Author Topic: A Very Short History of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering  (Read 160 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Rheged

  • Needs A Life Outside What-If
  • *****
  • Posts: 4710
  • Growing older is inevitable, growing up isn't!
For some reason or other, the Putnam Aeronautical series of books does not have a volume on Farley aircraft.  Members of the What If community are undertaking considerable and very detailed research to provide a useful resource for  those interested in this lesser-known British company.
 

Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering


Background and Early History

Founded in 1780 by Frobisher Farley, an ex apprentice of  Abram Darby III [1], the Farley Forge and Casting Company  began producing cast and wrought iron components for mechanical engineers from their Coalbrookdale site.   Frobisher’s son Fotheringay married Araminta Wilhelmina, only child of Sir William ffoulkes, in 1836 and took the surname ffoulkes-Farley as a courtesy to his wife (and in the hope of their inheriting his father-in-law’s considerable estates in Hertfordshire)  Araminta is slightly famous for slapping the face of Isambard  Brunel after an unfortunate incident with his cigar and her parasol in a first class GWR carriage.  The engineering side of the company continued to prosper and day to day management of the works was undertaken by Fotheringay’s twin sons Ferdinando and Francis.   Francis left the family business in 1880 to set up Farley’s Fruit Fancies, a confectionery business that is still trading today.

Ferdinando  established in 1870 a new division of the family firm, now trading as Farley General Engineering, to make penny-farthing bicycles and later to diversify into the ‘safety’bicycle we know today.   Both of his children, Fleance and Florentina, chose to train as engineers  and at an early age were actively involved in the business.  In 1905, staff in the works were astounded to see Miss Flo riding a motorised bicycle of her own design.  It was Flo who persuaded the company to build, in 1906, a glider  that she flew for distances of up to 450 yards on the family’s Hertfordshire estate.  In early 1910 , using a motorcycle engine of her own design, Florentina  ffoulkes Farley successfully  took off in the company’s first powered aircraft (identified in company archives as the Farley First) and flew a distance of three quarters of a mile on a circular course.  The company proudly changed its name to the Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering Company Limited!

Early Aeroplanes

Flo’s son  David (she was having none of this nonsense about names beginning with F) took up his mother’s fascination for powered flight, and  having spent time with such early luminaries of aviation as Louis Bleriot, Samuel Cody and Oscar Gnosspelious  [3]  designed the Farley Flying Fish [4]  in 1913.

The First World War brought a temporary cessation of original design work at Farley’s, with the company undertaking sub contract work for Sopwith , Handley Page and Airco. This stood them in good stead at the end of the war, as they were able to rapidly switch production  to non-aviation products and continue their profitable trading.
 
In 1927, the company re-entered the aviation industry with the Farley Flappet, similar to a DH60 Moth, but with space for two adults and up to four children (depending on age and weight) [4].  This is believed to have been reasonably successful with  at least  18 sold; the fuselage of one  has recently been discovered in Podunk, Nebraska where it was being used as a hazard on the local golf course. It is currently under restoration by apprentices  of Perimeter Aviation of Winnipeg.

The 1930’s Research and Rearmament

The 1930’s were a period of rapid progress in aviation, with vertical  flight  research by Wier, Cierva and Focke-Wolfe amongst other companies producing  autogyro and true helicopter designs.  Building on this work, Farleys produced the Frigatebird . Forum member ‘The Rat’ has  expended a  great deal of time, energy and skill to produce  data and a model of this machine; the result of his work is currently on display here:- https://www.whatifmodellers.com/index.php?topic=47840.15  It would appear that this machine has some stealth characteristics.

 The Rat has also  found a lesser known Farley product, that seems to have been developed from the Westland Lysander. It is known that Farleys did do a great deal of subcontract work on Lysander fuselage construction and had hired staff from  Short Brothers during the Great Depression.  The resulting Flutterbug prototype attracted considerable attention  in 1938 with its distinctive colour scheme . This was the result of a mislabelling of paint tins delivered to the Farley  works and Colemans of Norwich(the mustard producers)  History does not record what use Colemans made of several gallons of mid green enamel, but their now famous mint sauce was repackaged shortly afterwards. Further data on the Flutterbug is shown here:-

https://www.whatifmodellers.com/index.php?topic=47771.15

Wartime action

During the Second World War, Frigatebirds   were used by the Royal Navy as radar calibration airframes. Reports have also been identified stating that a pair of Frigatebirds in SEAC camouflage operated off the quarterdeck of  HMS  King George V as spotters during  a bombardment of industrial installations at HitachI in 1945.

 RAF records are incomplete, but it appears that  several Mark Three Frigatebirds participated in Operations Taxable and Glimmer in the Pas de Calais region as part of the D-Day  distraction operations.


