Though now almost forgotten, the Isle of Man had for some years a second civil airport in addition to Ronaldsway, near Ramsey at Close Lake, and which was in use from 1935 until temporarily commandeered by the Royal Air Force in 1939.
The first public mention of what was to become Hall Caine Manx Airport was made at the end of a Tynwald debate on a site for the Manx National Aerodrome early in 1935. Whilst deeply resentful and willfully obstructive of Captian Olley's Ronaldsway Aerodrome, then operated by Isle of Man Air Services Ltd. The Tynwald Aerodrome Committee insisted that a national Island Aerodrome should, like the harbours, be owned and operated by the Government, whilst fielding 'expert' reports including one from Sir Alan Cobham, which claimed that that Ronaldsway was an area that could never become a satisfactory airfield site. Presumably anxious to avoid any charge of consistency in their dealings, the Aerodrome Committee stated that having regard to the useful public service that would be served , they would not wish to interfere with the proposed (privately owned) Ramsey Aerodrome.
The Hall Caine Manx Airport Limited was formed on March 27th 1935 with a capital of £2000: the two sons of the late author, Hall Caine , Mr. Gordon Ralph Hall Caine M.P. and Sir Derwent Hall Caine took up £650 each in shares, The company was to establish, operate and maintain air services; enter into contracts for individual flights and generally to make arrangements for the transportation of passengers, goods and merchandise by air… and to carry out business in connection therewith or auxiliary thereto. The company acquired the lease of 45 acres of suitable land, opposite Close Lake Farm on the road between Ramsey and St Judes. The fields were leveled and drained and a small hangar erected, together with a wooden hut to accommodate the office staff and passengers.
The necessary work was quickly carried out and the Aerodrome acquired a Restricted Licence from the Air Ministry at the end of April. Operations at the airfield were superintended by Capt. J. W. Spinner and the new facility was formally opened on May 3rd, when Capt. Oscar Garden flew in to be greeted by a civic reception committee, consisting of the Mayor, Chairman and Town Clerk of Douglas and Ramsey respectively. Another celebrity to arrive was comedian George Formby, who together with Tom Moss came to see the Mannin Moar motor races and to plan for the forthcoming production of the Associated Talking Pictures film 'No Limits'
When the construction work at the airfield was completed, Mr. E. J. Teare the architect sent his certificate to the Air Ministry to obtain the first Full Aerodrome License in the Island and which was issued on the 13th July 1935. The Aerodrome was briskly used by airlines belonging to or associated with the Whitehall Securities group, including Hillman's Spartan and Northern & Scottish, and that as such had formerly used the aerodrome at Ronaldsway.
The Whitehall group consisted of a large and important investment corporation, whose wide interests included everything from electrical manufacturing to Saunders - Roe the aircraft manufacturers. The airlines of the group were expanding rapidly and necessitated a series of internal re-organization, as will be seen. The first major group co-ordination scheme had already been implemented on 4th April when Spartan Airlines Ltd and Hillman's Airlines joined to form 'United Airlines Ltd' and as such inaugurated regular scheduled services to and from the new aerodrome at Close Lake with flights to Blackpool four times daily and, from 4th May a thrice-weekly service to Belfast as well. The fleet of aircraft consisted of de Havilland DH89 Rapides, Dragons and Spartan Cruiser 11 six-seaters, but in high Summer United purchased from Imperial Airways a giant
Armstrong-Whitworth Argosy (G-ACCJ 'City of Manchester') new in 1929. This comparatively huge triple engine bi-plane seated 28 in the fuselage, whilst the Captain and his navigator sat in open cockpits in the nose. The Argosy's first flight to Close Lake took place on 3rd August when it also gave members of the Ramsey Commissioners a pleasure flight round the Island. Over the ensuing August Bank Holiday weekend the Argosy normally made the early morning flight from Liverpool, returned to the beaches at Blackpool and reappeared late in the afternoon again at Ramsey, before returning to Liverpool for the night. With considerable satisfaction, the Whitehall group noted that over 200 passengers had been transported to and from Hall Caine during the weekend. The Argosy spent the remainder of its time operating pleasure flights from Blackpool.
