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Blackburn Aircraft Factory

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Aerial view, 2007
Aerial view 2007
© Thomas Nugent

Blackburn Aircraft Factory was located on the north shore of the Firth of Clyde at Dumbarton, northeast of Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton Castle on Castle Road. The factory had been set up as part of the war effort during World War II, and was described then as a shadow factory for the Blackburn Aeroplane Co Ltd.

Although the factory belonged to the Blackburn Aircraft Company, it became better known for the construction of the Shorts Sunderland flying boat, of which it produced some 260 examples during World War II. The last Sunderland was completed at Dumbarton in October 1945, and flew off on November 8, 1945.

The original date of construction of the factory is not known, but it was in production by 1938. On February 1, 1939, Hansard records a question by Mr. Kirkwood, "Is the Minister aware that we have had two complete stoppages of work within the last six months in the Blackburn aircraft factory in Dumbarton, and that on another occasion the factory was absolutely closed down instantaneously by the management?"[1]

Blackburn B.20, pd via wp
Blackburn B.20 on hydraulic float

The factory was also involved in the building of experimental aircraft such as the Blackburn B.20, which had a hydraulically operated retractable float, and wing floats that folded up to form part of the wings.[2] The Blackburn factory is now known to have been involved with the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment located at Helensburgh, which was involved in the flight testing of maritime patrol aircraft during World War II, which included the all-important Sunderland.


Records from 1998 indicated that the workshops, office buildings, and some hard standing remained, together with one slipway.

After the war, the aircraft factory switched from producing flying boats for the war effort, to making parts for the construction of aluminium houses, better known as prefabs to most, but remembered in the area as The Aluminiums. The building was later used to house a whisky bottling plant and distribution site. The distillery to the west was mothballed in 2002, and demolished by 2005, to be followed by the closure of the bottling works by 2007, and clearance of the ground in 2008 for housing.

Site visits

A site visit was carried out during 2008, but found only one building, possibly a former boiler house, remaining on the site. The only other obvious remains were the slipway, and some small ground detail.

A further site visit carried out during 2012 found access possible to the one remaining building. This was identified as the the power distribution plant, which appeared to have been fitted with a standby diesel generator. One live substation was noted in an alcove, and appeared to be live, still supplying power to the smaller site remaining to the east of the burn.

Photographs of the slipway show it entering the water in the midst of a number of wooden posts rising from the water. These are unconnected with the factory, and belong to the days when the area was home to a number of shipbuilders. Wood was stored in timber ponds prior its use for construction of hulls. In addition to providing storage, this procedure had the effect of seasoning and softening the timber so it was ready for use.


Blackburn Aircraft Factory, 1966
Blackburn factory 1966
© Gerald England
Blackburn factory building, 2005
Blackburn factory building
© Lairich Rig
Razed factory site, 2009
Razed factory site
© Lairich Rig
Blackburn slipway, 2012
Blackburn slipway
© Lairich Rig
Blackburn slipway, 2012
Blackburn slipway
© Lairich Rig
Blackburn slipway, 2012
Blackburn slipway
© Lairich Rig
Blackburn platform blocks.jpg, 2012
Blackburn platform blocks
© Lairich Rig
Mooring bollards, 2008, Fox
Mooring bollards
Last building on razed site, 2008, Fox
Last building on razed site


1 Air re-armament, Hansard, February 1, 1939.

2 Blackburn B.20 details, Flight, April 18, 1946

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