I was in my early teens when I first went flying in Northwick Park. That was in the late 1950's. The club at that time was almost entirely control line. We flew on a strip of land in the centre of the park that was behind a row of trees and shrubs separating us from the main field that had houses on the far south side in Norval Road. Even then there were complaints about noise. Justified probably. The north side of the strip was a wire fence that enclosed the site for the hospital, not yet built of course. I wish I could remember more of the names of the people who flew. I remember George Copeman who flew combat using Oliver Tiger motors that he tuned, and Pete Tribe also flew there, though he was a member of the Northwood club. George also specialised in control-line speed though obviously could not fly off the grass at the park.
George on left, Pete on right at the Nationals (from Aeromodeller September 1960)
I tried to get members interested in free flight but with limited success. There were lots of trees and, unless completely calm, keeping a model inside the fields was difficult. More than once my gliders de-thermalised to the ground just before the railway. We ran a glider contest each year but, as I always won it, enthusiasm died. We also had chuck glider contests. We usually had a bonfire going using branches from the shrubbery which came in handy for burning the shattered remnants of models. Fuel was a great fire lighter as long as you didn't spray it onto someone's jacket potato.
Club meetings were held at a school to the south of the park, possibly Byron Court Primary or Sudbury Junior.
I was introduced to aeromodelling at North Harrow Methodist youth club. I was only there a shortish time until thrown out for playing the card trick 'Find The Lady'. There was a man in his fifties who ran a model making session there. I can't remember his name but he lived in Pinner Park Avenue in Harrow Weald and I was very impressed that he had turned the large front downstairs room in his house into a model making workshop. He built control line trainers and got quite a few of us started. He was the chairman of the Kenton club. Then there was a putsch at the model club. The young bloods ousted the older bloke in a coup and so far as I remember he stopped coming to fly.
We used to run club trips to the Nationals. By that time I had shifted wholly to free flight gliders. I built and flew a Scandinavian Leena A/2 (F1a) and did quite well. The running kept me fit. I knew Sean Bannister and got him started on gliders. He subsequently became world champion in RC gliding with his beautiful Algebra design, still available as an RCME plan. I'm not sure if he ever joined the club.
I'd guess membership at the end of the fifties and start of the sixties at about 30. At one point we had a couple of Texan airmen who presumably lived nearby. They took us off across London to West Malling for a flying display. The car was an American left-hand drive machine and the front passenger took great delight in waving his hands out of the window whenever he saw a policeman and shouting, 'Look fella, no hands!'. The police still appeared on foot in the streets then.
When I did a Google Earth search for the fields at Northwick Park I was horrified to see them nearly all gone. The hospital was built on the planned site of course but there was an access road across the field and yet another golf course. How many do we need? The control line strip seems still to be there though.