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Wings Over Windermere

Wings Over Windermere


The Lakes Flying Company Limited – a registered charity – has been set up to celebrate and to inform the public concerning the importance of the innovative contributions made to the development of naval and civil marine aeroplanes by Captain Edward Wakefield and by Waterbird®.

On 25 November 1911, at Windermere, Waterbird became the first aeroplane outside of France and the USA to successfully take off from and alight on water with no damage.

It was the world’s first successful flight to use a ‘stepped’ float, which was patented by Wakefield after 2 years of considerable experiment so as to combine features of construction in a novel way.



  1. The establishment and maintenance of a heritage centre, that will tell the story of seaplanes with the emphasis on the history of their early development and their activities in and around Windermere and the Lake District;
  2. The construction, displays and flights of an airworthy replica of “Waterbird” – the first aeroplane to successfully take off and alight on water outside of France and the United States of America on 25/11/1911 at Windermere;
  3. Exhibiting the replica of Waterbird in perpetuity;
  4. Providing historical and technical information regarding the historical context and design of Waterbird.



Early in the morning on 25th November 1911, an Avro Curtiss-type floatplane took off from a hangar at Hill of Oaks, on Windermere, to make history. ‘Waterbird’, commissioned by Edward Wakefield from Kendal, was the first hydro-aeroplane to make a successful flight in Britain.​

This book tells the story of 2 aeroplanes. The first Waterbird, which flew more than 60 flights on Windermere, set in motion the production of seaplanes used in World War 1. The story of the second Waterbird, the replica, is equally fascinating, telling the story of many challenges resulting in a thirteen year programme from dream to reality.

The book was shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award in the category of The Latitude Press Prize for Illustration & Presentation.

Waterbird Book now available £14.99*

Click here for most recent review

*Plus postage £2.50

Waterbird book
Wray Castle


The replica Waterbird has carried out Public Flying Displays at Windermere.

There are an original 1929 Hamilton Metalplane H-47  and a restoration 1930 Sikorsky S-39 in the USA, and an original 1935 Caproni Ca.100 in Italy. Otherwise, there is now no airworthy original, restoration or replica seaplane prior to 1936; therefore the replica Waterbird from 1911 is unique in the world for representing its era.

For details of Awards, click here

For an interactive 3D model, click here


We have established an Adopt a Part Scheme


Replica Waterbird


’To fly over water is certainly to taste to the full the joy of flight, and when the water is Windermere and the scenery the pick of English Lakeland, which is to many a traveller the pick of the whole world, in its soft intimate loveliness, the result is not something lightly forgotten.’

– Memories of Land and Sky by Gertrude Bacon.

‘The combined efforts of designers, aviators, ship and boat builders-turned aircraft manufacturers at Barrow-in-Furness and Windermere during 1908-1914 justify the area’s claim to be the birthplace of British naval and civil marine aviation.’

– Triplane to Typhoon by J H Longworth.

‘It was Captain Wakefield’s [Waterbird] which made the first successful flight in November 1911 and Windermere thus gave birth to the age of the seaplane.’

– The Great Age of Steam on Windermere by G H Pattinson.

‘Edward Wakefield’s ideas were scorned, but he never lost faith in the hydro-aeroplane, and Waterbird was a successful expression of that faith.’

– Historic Military Aircraft by J M Bruce.

‘I come of many generations of Westmorland men, and yield to no one in love for the scenery and loyalty to the interests of my country.’

– Extract from a letter from Edward Wakefield to The Times, 9 January 1912 in reply to Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley protesting against hydro-aeroplanes at Windermere.

Concerning flight from water, Edward Wakefield described it as ‘Something that beckoned…’.
– Aeromarine Origins by H F King.

By way of an introduction to the book Aeromarine Origins, H F King, MBE formerly editor of Flight magazine, chose 4 quotations. From Sir George Cayley [‘the father of aviation’] in 1809, Lawrence Hargrave [‘one of the great pioneers of aviation’] in 1902, Dayton Daily News in 1907 and from Edward Wakefield in 1912 when he described Waterbird: ‘… like a fine bird, between water and sky in the changing lights.’

‘Aviators, especially in the fledgling stage, are not down-hearted as a rule; in fact they are usually a lot of harum-scarum young devils, much addicted to high spirits and high-powered motorcycles. They live, move, and have their being in oil-besmeared clothes, astride of something over 7 horse-power.’ – At School in the Sky by Clifford Fleming-Williams, which ‘describes the training of the airmen who are learning to fly at Windermere’. The Royal Magazine, January 1916.

‘The effort to create in replica form the Lakes Flying Company’s Waterbird, Britain’s first successful ‘hydro-aeroplane’, and to emulate the 1911 original in flying it from Windermere has been among the most enthralling on the UK’s aviation heritage scene in recent years.’

– Ben Dunnell, Editor of The Aeroplane magazine, June 2023.

‘Waterbird, the only flying replica of a primordial seaplane.’

– Seaplane Operations by Cesare Baj.

‘I have used the story of Waterbird as an example to us today in UK Defence. The belief that those developing it had must have been enormous in what was then only really a notion that aeroplanes would become so centrally important to warfare. At the time they must have fought through bureaucracy, secured funding and batted off the disbelievers. That is important to us now as we experiment with new technologies and grapple with the future!’

– Air Vice-Marshal Fin Monahan.

Steam yacht Swan passing Hill of Oaks


The golden age of the lake was from the late 19th century until the early 20th century. It featured steam boats and hydro-aeroplanes: this montage of  Waterhen flying over steam cargoboat Raven, which operated at the lake 1871-1922, ‘evokes something of the drama of the time and the growing ascendance of the petrol engine over steam’. – The Great Age of Steam on Windermere by G H Pattinson.

Waterbird was built in 1911; the same year as steam launch Swallow, which is the sister ship of Osprey and Shamrock – the builder of all 3 boats was Shepherds of Bowness-on-Windermere. Waterbird’s floats were built by Borwick & Sons boat builders. When a Sunderland flying boat (1990) and a Catalina flying boat (1994) visited the lake, Shamrock acted as tender.

Waterbird ‘had the distinction of being the first successful British Hydro-aeroplane’. – Flight magazine, 7 December 1912.

‘This great tradition of innovation and successfully overcoming the severe and unique difficulties of operating aircraft on water all stemmed back to Waterbird and the pioneering designs and spirit that she represented.’ – Navy Wings.



On 25 November 1911, at Windermere, Waterbird made the first successful flight in the world to use a ‘stepped’ float, only achieved by embodying Edward Wakefield‘s 2 years of persistent experiments. The pilot was Herbert Stanley Adams. This telegram confirms the initial flights.

Waterbird Float


Grateful acknowledgement is given to author Peter Connon, who was a Director and a Trustee of The Lakes Flying Company Ltd, without whom the story of Windermere pilots would have been lost forever – he gave voice to their testimony.

‘Richard Raynsford wants to build a replica of the seaplane Waterbird, which was launched from Windermere in November 1911 by his great, great uncle Edward Wakefield’: The Westmorland Gazette, 25 July 2008. He was Chair, a Director and a Trustee of The Lakes Flying Company Ltd – without him the Waterbird Project would not have been founded.


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