The Venom's lineage lay in the aircraft it was intended to replace, the Vampire, which had been the second jet aircraft to enter service with the RAF. In 1948, de Havilland proposed a development of the Vampire with a thin wing and more powerful engine as a high altitude fighter, the Vampire FB 8. In most respects, the Venom was quite similar to the Vampire, sharing the distinctive twin-boom tail and composite wood/metal structure, although the Venom differed in parts. The idea was adopted and a Vampire F 1 was converted by fitting the new de Havilland Ghost engine, which was more powerful than the de Havilland Goblin used on the Vampire. As the DH 112, the Venom filled an Air Ministry requirement for a fast, manoeuvrable and capable fighter-bomber to replace its progenitor.
The first Venom prototype flew on 2 September 1949, and the first Venom variant, a single-seat fighter-bomber, entered service in 1952 as the FB 1. A total of 375 of these would be built. It was armed with four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk V autocannons in the nose and could carry either two 1,000 lb (approx 450 kg) bombs or eight RP-3 60 lb (27 kg) air-to-ground rocket projectiles – the heavier bombs being an improvement over the Vampire FB 5. It was powered by a single 4,850 lbf (21.6 kN) thrust Ghost 48 Mk.1 engine.
The next Venom, the NF.2 night fighter, first flew on 22 August 1950 and entered service in 1953, having been delayed after some minor problems with the type. To accommodate the necessary two man crew (pilot and navigator/radar operator) it was structurally different – the two crew were positioned side-by-side and an airborne interception radar was fitted in the nose. It replaced the Vampire NF 10, and was followed by NF 3, which was the last night fighter variant of the Venom, first flying in 1953 and entering service in 1955. The night fighter Venoms had a relatively brief career with the Royal Air Force, having been only an interim solution, and was withdrawn in 1957 and replaced by the Gloster Javelin twin-engined all-weather fighter.