Louis Blériot

Louis Blériot

An engineer and inventor, who made the first flight across the English Channel. Lived at Bourne End from 1916-26.

Link with the Chilterns

Owner of a large riverside property, “New York Lodge”, later renamed “Riversdale House” at Bourne End from 1916 – 1926.


1st July 1872


2nd August 1936


Blériot was born in Cambrai, France and studied engineering in Paris.

His interest in aviation started in 1900, building an ornithopter, (flapping wing device) which failed. After this he devoted his time to more practical aeroplane designs.

In 1903 he teamed up with Gabriel Voisin, another aeroplane designer, to form the Blériot-Voisin Company. They built a floatplane glider, which flew in 1905 and a biplane powered by an Antoinette engine.

The company broke up in 1906 and Blériot began to design, build and fly aeroplanes of his own. His early designs were of box kite and canard (tail first) types, the Blériot V was claimed to be the world’s first successful monoplane, this got airborne, but crashed and was abandoned.

He is best known for making the first flight across the English Channel on July 25th1909 in his Blériot XI aeroplane. It was his first truly successful monoplane and made the crossing in 37 minutes.

A £1,000 prize had been offered by the Daily Mail for the first successful flight across the English Channel.

In 1910 he started his first aeroplane manufacturing company in England, which rapidly expanded in 1914 with the outbreak of war. Blériot also joined with the floundering Deperdussin aeroplane company in 1914, renaming it the “Societé Pour Aviation et des Dérives” (SPAD) and turned it into one of France`s leading manufacturers of combat aeroplanes in WW1.

He lived in Bourne End near Marlow from 1916 – 1926 in a large house beside the River Thames. Unfortunately a major fire destroyed the property in 1926.

After the war, Blériot formed his own company, Blériot-Aeronautique for the development of commercial aeroplanes.

Further Information

Wycombe’s Contribution to Aviation by David Scott and Ian Simmons, published by Wycombe District Council and available from the Information Centres in Princes Risborough, Marlow and High Wycombe.

Grid Reference


What you can visit

The Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, Bedfordshire has a Blériot X1 that is still airworthy.