Brighton City Airport – Shoreham-by-Sea, England - Atlas Obscura

Brighton City Airport

This tiny 1930s Art Deco airport is a beautiful remnant of a bygone era. 


One of the world’s oldest commercial airports is a charming Art Deco outpost on the south coast of England, set against the picturesque backdrop of the South Downs.

Built in the 1930s, the Brighton City Airport (also called Shoreham Airport) boasts a clean geometric exterior and a stylish modern interior, including many original and restored Art Deco features, from the ceiling decorations down to the light switches. From the terminal, one can look out onto the busy airfield and beyond to the imposing Gothic chapel of Lancing College, nestled in rolling hills of the South Downs National Park.

This small, cheerful airport just outside of Brighton has humble, slightly eccentric origins. The story begins with a local portrait artist named Harold H Piffard (known to his Lancing College schoolmates as ‘Piff’). Having already spent time working on a tea plantation in India, then in an acrobatic troupe at home in England, he one day turned his attention to a new hobby: aviation. 

In 1910, Piffard built and flew a Boxkite bi-plane at the field in Shoreham, where the airport now stands. According to legend, the flight itself was made to win a crate of champagne from a local landlord.  If Piffard could fly his plane over to collect the champagne, he could have the champagne. Piff was successful, Brighton City Airport became a popular aviation center, and his plane, called “Hummingbird,” now lends its name to the terminal restaurant.

Today the airport is mostly used by independent light aircraft owners and aviation schools, so a commercial flight is unlikely to be flying in or out of the beautiful airport any time soon.  But visitors can come to have a look around whenever they want, and tours are offered to anyone interested enough to inquire.

Know Before You Go

Get there by car, or take the 'Coastliner 700' bus that runs regularly between Brighton and Portsmouth, which stops where there is a 10 min walk from the terminal. It's not well signposted, so have a map handy.

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July 5, 2017

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