Last surviving pre-WWII Beacon re-lit for the first time
The Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP has re-lit the Hatfield Beacon, an iconic piece of Hatfield’s aviation history, at an event held at the University’s de Havilland campus on Thursday 26 September as part of its ten year anniversary celebrations.
Restoring the Beacon
Brought to Hatfield in 1934, the Beacon shone a flashing white light from sunset, 38 miles across the horizon, to help pilots navigate their way back to Hatfield Aerodrome safely up until the Second World War.
In 1988 the Beacon was taken to the North Weald Airfield Museum, but with the support from a team at the University of Hertfordshire led by Professor Owen Davies, the Heritage Lottery Fund, local history groups and private donors, the Beacon has been restored to its original condition and returned to Hatfield to mark the town's heritage and aviation history.
Sixty years of history
Speaking at the event, Grant Shapps said: "There's an awful lot of history in Hatfield, there's the history of the University, which now stretches back sixty years, but then the Beacon, of course, represents Hatfield going back even further to the first world war. To have a record back to the aviation site right from an early stage, where this light would help guide pilots back, is really amazing."
He added: "I was always really keen to come and light the Beacon, in fact I put in my request five years ago so it was my pleasure to come and do it this evening."
Owen Davies, Professor in social history at the University of Hertfordshire, said: "It brings us great pleasure to be able to re-position this iconic monument at the de Havilland campus on the old Hatfield Aerodrome site. We started restoration work on the Beacon in 2009 to mark 60 years since the Comet airliner's first flight from Hatfield in 1949 and as far as we know, it is the last remaining pre-war Beacon in existence."
The event also had a number of exhibitions depicting the development of the Business Park; the history of the site and the University, as well as a chance to view Elizabethan documents originally exhibited at the University 60 years ago.
The Beacon also forms the starting point of the Heritage Trail; more information can be found at http://heritagehub.herts.ac.uk.