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Belmont

Belmont Aeroplane Co.
James and Thompson
 


History

The Belmont Aeroplane Company of Ladywood, Birmingham, built a glider to the design of F.Hill of the Birmingham Aero Club. It was later fitted with a low powered rotary engine and converted to a hydroplane, but nothing more became of it. Nothing else appears to be known of this company. The Belmont Aeroplane Company was formed in or before 1910 by R.E. James and F.A. Thompson, with works in the Ladywood district of Birmingham. Belmont Row is located in Ladywood and possibly this was the location of the company’s premises.

Rupert Edward James and Frederick Arthur Thompson were both born in 1892, the former in Wolverhampton, the latter in Ladywood. By 1911, James was living in Edgebaston, with both young men still living with their parents. At that time, Thompson was The Hon. Secretary of the Birmingham Aero Club, and had been since at least March 1910.

Their first product was not to be of their own design. According to George Hadden Wood, who had succeeded Thompson as Secretary of the Birmingham Aero Club, in an article in Flight for 13 December 1913, a monoplane glider was built in 1911 by the Belmont Aeroplane Co., and designed by Mr. F. Hill at the [Birmingham Aero] club rooms. The F. Hill in question was Francis Hill, later to become chairman of the club.

Flight for 1 July 1911 states “Mr. Hill and his party are fitting a rotary motor to their Belmont glider, and hope to have it ready by the end of this month.” George Haddon Wood, in his recollections in Flight, states“[The Hill glider] was afterwards turned into a hydroplane with a low-powered engine. This machine had no front or rear elevator, and the planes tapered to a point at the tips”. Sometime later, in the Birmingham Illustrated Weekly Mercury for 30 August 1913, an interview with James and Thompson reported their claim that the company had “solved the problem of automatic stability” and built a hydroplane powered by a 10 h.p. engine which had flown hops on Edgebaston Reservoir. In a second part of the interview published on September 6th, the Birmingham Illustrated Weekly Mercury states that “design of the ‘seagull form of wing’ is attributed to Mr. Francis Hill of Birmingham and is distanced from the design of the hydroplane as merely forming the basis of it. From this it is unclear whether this hydroplane was the same machine referred to by Flight and Haddon Wood or a completely new design.

Sometime in 1912 or 1913, James approached Butterfields Ltd (aka Butterfield Brothers or British Butterfield) at the Levis Works, Old Station Road, Stechford, Birmingham, to build a 35 h.p. lightweight aero engine to his specification. This was incorporated into a monoplane of James’s design, built at the Levis works and sometimes known as the Levis-Belmont Monoplane. When it emerged, the machine sported the letters ‘AB’ on its rudder, presumably standing for Arthur Butterfield, one of the company’s owners. As such, it seems quite possible that Butterfield provided financial backing for the project. According to an article in the Birmingham Post for 2nd September 1953, it was originally intended to equip the plane with floats and test it on Edgebaston Reservoir, but eventually it was fitted with skids and wheels. Unfortunately on its first attempt to fly from Castle Bromwich playing fields, the machine struck a goal post and crashed. Some authors have attributed this machine to J.W. Dunne, but there appears to be no evidence to make such a connection.

The Belmont Aeroplane Company’s final venture was outlined in the second part of the Birmingham Illustrated Weekly Mercury interview. In it, Thompson describes a planned larger two-seater with a more powerful engine up to 200 h.p. and supposedly able to fly the Atlantic with a single stop for refueling. Unsurprisingly, nothing more was heard of this machine, or the Belmont Aeroplane Company, again.

R.E. James died in Leeds in March 1960. F.A. Thompson’s further career and fate is unknown.

Company References
  1. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  2. Aviation In Birmingham, Geoffrey Negus and Tommy Staddon (Midland Counties Publications, 1984)
  3. Flight, 1 July 1911
  4. Flight, 13 December 1913
  5. Birmingham Illustrated Weekly Mercury, 30 August 1913
  6. Birmingham Illustrated Weekly Mercury, 6 September 1913
  7. Birmingham Post, 2nd September 1953



Project Data top

Project No

Type No

Name

Alternative Name(s)

Year

Spec

Status

Qty

Description

References

   Glider  1911  Pro(n) 1 Monoplane glider (1),(4)
   Hydroplane  1911  Proto (1) 1S, 1E hydroplane, converted from glider (1),(3),(4),(5)
   Levis-Belmont Monoplane  1913  Pro(n) 1 Monoplane 2,7
   Transatlantic Monoplane  1913  Proj (1) 1S, 1E hydroplane, converted from glider (6)

Project References
  1. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  2. Aviation In Birmingham, Geoffrey Negus and Tommy Staddon (Midland Counties Publications, 1984)
  3. Flight, 1 July 1911
  4. Flight, 13 December 1913
  5. Birmingham Illustrated Weekly Mercury, 30 August 1913
  6. Birmingham Illustrated Weekly Mercury, 6 September 1913
  7. Birmingham Post, 2nd September 1953



Production Data

   Total Belmont Production     2   

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V1.3.0 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated February 2017