Beehive, Gatwick Airport

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The Beehive
The Beehive (Original Terminal Building at Gatwick Airport).JPG
The Beehive from the east
Beehive, Gatwick Airport is located in Crawley
Beehive, Gatwick Airport
Location within Crawley
General information
TypeFormer airport terminal
Architectural styleArt Deco
LocationCity Place Gatwick, Gatwick Airport, Crawley, England
AddressBeehive Ring Road, Gatwick Airport, West Sussex RH6 0PA
Coordinates51°08′39″N 0°09′48″W / 51.14417°N 0.16333°W / 51.14417; -0.16333Coordinates: 51°08′39″N 0°09′48″W / 51.14417°N 0.16333°W / 51.14417; -0.16333
Current tenantsVarious
Construction startedJuly 1935
Inaugurated6 June 1936
OwnerBland Group
Technical details
Floor count3
Design and construction
ArchitectAlan Marlow
Architecture firmHoar, Marlow and Lovett

The Beehive is the original terminal building at Gatwick Airport, England. Opened in 1936, it became obsolete in the 1950s as the airport expanded.[1] In 2008, it was converted into serviced offices, operated by Orega, having served as the headquarters of franchised airline GB Airways for some years before that. It was the world's first fully integrated airport building, and is considered a nationally and internationally important example of airport terminal design.[2] The Beehive is a part of the City Place Gatwick office complex.[3] The 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) former terminal building is on a 2-acre (0.81 ha) site.[4]


In September 1933 A. M. (Morris) Jackaman, who owned several light aircraft, bought Gatwick Aerodrome for £13,500. He planned a purpose-built terminal building; the previous aerodrome building was a converted farmhouse. He put great importance on the design process: he, and contemporaries, considered terminals at other aerodromes to be impractical and unsuitable for expansion.[5]

Jackaman developed the idea of a circular terminal building—reputedly in response to a throwaway comment by his father—and submitted a patent application for the concept on 8 October 1934. Advantages claimed for the design included efficient use of space and greater safety of aircraft movements. Telescopic "piers" or gangways would provide covered access from the building to the aircraft. A subway was recommended as the best method of bringing passengers into the building from outside.[5]

Jackaman raised money by floating his company, Airports Ltd, on the stock exchange. The Air Ministry also paid for the right to use Gatwick as a diversionary destination at times when Croydon Aerodrome was inaccessible; and in 1935, Hillman's Airways—months before its merger to form the company now known as British Airways—made Gatwick its operational base, increasing its commercial viability and providing more finance. The aerodrome closed on 6 July 1935 to allow the terminal to be built. The contracted opening date of October 1935 was not met, partly because of ongoing drainage problems, but a new railway station was provided on time in September of that year. This was linked to the terminal when it did open.[6]

The terminal was completed in early 1936. Although the airport was officially reopened on 6 June 1936, flights to various destinations began in May. Jackaman's proposed service to Paris was included: three flights were operated each day, connecting with fast trains from London Victoria station. Combined rail and air tickets were offered for £4.5s, and there was a very short transfer time at the terminal (on some flights, as little as 20 minutes was needed).[6][5]

Gatwick Airport, as it had become, was requisitioned for military use during the Second World War. Afterwards, it was eventually agreed upon as the site of London's official second airport, behind Heathrow, after other contenders were ruled out.[7] The government announced its decision in July 1952.[8] Substantial redevelopment started in that year with the acquisition of more land (including the parts of the racecourse site which had not yet been developed) and the diversion of the A23 around the new boundary of the airport. A large new terminal was built between 1956 and 1958, the 1935 railway station closed and a new station was built within the terminal complex, on the site of the old racecourse station. The Beehive was thus cut off from transport connections and the airport at large, although it was still within its boundaries and was used for helicopter traffic for several more years.[9]

The Borough of Crawley was extended northwards in 1974 to include Gatwick Airport and its surrounding land, at which point it moved from Surrey into West Sussex.[10] The Beehive has been in Crawley since then. The county of Surrey had not always been accommodating towards the airport: for example, in 1935, the local council in which the terminal would be built (Dorking and Horley Rural District Council) was concerned about possible compensation claims from local residents and the threat of facing liability for accidents; and it "could see no benefit" to allowing further development.[6][11]