A Legendary  Aeroplane


The Farley Fruitbat has become an aircraft of legend.  The appearance of this  aircraft  is something of a mystery. It has been identified as a single/twin/four engined  airframe with mono or biplane wings mounted as low, mid, high or even parasol type. It is known that Farleys were working on a form of modular construction in the late 1930’s, and the possibility exists that this system was used by scientists at Farnborough to experiment with  varied construction techniques. What one can say for certain is that the Farley works did receive a contract to  investigate the De Lanne  system, resulting in the unique De Lanne Lysander [5]. Eventually, a Fruitbat Nightfighter variant was accepted for service with as many non-strategic  materials/systems as possible used in its construction.  The acetylene powered landing light being one such item. Some photographic evidence of this has been found:-
https://www.whatifmodellers.com/index.php?topic=38214.msg623949#msg623949

Farley Fuitbat Mark Four airframes were finally struck off charge in 1956, although two were found at the back of a hanger at St Athan in 1992 and handed to the RAF museum at Cosford. As of May 2020, they are described as undergoing deep refurbishment prior to display later. Several dozen Mark I a   seat adjuster  handles ( not the Mark I b type, that reverted to the Mini 'style piece-of-string' adjusters used on the prototype.) were unearthed at Four Site, RAF 14 MU, Carlisle  when that establishment closed down in 1996  [6]  These were not the only odd stores that came to light at that time; four DH Hornet starboard wings, two Rolls Royce Peregrine engines, and a large quantity of WRAF other ranks undergarments (1941 pattern) were  also discovered.

Post war developments

Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering  continued to receive Air Ministry contracts in the post-war period. The Farley Fruitfly, a jet engine version of the Fruitbat  Night fighter, was produced in small quantities. Described by Captain Eric Brown as “…the most heavily over-engineered aircraft I have ever encountered....” the wings initially supported twin RR Wellands, followed by Derwents, Nenes and finally early Avons.  As a testbed, the Fruitfly was extremely valuable: it was even considered by Martin-Baker as an ejector seat test machine.

 In recent years, Farleys have been referred to as the UK's answer to the Lockheed “ skunk works”.   Outstations of the company are located at Machrihanish, Boscombe Down and St Athan.  Unsubstantiated reports  have mentioned a UAV , the Farley Phantasm, being flown from the Army training range at Suffield in Canada at heights of over 140,000 feet. USAF reports of unknown aircraft  overflying Minot , North Dakota may be connected with this.


 [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Darby_III
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny-farthing
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Gnosspelius
[4]Little is known about this early hydro-aeroplane, and the author would be delighted to hear of any new data that readers may have available.
[5] https://travelforaircraft.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/delanne-write/
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Carlisle

This is a very brief overview of the history of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering. I would appreciate any reader who can find any data at all adding it to this account
« Last Edit: May 18, 2020, 11:07:58 am by Rheged »
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you....."
It  means that you read  the instruction sheet

Offline The Rat

  • Proud Designated Pervert
  • Needs A Life Outside What-If
  • *****
  • Posts: 8894
  • Rivets? We don't count no stinkin' rivets!
    • http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=3947338590
Re: A Very Short History of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2020, 12:14:20 pm »
 ;D ;D ;D

Coincidentally, the finished Flutterbug has just been posted.
"My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." Hedley Lamarr, Blazing Saddles

Pineapple is a great pizza topping. Fight me.

Offline Scotaidh

  • Full scale Arrow in basement
  • *****
  • Posts: 924
Re: A Very Short History of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2020, 01:45:47 pm »
Bravo!  :D
I try to learn from the mistakes of others who take my advice.

Offline 63cpe

  • Targeted for assassination by JMNs
  • ****
  • Posts: 816
  • Humpty Dumpty was pushed!
Re: A Very Short History of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2020, 02:10:38 pm »
Brilliant!

Thanks for this valuable infirmation of this very interesting, yet little known aircraft company.

David aka 63cpe

Offline zenrat

  • Needs A Life Outside What-If
  • *****
  • Posts: 17943
  • Currently on double secret probation.
Re: A Very Short History of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2020, 03:29:52 am »
Very informative and educational.

 :thumbsup:
Fred

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

My name is Commander William Riker.  Take me to your women.

Offline NARSES2

  • Nick was always on his mind - just ask the Pet Shop Boys
  • Global Moderator
  • Needs A Life Outside What-If
  • *****
  • Posts: 40757
Re: A Very Short History of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2020, 06:16:17 am »
Brilliant sir  :bow:  ;D
Decals my @r$e!

Offline Rheged

  • Needs A Life Outside What-If
  • *****
  • Posts: 4710
  • Growing older is inevitable, growing up isn't!
Re: A Very Short History of Farley Aeroplane and General Engineering
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2020, 07:45:37 am »
Gentlemen, it is NOT finished yet.  I have left several spaces for you all to fill with models, backstories etc.  Go on, I'm sure that you have lots more that you can add.
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you....."
It  means that you read  the instruction sheet