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Flying out of the history books

PUBLISHED: 11:50 07 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:40 25 August 2010

GROUNDBREAKING: A photo from 1892 showing Sir Hiram Maxim’s steam-powered flying machine.

GROUNDBREAKING: A photo from 1892 showing Sir Hiram Maxim’s steam-powered flying machine.

A forgotten history of aviation is due to be revived thanks to a £50,000 lottery grant.

A forgotten history of aviation is due to be revived thanks to a £50,000 lottery grant.

Bexley council's Local Studies and Archive Centre has been awarded money by the Heritage Lottery Fund to promote a project called A Magnificent Town and Its Flying Machines.

Crayford, home of the original Vickers Aircraft factory, is thought to be the birthplace of a Vickers Vimy that made the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1919.

The hotbed of engineering talent also bore Sir Hiram Maxim's steam-powered flying machine, which made the first powered heavier-than-air flight in Bexley in 1894 - a decade before the Wright brothers famously took off in the USA.

Sir Hiram was best known for inventing the Maxim machine gun, which saw the end to crank-handled guns, and by the First World War was made obsolete by the Vickers machine gun.

During the Second World War Crayford's industrial area became a target for German bombers, as did the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.

The project will study the influence this engineering legacy had on transforming Crayford, with features including a play on the life of Sir Hiram and specially commissioned artworks.

For more information visit: www.bexley.gov.uk/localstudies.

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