Brownsfield Mills were built along the Rochdale Canal in 1825 at Binns Place, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester.
Humphrey Verdon Roe inherited the business of H.V. Everard & Company, which made ‘Bull’s Eye’ men’s trouser braces and all forms of belting and webbing at its factory at Brownsfield Mills. With his brother Alliott, he founded A.V. Roe & Company (‘Avro’) on 1 January 1910 and Alliott would build his aircraft in the basement.
At that time, Avro was willing to accept commissions to build aeroplanes. Humphrey replied to adverts by Edward Wakefield, which, following a meeting with Alliott on 26 February 1911, led to Avro building ‘Waterbird’ in their workshop at Brownsfield Mills. Then on 25 May to Brooklands for testing, and ultimately delivery to Windermere on 7 July where conversion took place to a hydro-aeroplane.
Gertrude Bacon, who flew as a passenger at Windermere in 1912, wrote: ‘I visited the aerodromes and aeroplane works that by then were springing up in all directions. One of the earliest of the latter I found in a mill outside Manchester, where half the building was devoted to the manufacture of men’s braces, and the other to ‘Avroplanes’. Of the former the most romantic example was undoubtedly Windermere.’
The plan of Waterbird, dated 9 March 1911, is the oldest surviving Avro aeroplane plan and is signed by Avro’s works manager Reginald Parrott.
The rudder is the oldest surviving part carrying the legend ‘A.V. Roe & Co.’.