In 1909 Frenchman Louis Blériot became the first person to fly the English Channel, six years after the Wright Brothers’ famous flight. Within months he had had requests to make over 100 aircraft, many of which saw active service during the early years of the First World War.
In c.1914 Blériot took control of the Deperdussin Aircraft Co. and bought land in Station Road, Addlestone on which he later built the Blériot & SPAD Ltd. factory. The factory was fully opened by 1917, although no Blériot planes were ever built there. Instead the factory produced SPAD7 planes, a single-seat fighter plane which could achieve a top speed of 120 mph at 6562 feet. It was not a popular machine as it was nose-heavy, and only 220 were ever built in Britain, 100 of those being built in Addlestone.
The 80-100 HP seven cylinder Avro 504A biplane was also built at the Addlestone factory. This too was dogged with difficulties – due to the engine spinning around a fixed crankshaft, it was difficult to turn the plane left or right and it was therefore quite dangerous to fly.
From Addlestone, the completed planes were taken by road to Brooklands with their wings folded, ready to be flown to their final destination. After the First World War the call for fighter planes decreased, and so, like many other aircraft producers, Blériot switched production to making motor vehicles at the Addlestone factory from 1920. The Bleriot Whippet was a two seater car with a v-twin motorcycle engine. When it was originally launched it cost between £250 and £350 depending on the model, the equivalent of between £7,000 and £8,500 today, but subsequent models dropped in price to £115 in 1924.