A 1930s superstar's flying visit to Shropshire


Amy Johnson was a 1930s aviation superstar.
Amy Johnson was a 1930s aviation superstar.

As young Jean Hall stood in her Sheriffhales garden, an aircraft flew by, and she could clearly see the celebrity pilot lining up to land at nearby Lilleshall Hall.

"It was Amy Johnson, who was the first lady to fly solo from England to Australia," says Jean, who is now the 94-year-old Mrs Jean Anslow.

"I saw her coming over the top of an avenue of lime trees, which were about a mile long and about 80ft high.

"She skimmed across there, with the canopy slid back. She was wearing flying goggles, a brown leather coat, and a brown leather helmet. I could see her quite clearly from my garden. I was probably six years old, and I'm 94 now."

Mrs Anslow, who lives in Much Wenlock, got in touch after reading our recent feature about the days in the 1920s and 1930s when Lilleshall Hall and its grounds was a pleasure resort with a variety of attractions and events, and in 1928 was very briefly given a licence for a civil aerodrome, although the licence was quickly withdrawn for safety reasons.

She says what she saw as a child was a visit by Amy Johnson, a world famous aviator at the time, who came in to land at Lilleshall.

"It was because she was a celebrity that she came to the hall as an attraction. We hadn't got all the technology in those days so they must have told her to follow the line of lime trees and that then she would find a space to land. I think that's the only way she could have found her bearings.

"I remember all this so clearly."

Mrs Anslow says her address back then was 60 Sheriffhales.

If she had witnessed Johnson's arrival at the age of six or seven it would put the famous flyer's visit to Lilleshall at around 1933 or 1934, when she was a superstar, having been the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930 and setting a string of other records throughout her career.

Amy Johnson – she became Mrs Amy Mollinson on her marriage to a Scottish pilot in 1932 – was to become a member of the Midland Gliding Club on the Long Mynd later in the 1930s, and during the war joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, which ferried aircraft around the country.

She died in mysterious circumstances in January 1941 when, many miles off course, she bailed out into the water off Herne Bay. Her body was never recovered.

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