The building's entrance

The terminal was designed by architects Hoar, Marlow and Lovett (job architect Alan Marlow) in accordance with the design concept provided by Morris Jackaman. It was built from steel reinforced concrete frames with internal brickwork walls,[2] and has been described as a good example of the 1930s trend whereby concrete was used instead of steelwork as the main material for buildings intended to project a "modern" impression.[12] A Vierendeel girder with six supports runs around the first floor roof.[13]

As originally built, the interior consisted of concentric rings of rooms and offices with corridors between them,[2] designed to keep arriving and departing passengers separate.[14] Six telescopic covered corridors led from the main concourse, allowing six aircraft to be in use at one time. A subway led from the terminal to the new station, 130 yards (119 m) away, ensuring that passengers arriving by train from London stayed undercover from the time they arrived at Victoria station until the time their aircraft reached its destination.[6][5]

The building rises from one storey in the exterior ring to three in the centre. This central section originally contained a control tower, weather station and some passenger facilities; the main passenger circulating area surrounded it on the storey below. Baggage handling also took place on this floor. A restaurant and offices were on the ground floor in the outermost ring. The ground and first floors have windows of various sizes at regular intervals, while the former control tower was glazed all around.[2] Changes have been made to the internal layout since the conversion of the building to offices.

The design is frequently described as innovative and revolutionary,[1] and The Beehive is recognised as having been the UK's first integrated airport building, combining all necessary functions in a single structure.[2][15] It was the first airport to give direct, undercover access to the aircraft,[14] and the first to be integrated with a railway station.

Current use[edit]

GB Airways, established in 1931 as Gibraltar Airways[16] by Gibraltar shipping group MH Bland, moved its headquarters and operational base to The Beehive in 1989.[16][17]

EasyJet agreed to purchase GB Airways in 2007, but The Beehive was not included. The employment base at The Beehive closed, with 284 job losses.[18] After the purchase was completed in January 2008, the building was retained by GB's former parent company, Bland Group,[17] and was partially converted to become a "service centre" for the group's operations in the United Kingdom.[19] The Bland Group markets the office space to tenants requiring serviced office accommodation.[20] In December 2014, local firm of solicitors Mayo Wynne Baxter set up an office in the building.[21]

The Beehive was listed at Grade II* on 19 August 1996.[2] It is one of the 12 Grade II* buildings, and 100 listed buildings of all grades, in the Borough of Crawley.[22]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Calder, Simon (22 March 2008). "Terminals: the last word". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Historic England. "The Beehive (Former Combined Terminal and Control Tower), Beehive Ring Road, Crawley  (Grade II*) (1268327)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Gatwick: Serviced Office Space". OREGA. 2015. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  4. ^ "City Place Gatwick Masterplan". Arora Management Services. 2011. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Blow 2005, pp. 3–5.
  6. ^ a b c d King & Tait 1980, Chapter 2.
  7. ^ Gwynne 1990, p. 151.
  8. ^ Gwynne 1990, p. 160.
  9. ^ Gwynne 1990, p. 165.
  10. ^ Gwynne 1990, p. 1.
  11. ^ Gwynne 1990, p. 152.
  12. ^ Macdonald 2002, p. 44.
  13. ^ Macdonald 2002, p. 46.
  14. ^ a b "The Function of Buildings: Gatwick Airport terminal". Royal Institute of British Architects website. RIBA. 2008. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008.
  15. ^ Calder, Simon (22 March 2008). "Forget the poll – these are the real seven wonders". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 24 December 2008. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  16. ^ a b " Acquisition of GB Airways" (PDF). Presentation to Shareholders. 25 October 2007. p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 November 2008.
  17. ^ a b "£103.5m sale of GB Airways to easyJet completed". Nyras Capital LLP. 31 January 2008. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  18. ^ "GB's slim profits hastened sale." Travel Trade Gazette UK & Ireland. 2 November 2007. 4 News. Retrieved on 2 March 2011.
  19. ^ "Joe Gaggero, President of the Bland Group, Vice President of the Moroccan British Business Council, to Yacout.Info". Moroccan e-magazine. 29 October 2008. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Gatwick – Office Space to rent". Official Space. 2005–2009. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  21. ^ "Solicitors set up home in Beehive". Crawley Observer. Johnston Press Digital Publishing. 18 January 2015. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  22. ^ "Listed Buildings in Crawley" (PDF). Crawley Borough Council. 6 July 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.


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