Bedford Tourism Office

About Bedford

Cardington Airship Sheds

The twin figures of Cardington Airship Sheds stand sentinel over the north Bedfordshire countryside today as they have done for more than 90 years; iconic symbols of an age when the great passenger airship was envisioned and built to meet the needs of air travel throughout the British Empire.

How did a small village a short distance from Bedford come to be the centre of British airship development?

The story starts not with the village but with the Shorts Brothers Engineering Company who decided to move to Bedford in September 1916; choosing the market town for its high grade light engineering works and the village of Cardington close-by where farmland was purchased.

At its height around 800 people worked at the site, most traveling daily from Bedford, though Shorts also built a housing estate, opposite the works and named it Shortstown. Along with a lucrative government contract came nationalization; Shorts became the Royal Airship Works and in February 1919 work began to build what was to become the largest airship in the world, the R38.


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