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Eric Gordon England

(1891 - 1976)

Eric Cecil Gordon England was born on 5 April 1891 in San Antonio de Padua de la Concordia, Argentina, where his father George was an Estanciero. Through his mother Amy he was a cousin of Clement Atlee.

The family returned to England in 1901 and he was educated first at New College, Eastbourne, then from 1904 to 1906 at Framlingham College in Suffolk. This was followed by an engineering apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway works at Doncaster, where he trained as a mechanical engineer.

In 1908, he left the railways for his first job in aviation, working as an assistant for Noel Pemberton Billing who was trying to establish a flying ground at South Fambridge in Essex. While working for Pemberton Billing he met José Weiss, who designed and built tailless gliders, and England became an assistant to Weiss. On 27 June 1909, England flew a Weiss glider at Amberley Mount, Sussex on a height-gaining flight that reached 100 feet.

In 1911 Gordon England taught himself to fly at the Bristol flying school at Brooklands, where he gained Pilot Certificate No. 68. Later in 1911, he joined the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company as a staff pilot, but was soon recognised as a designer. One of his first design jobs was to convert a Bristol T-type biplane into a tractor design, which was then called the Bristol Challenger-England. This conversion was followed by three biplanes (the G.E.1, G.E.2 and G.E.3), all designed by England.

In 1912 England left the Bristol company, and, in association with James Radley produced the Radley-England waterplane series of aircraft. Radley and England also built and tested the Lee-Richards annular monoplane, which made its first flight in the hands of Gordon England on 23 November 1913. Between 1913 and 1916, he was a free-lance test pilot and consultant engineer, mainly engaged by Samuel White and Co., testing seaplanes to the design of Howard Wright. From 1916 until the end of the war he was General Manager of the Aviation Department of Frederick Sage & Co.

In 1919, Gordon England left Sage to become a consultant, and started an interest in motor racing. In 1922, with his father George, he became interested in building bodies for the Austin Seven sports cars. Using his skills gained with aircraft, he designed and patented a new lightweight body made from plywood box-girders and an ash framework covered with thin plywood panels. In 1925, he entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans race using one of his own designs, but he failed to finish. By 1927, over 20,000 Austin Sevens had been built with England bodies. He incorporated the company as Gordon England (1929) Ltd, but with the increase in the use of metal bodies, the firm eventually closed in 1930.

England became manager of the automotive lubricants department at the Vacuum Oil Company 1930-1935. He was also President, Motor Agents Association, 1937; Managing Director, General Aircraft Ltd., 1935-42; Deputy Chairman, Aero Engines Ltd., 1936-43; Member of Georell Committee on Civil Aviation, 1932-33; Chairman, Engineering Industries Association. 1940-44; General manager, Eugene Ltd., 1945-50., Life member of Council British Automobile Racing Club; Founder member of Railway Conversion League and a Member of the Economic Research Council.

In 1945, Gordon England contested the Bury St Edmunds seat in the General Election, standing for the socialist Common Wealth party but failed to get elected.

Eric Cecil Gordon England, F.I.M.I., F.R.Aes., M.I.Prod. E. died in Sunninghill, Berkshire, in February 1976.

Production References
  1. Who’s Who, 1976
  2. http://www.oldframlinghamian.com/images/articles/ERICCECILGORDONENGLAND1904-06.pdf
  3. Bristol Aircraft Since 1910, C.H. Barnes (Putnam, 1964)
  4. The Sailplane & Glider, 1 April 1932.

V1.3.0 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated February 2017