THE setting of the 480-acre former airfield bounded by Great Bridgeford, Ranton and Seighford, is now like the haven of peace left by two farming brothers before the Second World War.
BEFORE SEIGHFORD, IT WAS MEIR HEATH . . . All set for take-off . . .one of the first members of Staffordshire Gliding Club gets last-minute advice from an instructor - believed to be John Everitt - before ‘take-off’ in 1966 when the club was based at Meir Heath, near Stoke.
Yet since the 1940s, it has served as an RAF station, a camp for displaced Polish refugees, the testing base for leading aircraft company, a proposed site for a city airport and a “driving experience” centre.
The land farmed by the Parrott brothers was acquired by the Air Ministry when it oversaw the building of landing strips and air bases throughout the West Midlands.
Yet today, the skies above the former RAF Seighford are occupied by nothing noisier than gliders used by members of the Staffordshire Gliding Club.
The club was formed in 1963 and was originally known as the English Electric Gliding Club and among its first members was Walter Harvey, a raw beginner who three years later stayed up in a glider for more than five hours.
Back then, the club was based at Meir Heath and saw a rapid increase in membership taking advantage of the club’s two- seater glider- it cost all of £2,600- and coached by John Everitt.
Three years later, it had more than 100 members and had acquired six gliders with some members buying their own at prices ranging from a few hundred pounds for an old model to a few thousand with modern radio equipment.
Mr Harvey was one of four beginners, the others including Ray Johnson, of Stafford.
As the club’s popularity grew so did the number of instructors and by 1966 there were six including club chairman Walter Hutchinson, of Poplar Way, Stafford.
He explained to a Newsletter reporter at the time that the average club member spent about £30 a year on their hobby and that after basic instruction a beginner could fly solo after 10 flying lessons.
The glider was linked to a bi-plane and towed along the grass surface of the airfield before floating just above the ground until airborne when it was unhooked from the plane.
Just over 20 years ago, the club had the chance to move to Seighford . . . a move welcomed by the local population who had watched with nervous anticipation as various bodies put forward their ideas for using the airfield after it was vacated in July 1947 by the RAF.
In 1950, huts which had been occupied by RAF personnel were converted into family units to become a housing estate for “displaced persons” -refugees from Poland.
PREVIOUS LIFE: So-called ‘displaced persons’ - refugees - from Poland settled near the Seighford airfied, the remains of its control tower shown here. Other Poles were based at Little Onn, near Wheaton Aston’s air base and were offered accommodation in new homes built at Gnosall in 1966/67.
The Poles' tenure was a success, the population using every scrap of land available for cultivation of crops, often on a communal basis, and many families remained until the late 1960s by which time the Boulton Paul Aircraft Company with links to English Electric, was using the 2,000-yard landing strip to carry out flight tests on Canberra light bombers.
Boulton Paul left in 1966, a move which gave birth to numerous ideas for its use, including the building of two prisons and the establishment of a city airport for Stoke on Trent.
Plans in recent years to establish Driveme’s driving experience were met with similar opposition from the local populace.
Eventually, Driveme was given the go-ahead, but operates only on certain days and weekends.
Apart from its agricultural use by the Parrott brothers in the 1930s, Staffordshire Gliding Club has been the longest tenant on Seighford airfield so far.