To clarify, this aerodrome started in 1929 was separate from the strip previously used by aircraft visiting Cambridge. The old airstrip was across the other side and further north up Victoria Road, somewhere on the Bardowie Estate, owned by wealthy landowner James Taylor. This was where the first aircraft to visit Taylor had landed, the Avro 504 detailed on this page.
The Bardowie strip was also the site of aircraft rides provided by George Bolt in an Avro Avian. See here for more.
Also reports that the famous Southern Cross of Kingsford Smith fame landed there in 1928, or possibly 1933, have been unsubstantiated as yet. See more here
So from 1919 till 1929, there was aerial activity from the Bardowie airstrip, a private piece of land simply cleared of fences so aircraft could operate as and when they needed. It was always for special events, joy rides and parachute displays as such. But it wasn't till 1929 that a proper Aeroclub backed and Council-sponsored aerodrome was established in Cambridge.
This is where the research got difficult and it has taken some time to sort out. Many eyewitnesses I have interviewed who saw planes flying from the airstrips had different names for the airfield. Also, newspaper reports have differed in the names used. Apart from the older Bardowie airstrip, I have now established that all the other names refer to the same plot of land!
These names include:
- Taylor's Pond Paddock on Bardowie Estate
- The Trotting Club
- The Showgrounds
- Taylor Estate (west of the road)
-The Polo Ground
I eventually established that James Taylor owned land on both sides of Victoria Road, all called Bardowie Estate but sometimes referred to as the Taylor Estate. Some of his land on the western side encroached into the new aerodrome as this was inside the trotting track, and the trotting track spilled over from the greenbelt into Taylor's land.
I assume, but have not confirmed, that the piece of land was leased to the Trotting Club by Taylor. Half the track lay in the greenbelt land, which is council owned (or public owned at least). The other half of the mile long track went into private land, that of Mr Taylor.
This area, on the corner of Taylor Street and Victoria Road had also been used for polo by the Cambridge Polo Club. So this is why some reports of aircraft in the Polo Ground were made in the newspapers.
It has to be remembered that Cambridge's trotting track used to be quite a lot larger than it is today. In fact around twice the size. The track extended all the way out across the Greenbelt area of Taylor Street, and out to virtually touch Victoria Road. So most of the Greenbelt we now see on Taylor-Victoria corner, and all of the track today, was all on the inside of the old track! A massive area.
There are aerial photos in existence of the old trotting track which i hope to be able to bring to this page soon, once permission is gained. I have studied these 1940's and 1950's aerial photos of the area and they clear up the mystery of the Pond Paddock on Bardowie Estate I think. Where the pond is nowadays next to the pony club (adjacent to Taylor Street), there were in 1946 some tall trees even then, which seem to surround the same pond. That pond would definitely have been on the edge of the Taylor property, Bardowie, where it borders with the greenbelt. See the diagram below to clarify this.
All the area around those trees in the 1940's and 50's photos was flat grass land, so must have been back in the 1930's too. There were no fences dividing the border between Taylor's property and the council-owned greenbelt either, so I'd imagine the greenbelt land was probably leased by Bardowie for grazing.
With no fences, the area in the middle of the track is more than enough to land even a large aircraft like a Fokker Trimotor on comfortably, and smaller Moths, Avians, Spartans and Desoutters wouldn't have any trouble. Many of the unconfirmed reports of the Southern Cross landing in Cambridge say it was in this area, and having seen the photos I now believe it possible.
There were no power lines or other obstructions either except the tall oaks down Taylor Street, but they would be on the opposite side from where aircraft would operate and cause no problems.
That pond has probably always been there, under those trees, and I am quite convinced that the Pond Paddock, and the Racecourse were one and the same place. Now that we have also pinpointed the Polo Ground as being in the very same paddock, thanks to John Richardson who told me this, we know now all these places were the same big field.
If you have any further memories, photos, documentation or better still, photos, of the Aerodrome at Cambridge, I'd be very pleased to hear from you. Email me
Who Used The Cambridge Aerodrome?
So, we now have established that the aerodrome was created, and where it was situated. But who used it? Some interesting characters all told...
Among the operators to have used Cambridge Aerodrome was the famous Malcolm "Mac" McGregor, who had become the chief pilot of the short-lived Hamilton Airways Ltd. This was set up by a group of Waikato businessmen in April 1929, originally with Mr John H.M. Smith as the company's first pilot. The airline started small with DH60 Gipsy Moth ZK-AAG, which they'd bought from Mill's Air Survey and Transport Company. Later two more Gypsy Moths were added to the company, ZK-AAS and ZK-AAV. It seems the company was an aerial taxi service, people could telephone them and charter a flight from and to anywhere. They flew to almost any town or district in the country, and if they didn't have an aerodrome they'd land in the most suitable paddock to be found.
