The Albemarle was a mid-wing, cantilever monoplane with twin fins and rudders. The fuselage was built in three sections; the structure being unstressed plywood over a steel tube frame. The forward section used stainless steel tubing to reduce interference with magnetic compasses. It had a Lockheed hydraulically operated, retractable tricycle landing gear, with the main wheels retracting back into the engine nacelles, and the nose wheel retracting backwards into the front fuselage.
The two pilots side-by-side, a radio operator sat behind the pilots, and the navigator sat in the nose forward of the cockpit. The bomb aimer's sighting panel was incorporated into the crew hatch in the underside of the nose. In the rear fuselage were glazed panels, so a "fire controller" could coordinate the turrets against attackers. The dorsal turret was a Boulton-Paul design with four Browning machine guns. A fairing forward of the turret automatically retracted as the turret rotated to fire forwards. Fuel was in four tanks, and additional tanks could be carried in the bomb bay.
A notable design feature of the Albemarle was its undercarriage, which included a retractable nose-wheel (in addition to a semi-concealed "bumper" tail-wheel). It was the first British-built aircraft with this configuration to enter service with the Royal Air Force.
The original bomber design required a crew of six including two gunners; one in a four-gun dorsal turret and one in a twin-gun ventral turret. However, only the first 32 aircraft, the Mk I Series I, were produced in this configuration, and they were only used operationally in the bomber role on two occasions. That was because the Albemarle was considered inferior to other aircraft already in service, such as the Vickers Wellington. All subsequent aircraft were built as transports, designated either "General Transport" (GT) or "Special Transport" (ST).
When used as a paratroop transport, 10 fully armed troops could be carried. The paratroopers were provided with a dropping hatch in the rear fuselage, and a large loading door in the fuselage side.
The entire production run of 600 Albemarles was assembled by A.W. Hawksley Ltd of Gloucester, a subsidiary of the Gloster Aircraft Company formed for the purpose of the construction of the Albemarle. Gloster was a part of the Hawker Siddeley group which included Armstrong Whitworth. Individual parts and sub-assemblies for the Albemarle were produced by about 1,000 subcontractors.
Over the course of its production life, a number of variants of the Albemarle were built:
- ST Mk I - 99 aircraft
- GT Mk I - 69
- ST Mk II - 99
- Mk III - One prototype only.
- Mk IV - One prototype only.
- ST Mk V - 49
- ST Mk VI - 133
- GT Mk VI - 117
Most Marks were divided into "Series" to distinguish differences in equipment. The ST Mk I Series 1 (eight aircraft) had the four gun turret replaced with hand operated twin-guns under a sliding hood. As a special transport, a loading door was fitted on the starboard side; the rear fuel tank was removed. The 14 ST Mk I Series 2 aircraft were equipped with gear for towing gliders. The Mk II could carry 10 paratroops and the Mk V was essentially the same but with a fuel jettison capability. All production Albemarles were powered by a pair of 1,590 hp (1,186 kW) Bristol Hercules XI radial engines.
The Mk III and Mk IV Albemarles were development projects for testing different powerplants; the former used the Rolls-Royce Merlin III, and the latter used the 1,600 hp (1,190 kW) Wright Double Cyclone.