RAF Norton was No. 16 Balloon Centre (Barrage Balloons). The centre comprised of three Squadrons: 939 (West Riding), 940 (West Riding) and 941 (West Riding). Each squadron had three flights comprising 8 balloons each. During the 2 world war some form of military detention centre was also on the site. In February 1939 the RAF established an office at 641 Attercliffe Road and began enlisting men who undertook initial barrage balloon training in a factory on Bridge street.
The RAF then acquired a site at Lightwood, erected buildings, and in the summer of 1939 transferred from Attercliffe to what was called No 16 Balloon Centre at Lightwood. Their role was to set up barrage balloon sites around Sheffield, prepare and supply equipment, carry out repairs, and train staff to operate the sites.
By the time war broke out, there were 3 squadrons ready for action, No 393 (WEST), No 940(rotherham), and No 941(centrel). 941 was disbanded in April 1940 and staff transferred to the other 2. At full strength there were 72 balloons around Sheffield.
By 1943 the air threat to Sheffield had diminished, and most of the balloons were transferred to the defence of London. On the 1st July 1943 Lightwood was renamed RAF Norton. It was transferred to Signals Command and became No 3 Ground Radio Servicing Squadron. This continued until 1965, when under an RAF reorganisation the Squadron was moved to Rutland. RAF Norton officially closed in January 1965.
To go even further back, RAF Norton had a predecessor nearby. In 1915 the RFC opened a training airfield and landing strip at Coal Aston, near to Norton Lane, just south of the now Norton Lane/Bochum Parkway junction. It eventually grew to cover a large area around what’s now the 4 Lane Ends roundabout at Meadowhead.
This site, along with one at Ecclesfield and another next to the Redmires Camp were used for much of 1916 for night flights in defence of Sheffield.Unlike the other 2 though, it remained as an RAF establishment well after the war ended. To begin with it was home to No 17 Training Squadron, RFC, and for some of the time to flights from 33 Squadron, whose headquarters were at Gainsborough.
The squadrons flew BE2c aircraft from a grass strip, but as its need as a defensive site grew less, it became a unit for carrying out repairs to a variety of aircraft, and eventually became No 2 (Northern) Aircraft Repair Depot. It became almost a small township with hangars, stores, messes, living quarters and a church. It even had its own railway. Women from the Army’s Voluntary Aid Detachment eventually arrived to release RFC members for active service.
Towards the end of the War PoW’s were housed on part of the site. Government interest in the site dwindled and by 1920 the airfield was unused. When it went up for sale in 1922, it is said the City Council showed an interest in acquiring it for the development of civil aviation, but nothing came of it. The top one had three big hangers, three smaller ones and lots of small buildings and small roads,there was a big bunker built into the ground (looked like a mound of earth from a distance ) with two iron doors RAF Norton was still open in the late 1950’s, certainly about 1958
The local (flypast only) flying displays were held there during the 1950s. In post war years an air display took place each year up to the late fifties. People remember seeing fly pasts by Meteors, Vampires, Canberras, V bombers and the like. There was of course no runway as such. There were military bands playing and static displays of jet engines etc. in the balloon hangars
Back in the 70’s the old Norton Aerodrome site was owned by the NHS – the plan was to build a third big hospital for Sheffield on the site (Hallamshire and Northern General the two other big ‘ones). Presumably that’s why they put the ambulance station at Batemoor.
The state of decay gradually got worse and parts of it got used by gangs of lads on off road trials bikes. It was then taken over as a driver training centre in the 1970’s -80’s where you could pay to practice driving your car or bike around those huts on their fairly narrow road ways and much wide runways. Ideal if you were learning to drive and needed some off road practice first, although being run legally you did need to show all your documents (licence, insurance, tax etc.) when you paid to use the facility.
In October 2007 the future of the former Norton aerodrome in Sheffield is back in the spotlight.
Preliminary talks are being held over possible uses, such as housing, for parts of the site that are currently derelict. So far attempts at redevelopment have foundered on the strict planning rules resulting from the land being in the green belt. Now, with the old RAF airfield at Lightwood in the hands of Government regeneration agency English Partnerships, initial moves are being made to see if solutions can be found.
May 2008: English Partnerships is working collaboratively with local residents, key stakeholders and the Council to determine the future of the 19 ha site. We are inviting comments on each of the current suggested plans. In April 2008 the Government earmarked the former Norton aerodrome in Sheffield as a key location for helping it to hit ambitious house building targets.
Proposals to redevelop the redundant Norton Aerodrome at Hemsworth in Sheffield should be rejected, according to the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). The group claims that an application by the developers to build 150 homes, business space and a hotel will harm the openness of the green belt. CPRE South Yorkshire planning officer John Spottiswood said that it would be premature of Sheffield City Council to give the go-ahead for the plans before its review of major developed sites is complete.
So, on 6th April 09 we get on the tram to Herdings and go have a walk round. Access is far more easy than it seems and we walked round, all the old paths roads and signs of the former sight are there, along with indication of a former hospital to one side of the airbase still in use with modern 1970s red brick single story buildings. From the middle of 2008, the current owners have fenced off the front of the base and put in place a lot of obstructions to stop it been used by joy riders and motorbikes. Is this bucolic urban exploration? we ain’t sure, so onto some images then.