Mac McGregor is reported to have flown into Cambridge on a number of occasions to pick up or let off a passenger. It was fairly commonplace for the more wealthy passenger to go by aircraft to Hamilton (landing at the racecourse at Claudelands) than by road, because the road to Hamilton up till 1939 was unsealed and in appalling condition. The alternatives were travelling by riverboat or by train, both of which were the more affordable transport options. But going by air was more fun, more exciting and quicker for those who could afford the luxury.
Another pilot known to have operated from Cambridge Aerodrome was Stanley Blackmore. He flew with the Waikato Aeroclub and his own Waikato Aviation Co. Ltd (the latter based in Rotorua) so apparently made regular visits to Cambridge in Desoutter Tourer aircraft, which could carry two passengers as well as Stan. He would take rides at the annual A&P shows and other events (local airman Charlie Christiansen remembers going up with Blackmore on one such trip). Blackmore also used the other nearby strip on Bardowie, Victoria Road too, on one such occasion being when he took up parachutist Scotty Fraser.
On March the 2nd, 1933, another very famous and important New Zealand pilot flew into Cambridge. He was Ron Kirkup, flying his Avro Avian ZK-ACM. He'd flown down from Mangere to Orakei and then Cambridge, before flying onto Te Rapa, Te Awamutu and Rukuhia.
That was ZK-ACM's first visit to the town but not its last, because In April 1934 Kirkup sold the Avian onto Ted Harvie, who had local Cambridge connections. Harvie was then based at Mangere but he flew charters around the country, and on the 15th of May 1934, he flew A.P. Blair from Mangere to Cambridge via Te Rapa, and back.
On the 24th of May 1934, Ted again flew down to Cambridge from Mangere, by himself, and returned to his Auckland base with J. Sawers aboard - perhaps a businessman going to the big smoke?
On the 7th of June 1934 Ted Harvie flew into Cambridge alone from Taupo in ZK-ACM. He then tripped onwards to Mangere the same day. No doubt he met friends and family during this stopover. The next day he flew back to Cambridge, via a short stop at Te Rapa, and he returned to Mangere with a passenger this time, a M. Harvie. This was probably his brother Monty.
On the 25th of June 1934, after taking future Air Force squadron commander Aubrey Breckon for a flight over Auckland Harbour, Ted then flew A. McGruen down from Mangere to Cambridge before proceeding onwards to Rukuhia, Te rapa and home to Mangere.
On the 2nd of July 1934, Ted again flew to Cambridge, leaving from Hobsonville this time and flying passenger K. Bartlett into the town. They returned to Mangere that day.
The Avian went through a complete overhaul shortly afterwards, and then on the 13th of September 1934 Ted flew E. White from Mangere to Cambridge, and onto Te Rapa.
On the 20th of September another trip south saw Ted fly to Te Rapa, then he flew from there to Cambridge and back twice, before returning to Cambridge. The aircraft seems to have stopped at Cambridge at this point, his logbook states "at Cambridge". He flies it on the 3rd and 4th of October just at Cambridge, and finally leaves the town on the 4th back to Te Rapa and onto Mangere.
I am certain that this period where Ted had his plane based at Cambridge, for the 14 days between the 20th of September and 4th of October 1934, this was when a young lad by the name of Gordon Easter became involved. Gordon recalled to me how he washed and polished Ted's aeroplane and how eventually Ted took him flying in it and taught him the basics of how to fly. This all makes perfect sense because there was some local flying in the logbook, and even more importantly, there's a notation in the book for this period stating "A/c washed, cleaned, greased, inspected." A/c being shorthand for aircraft.
Avian ACM graced Cambridge skies again on the 12th of November 1934 when Ted flew her in from Mangere direct, flying solo, and tootled onwards to Te Rapa and back to Mangere the same day.
This trip was Ted's last jaunt into the Cambridge Aerodrome in his Avian, though he continued to fly all around New Zealand in the plane till he sold it onto Mr. R.G. Tappenden in April 1935.
A huge thank you goes to Mr Keith Trillo, ZK-ACM's last owner, for kindly supplying the above details from the aircraft's logbook.
If you recall anyone else or any aircraft types using the Cambridge Aerodrome I'd like to hear from you please.
Now I have to establish when the aerodrome ceased to operate as such. I'm not sure if it continued in use right up till the war, when the Army took it over and the racecourse became a training facility for Territorials. Does anyone know when it ceased as an operational airstrip?