Location and Transport Links

Farnborough is a town located in Hampshire in the South of England under the local control of Rushmoor Borough Council. It lies approximately 10 miles to the north-west of Guildford and close to the county border with Surrey. It is derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Ferneberga (Fern Hill) which occupied the same area. Today it is little more than a sprawl of run down housing which passes as a town, home to hundreds of commuters making the daily battle into London. It has very little character and is generally known for its links with the aerospace industry.

By Road:
Junction 4 and 4A of the M3

By Rail:
Farnborough Main station is on the line linking Basingstoke to Woking and continuing on to London Waterloo.

Farnborough North station is on the Line linking Reading to Guildford and continuing on to Gatwick Airport.

A Brief History of the Aviation Centre of England

Mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086, Ferneberga is listed as Hundred of Crondall and belonged to King Alfred. The name of the settlement changed subtly over the years through several variations in spelling: Ferneberga (1086); Ferenbergo (1230); Farenberwe (1259); Farneburewe (1284); Farnbureghe (1284). However is was little more than a village at that time and it was only the arrival of the army in Aldershot and the subsequent actions in 1905 which set Farnborough on its path to becoming the home of aviation research in Britain. In that year the HM Balloon factory was moved from Greenwich to Farnborough for continued research into aviation. However it was Samuel Franklin Cody (1861 – 1913) who is really remembered for starting it all in Farnborough.

Samuel Cody?… What about “Buffalo Bill Cody”?

Samuel Cody was a cowboy from Texas. He moved to the U.K. in the early 1900’s but the details of his life are hazy and confused. Rumour has it that he bore a striking resemblance to the famous ‘Buffalo Bill’. Apparently Samuel used to play on this by dressing in a similar way and acting like Bill and this supposedly lead to people referring to him as ‘Buffalo Bill Cody’. Cody was not just a cowboy. He had a keen hobby of constructing and flying kites. For several years he tried to convince British military authorities that the kites he created could successfully be used for observation and reconnaissance. Cody set up in Farnborough and over this time he developed a system to lift a man high into the air using a series of kites. Finally in 1906 the military powers of the country recognised Cody’s achievements and gave him the title of ‘Chief Kite instructor’. Cody went on developing aviation technology in Farnborough and in 1908 he became the first person to fly a powered aircraft in the U.K. Unfortunately one of his many later flights in 1913 was less successful as Cody was killed in a crash landing.

Aviation in Farnborough did not stop there and only 5 years later in 1918 the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) was founded and aviation development continued on the site. In 1936 on a site next to the RAE in Farnborough the company Power Jets Ltd was started by Sir Frank Whittle for the research and development of gas turbine technology. This was renamed as the National Gas Turbine Establishment (NTGE) Pyestock in 1946 and worked alongside the RAE in pioneering aircraft development. The RAE was the site of the historic development of Concorde and the testing of the Rolls-Royce Olympus 593 engines took place at Pyestock. The two sites were finally unified in 1982 when the NGTE became RAE Pyestock. The RAE remained in existence in Farnborough until 1991 when it became the Defence Research Agency (DRA) and broadened its horizons beyond the world of aviation. There was a name change again in 1995 when it became the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) and in 2002 the MOD officially let go of most of the agency as a new company called QinetiQ but kept a small portion as DSTL.

Today the old RAE airfield is a private airfield heavily involved with BAE systems and Pyestock has been mostly deserted, sold off and awaiting demolition. All that remains at Pyestock are a few stand-alone facilities belonging to QinetiQ.

Other Industries
Although dominated by aircraft and aviation, a theme which seems to run subtly through the town, Farnborough also has a few other industries. The most notable of these are a large facilities owned by IBM and Nokia.

Town Centre

The main town centre is located on the large ‘T-Junction’ between the Farnborough Road going North to South (From Camberley to Aldershot) and the Elles Road leading off to the west (towards Fleet and the old RAE site). The town centre itself is not pretty. A patchwork of failed developments and re-developments have all been dumped in the middle. The main high street is called Queensmead and has the feel of a ghost town. All that remains are a few fast food places and charity shops. To the East of Queensmead there is a fairly run down shopping centre called Kingsmead and to the west of Queensmead is a slightly more modern shopping centre called Prince’s Mead. Prince’s Mead contains several chain stores, a small eating section in the middle and an ASDA (which is also home to the main post office). Further out to the west of the centre is a selection of furniture and DIY shops in a small retail park arrangement. Parking is located at the south of Queensmead of in the large car parks outside the DIY stores. Bus stops are located outside the south exit to the Kingsmead shopping centre. I strongly advise avoiding the town centre for any type of shopping unless you want to become depressed and unhappy. The best local shopping area is Guildford which can be reached easily by rail of car.

The town centre contains fairly little in the way of recreation facilities. There is a recreation centre (It is well sign-posted) which contains a swimming pool, sports hall, squash courts and a small bowling alley. Apart from that there are no pubs, clubs or other social spaces in the centre.

Not far from the town centre is the Farnborough College of Technology. As well as running a selection of A-Level courses the college also does many part-time courses and some more practical subjects as well


Farnborough contains several sub-districts which make up the whole town. Cove was once a small village in its own right, however t has now been swallowed up by the sprawl of Farnborough. Cove still has its own small high street containing a few shops and estate agents. North Camp was once a pleasant Victorian town, but now feels run down and neglected. Changes in road systems make it difficult to navigate and have taken the attention away from a once thriving local high street and community. Other areas include Farnborough Park, North Farnborough and South Farnborough.

Farnborough Airshow

Since 1948 Farnborough has been hosting the airshow every 2 years (alternating with the Paris airshow) and is a chance to see displays from a wide variety of aircraft both old and new. In recent years it has also been a chance to see the famous Red Arrows displaying some of their world famous aerobatics and spectacular flybys.

Twinned with: Meudon (France), Oberursel (Germany) and Sulechow (Poland)

Useful Websites:
www.farn-ct.ac.uk – Farnborough Technology College
www.rushmoor.gov.uk – Rushmoor Borough Council


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