« Previous Next »

New Road and Hopewell Drive Training Centre

Technical Information

Catalogue No: PW01780
Picture Type: Rochester Photo Negative
Topic: Sites / Facilities
Title: New Road and Hopewell Drive Training Centre
Date: 1 Dec 1980
Width (mm): 127
Height (mm): 102
Copies: 1
Location: Negatives Cabinet PW ("W" Negs) [RAA Office]

New Road

FARL (Flight Automation Research Laboratory) was situated at New Road.
The company occupied the New Road site from 1968 to 1990. Before 1968 the site was used by Spembly Engineering, and sometime after 1990 the building was converted into flats with the address of Spembly Works, 13 New Road Avenue, Chatham.

Spembly Works was built in the 1950s with an external design reminiscent of a cruise ship. In the early 2000s it was converted into homes. The 33 flats were compulsorily vacated after Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and subsequently have deteriorated and suffered vandalism. [1]

Hopewell Drive

The Training Centre was located in Hopewell Drive. In 2022 the building still existed and was being used by Wealden Rehab.

[1] Medway Messenger 2 Nov 2023

There have been a number of piecemeal additions to the Rochester site after a long period of stability with the Hangars and Assembly Shops together with a miscellany of buildings up at the South end of the Airport. The first major additions were in the early 1960s when the three Towers were constructed and completed by 1966. At the same time the offices along the South side of the Assembly factory were made double storey.

As the business expanded various sites around Rochester and Chatham were acquired, such as the New Road Building for the research centre (FARL), Hopewell Drive for a Training School, and Gads Hill in Gillingham for a Drawing Office and an ATE (eg D-LASAR) group plus, for a few years, a small project engineering group (WFG2) and the EMC Test facility.

The next new building was the Corsair Building, named after the A-7 Corsair HUD programme, which was opened in 1978 on the South side of the site. This was a largely prefabricated construction estimated to have a lifespan of some 15 years but it was still standing in 2022. By 1980 the new Phase III Building dedicated to the growing business in flight controls was operating, and finally on that strip of land the Falcon Building, for the growing research and development of diffractive optical elements, was completed in 1983.

As the business began to contract in the 1990s the outpost buildings were closed down and some considerable refurbishment was done on the main site. The Restaurant was developed into a modern facility and the Towers had significant improvements such as new windows and air-conditioning.

However the basic structure of the site is showing its age and in reality most of the buildings are not suitable for the modern era. The Hangars in particular are very expensive to maintain. An attempt was made in 2004 to plan for a glossy new factory complex but nothing came of that.  More recently the site management has been looking at a site transformation that would replace the older buildings with modern office and manufacturing facilities, and the planning for this is progressing well.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
Related Items: