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Latitude: 52.462 / 52°27'43"N
Longitude: -1.1948 / 1°11'41"W
OS Eastings: 454805
OS Northings: 285196
OS Grid: SP548851
Mapcode National: GBR 8PH.QQ6
Mapcode Global: VHCTD.7DQ0
Entry Name: Ladywood Works (The Offices and That Part Known As B3 Unit B Adjacent to the North, Once Occupied by Sir Frank Whittle and Power Jets Ltd.)
Listing Date: 11 December 2006
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1392641
English Heritage Legacy ID: 500188
Location: Lutterworth, Harborough, Leicestershire, LE17
Civil Parish: Lutterworth
Traditional County: Leicestershire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire
Church of England Parish: Lutterworth St Mary
Church of England Diocese: Leicester
1323/0/10003 LEICESTER ROAD
11-DEC-06 (East side)
LADYWOOD WORKS (the offices and that
part known as B3 Unit B adjacent to the
north, once occupied by Sir Frank
Whittle and Power Jets Ltd.)
Factory offices with attached area of factory buildings, the part now known as B3 Unit B. Earlier C20. Red brick with slate roofs and coped gables and factory with north-light roofs. Offices are of 2 storeys, factory single-storey. Office building has a rendered front and a 10-window range at first floor with various windows and doors below, the cross windows being original.
Various offices with steel truss roofs, including that to far right first floor where Sir Frank Whittle worked. There is an internal window which looks down on the factory interior. This office has now been joined with that next door. The factory interior also has steel truss roofs and the part which is of special historic interest consists of the first two bays of north-light roof. It includes the piece which comes forward to the left of the office building and has a recent corrugated metal front. The rest of the factory was not used by Whittle's team and is not of special architectural or historic interest.
The buildings at Ladywood were originally constructed for use as a foundry in the early C20 by British Thomson Houston (BTH). Whittle, a serving member of the RAF and also director of Power Jets Ltd., and his team were asked to move to the vacant buildings there in 1937 when BTH decided that the experiments and trials being undertaken at their factory in Rugby were too dangerous.
At the same time as Whittle was developing the jet engine in Britain, unbeknown to him Hans von Ohain was doing similar work, along technologically similar lines, in Germany. Whittle registered his patent in 1930, five years before Ohain took out a patent for a basically similar engine. Although Ohain made his engine operational before Whittle, for the German engine did power a Heinkel 178 into flight in 1939, it only flew three times and never went into production (Golley 1996, 80).
By January 1938, at the latest, Whittle's design team occupied the office building at Ladywood to the point of it being crowded out, as engineers were working on the stairs (Golley J. 1987). Those who worked with Whittle have produced a detailed plan of the offices showing where the various members of the team worked, often in cramped conditions. Whittle's office was on the first floor at the right hand (east) end, overlooking the railway line. On the ground floor there were the engineers' offices.
The engine was tested from April 1938 in a bay of the factory adjacent to the offices to the west, within an internal testing house now demolished. The external, low, factory wall adjoining the left (west) end of the office block marks the south wall of the original test room, through which the engine's exhaust was vented. Subsequent test houses built nearby were demolished long ago. Only the first two bays of the factory closest to the offices were utilised by the team: the first bay of the factory was used by fitters and for sheet-metal work and welding. The next bay of the north-light roof further northwards was the machine shop in 1941 (it was not used in 1940).
Whittle's jet engine was built into a Whittle/Gloster E28/39 which had its maiden flight at RAF Cranwell on May 15, 1941. The engine itself is now in the Science Museum, London.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE.
The early C20 buildings where Sir Frank Whittle in 1938-41 developed, built and brought to production the first viable jet engine which was installed in the Whittle/Gloster E28/39. This plane had its maiden flight at RAF Cranwell on May 15, 1941. The engine is now in the Science Museum, London. A version of this engine was built by Whittle and shipped from this works to the USA to found the North American and subsequently the world-wide jet industry.
Whittle always considered that Ladywood Works was the most important place connected with his invention, developed in the utmost secrecy in the middle of the war. In terms of architecural quality, the interest in the buildings is limited. It is what happened in the buildings, events that helped to shape the modern world, that makes them of the utmost importance and gives the buildings an immense resonance, enhanced in part by virtue of their apparent insignificance. From such a modest start has emerged one of the great drivers of world commerce and modern life.
Sir Frank Whittle, The Early History of the Whittle Jet Propulsion Gas Turbine, (1945 lecture).
Information from the Reactionaries (the staff who worked at Ladywood, especially Roy Fowkes).
Jeff Smith, Lutterworth Museum
John Golley, Whittle, the True Story, 1987, now reprinted as Genesis of the Jet, 1996.
This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.
Other nearby listed buildings