy. I reconnected them in the 1990’s via a phone book search. Hoppy lived in Oz then. I have some letters they exchanged I believe. Plus many, many letters from the war years. Another book to be written, censored of course ! 😉


    2. My dad worked as an ATC at Barton Hall before moving to West Drayton in 1953. He was Ron Hooper, otherwise known as “Hoppy”. Ex Bomber Command.


      1. The canteen was run by Mrs Salthouse and the bar by her husband whose meat pie’s and a couple of pints were ideal for setting you up for a first half night shift.


      2. Eva and George Salthouse. Meat pie, a pile of Mrs Salthouse’s pickled onions (nobody ever dared to call her Eva!) and several pints of “middle”.


    1. Yes, it was Dennis the FIR ATCO at Preston. What a hoot. I also remember him standing up and pointing to a suggested route on the FIR map and advising the aircraft to “go to here then turn right ….” Amazing. Lots of fun at PATCC, lots of memories too. I worked as an ATCA there from July 1967 til summer of 1971(?) when I went to Eastern Radar civvies at RAF Watton. Does anyone else remember when the over loaded beer lorry sank through the bridge on the drive up to the centre? Great times and a lot learnt there. Steve Cox (ATCO Ret, F.Inst.P.I.)


      1. Hi Steve, Happy days at Barton Hall, what a long time ago!! Have just come across this website – remember the nights in the bar and I think you stayed with George and I occasionally??


      2. All names I know here..Dennis, etc from George Thorburn! Did you work with George Sue?


  11. Barton Hall had a dance hall and stage in one block and a snooker room in another. It also had a bar selling alcohol. – Those were the days!? Being a Civil Service unit it was not subject to normal licensing hours restrictions.
    The narrow driveway from the A6 leading up to the Hall crossed a stream. One frosty morning part of the bridge surface collapsed leaving just enough room to get past. Later that morning a delivery waggon attempted to cross the bridge and became stuck in the hole.
    When the morning shift finished we still couldn’t get out so the bar was a welcome resting place.


  12. PATCC photo BH14 shows the bank of 3-position radio frequency switches. During night shifts some were up (off), some middle ( receive), and some down (transmit and receive). As traffic was quiet all the sectors were combined into one central position operated by one controller.
    I recall one morning just before the sectors were going to be split the cleaning lady went about her usual job sliding the contoller’s strips up and down as she vigorously dusted the boards ducking under the outstretched arms of the standing controller.
    Suddenly the controller (Max Hundleby) shouted that he had lost all frequencies! All the controllers standing behind jumped forward to help. After a few moments of panic Max looked down at the bank of frequency switches. All were positioned to “off”!!
    It transpired that the cleaner had dusted the switches then panicked when she thought she had knocked some so she quietly pushed them all up and got on with cleaning the next sector.

    Pete Clarke, Barton Hall 1969-1972


  13. Takes me back – Stan Hunt, Max Hundleby, Victoria from Oswaldtwisle, Frank Tolson, Dennis on the FIR and many more. And Aerodynamic Nose Cones!!


  14. Ref BH33
    I think you’ll find Pat Harper had an MBE not a BEM. I remember seeing it on her nameplate on the door of her office during my brief stays at Barton Hall in late ’72 and early ’73 during my Area Control Training.
    She, like me, was a member of the Royal Observer Corps and I had a few long chats with her about that..


  15. BH14 ATCA holding the phone is Steve Thomson
    BH 24 Top right is Mick Curran. Next to him is Pete Williamson (Mcbill}
    Top second left is Phil Weaver
    BH 25 Right is Mick Curran. Next to him is Pete Williamson
    BH 26 Second left is Phil Weaver


      1. Hi David
        I often wonder what you did after Barton Hall. I last saw you in I think 1974, standing on the front seat of an Alfa Sud with your upper body protruding from the sunroof doing an impression of the great dictator.
        You were one of the first persons I met at PATCC and I still remember trying to get to sleep during your night time clarinet renditions in the accommodation that we shared. It all seems a lifetime ago and I suppose 44 years is a very long time. I spent all my time in ATC and retired 3 years ago. Do let me know how life was after the CAA.




  16. Can I ask if Preston ATCC was ever assigned a 3-letter code back in the 1950/60’s? For example, Birdlip was MVB, Prestwick/Redbrae was MYB, Uxbridge was MLM/MVU, etc.
    On this theme if anyone knows if Gloucester AIS (GDBA/EGBG/EGBC) was assigned a similar code?


  17. Photo BH24
    Front Right is Allan Barnes, front centre is ME! (Malcolm Ross)
    I think Mick Curran is behind Allan and there are a few more names I really should remember. I think it was taken at the Civil Service sports meeting down south when we took a team to play!
    The year must be 1971


  18. My father (Arthur Edwards) worked at Barton Hall from 1962 until 1968. Prior to that he was at Antrobus (where he met my mother who lived on the local farm). He moved to Manchester Airport from 1968 onwards. He died in 1993 after a long illness which may or may not have been due to the stress of the job. I hope this information may prove interesting.


    1. Hello Katherine

      Thanks for the comment. Many of our longer serving members in the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers will remember your dad. He was the Guild’s treasurer for many years. I had the pleasure of serving on the Guild’s board at that time, I was the Guild’s Editor and knew your dad then

      John Levesley

      atchistory moderator


    2. Katherine, I had the pleasure of working with Arthur at Manchester during the 1980s. I’ve found a picture, (possibly 2) of him at work. Would it be O.K. to submit them for inclusion on this site please?


      1. Hi Steve, I would love you to put a picture on this site if you have one. We may have some lurking around somewhere too but not sure where.


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