Another Whitehall airline, Northern & Scottish, introduced a service between Hall Caine airfield and Glasgow (Renfrew) on 17th May, with a de Havilland DH.84, operating three times weekly until a daily service was introduced at the end of May. After 1st July this service increased to a twice daily service, eventually reverting to weekends only during the ensuing Winter. Further corporate changes within the Whitehall group resulted in the merger of United and Northern & Scottish and Highlands Airways Ltd, to form a new airline known as 'British Airways Ltd' from the beginning of October. Thereafter, British Airways covered the Liverpool and Blackpool services from Ramsey three times per day on weekdays and twice daily on Sundays; in addition the Belfast and Carlisle service also continued throughout the Winter, with flights three times per week.
Construction of a large aircraft hangar at Close Lake began in January, although the work was not completed until May due to extremely bad weather: indeed the airfield had been flooded on the 27th January, when the nearby Sulby River burst its banks after heavy and prolonged rain in conjunction with thawing snow. These unusual circumstances apart, the services from Hall Caine were maintained with a commendably high regularity, but were disrupted on 23rd March when a Spartan Cruiser left Hall Caine at 7.30am to pick up mail from Ronaldsway, but promptly wrecked its undercarriage when landing there some 20 minutes later. The pilot was Captain Johnson, but neither he nor any of the aircrafts occupants were hurt and the aircraft was subsequently dismantled and shipped away in crates on board the IoM Steam Packet's Connister.
From the end of May 1936, the British Airways services from Hall Caine to Belfast, Carlisle, Glasgow, Liverpool and Blackpool were intensified to reach a new peak in August, although from the end of June another internal re-organization had resulted in Manx routes being flown by Northern & Scottish as a subsidiary of British Airways. The service from Close Lake to London which since 17th May had been terminating at the new London airport at Gatwick near Crawley, appears to have ceased at the same time. It should be explained that the Whitehall Group's expanding aviation empire at this stage included major routes to Paris, Malmo, Scandinavia, Germany, and from the beginning of August they also absorbed British Continental Airways Ltd. Thus the major European operations tended to overshadow the group's purely domestic air services.
Northern & Scottish continued their Isle of Man services throughout the Winter but lost one of their Spartan Cruisers at the Stanley Park aerodrome, Blackpool, on 20th November, when it attempted a take off in thick fog and crashed into the hangar, promptly destroying itself and both people on board, the hangar and three other aircraft. On another occasion in February 1937, the regular flight from Glasgow to Hall Caine was made in appalling weather conditions, and landed perfectly safely, only to find that the airport was effectively isolated, with all road beyond Ramsey snowbound and impassable.
1937 was a year of consolidation within the aviation industry, and as such was a good deal quieter at Hall Caine when compared with the preceding two years. Northern & Scottish suspended their Blackpool - Liverpool - Hall Caine - Belfast - Glasgow service from 21st May, but reinstated the Hall Caine - Glasgow link from 1st July. As a result of yet another round of corporate restructuring within the Whitehall group, Northern & Scottish gave way to Northern Airways Ltd and Scottish Airways Ltd when the former grouping was finally dissolved on 12th August. Scottish Airway's shareholders thereafter included the London Midland & Scottish Railway and the Scottish coastal shipping concern, David MacBrayne Ltd, itself half owned by the LMSR. Since the LMSR and the IoM Steam Packet Companies had acquired interests in Isle of Man Air Services Ltd, operating from Ronaldsway, this corporate reshuffle tended to point the way to slow but definite decline in the fortunes of Hall Caine Airport. From then on the services to Hall Caine steadily diminished, until the last of the dwindling scheduled services ceased altogether after the last departure of 2nd October 1937. The airfield still remained open for occasional traffic including private aircraft. One such, a Luton Minor, was built and flown by John E. Carine of Douglas, who lodged a planning application for a small 'T' shaped hangar in February 1939. Earlier, in 1936 Mr Carine had successfully built and test flown a Mignet 'Flying Flea' at Church Farm, Malew, in the September of that year.
On the outbreak of war on the 3rd September 1939, the Hall Caine Airport was officially closed to all traffic, but the facility was requisitioned and staffed by the Royal Air Force, whose major training station at RAF Jurby was only a few miles to the North. The Close Lake aerodrome was used for dropping the target-drogues towed by gunnery practice aircraft, and was also maintained as a Relief Landing Ground at least until the major RAF fighter station at Andreas was commissioned in 1941. As soon as the Royal Air Force departed, the old aerodrome was obstructed with blocks and posts to prevent its use by the enemy but the large hangar remained in use as a farm store until after the war when it was dismantled and moved elsewhere. The proprietors of the Hall Caine Manx Airport continued to file annual returns for the company until 1965, only in February 1971 was it finally dissolved.