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Former Officers Mess at Former RAF Kenley

A Grade II Listed Building in Caterham-on-the-Hill, Surrey

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Latitude: 51.3028 / 51°18'10"N

Longitude: -0.0901 / 0°5'24"W

OS Eastings: 533235

OS Northings: 157695

OS Grid: TQ332576

Mapcode National: GBR H1.RYD

Mapcode Global: VHGRZ.DJ64

Plus Code: 9C3X8W35+4W

Entry Name: Former Officers Mess at Former RAF Kenley

Listing Date: 10 January 2001

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1334947

English Heritage Legacy ID: 486852

Location: Caterham-on-the-Hill, Tandridge, Surrey, CR3

County: Surrey

Civil Parish: Caterham-on-the-Hill

Built-Up Area: Croydon

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Whyteleafe St Luke

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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303/2/10048 Kenley Aerodrome
10-JAN-01 (West side)
Former Officers Mess at former RAF


Officers' mess. 1932 design by the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings. Stretcher bond brick to cavity walls, concrete floors, slate roof on steel trusses.
PLAN: a long, narrow principal range (for recreational and dining purposes) in 2 storeys, linked by colonnades to outer accommodation blocks placed at right angles and with kitchen and services to rear.
EXTERIOR: Originally symmetrical front, with hipped roof and of 2 storeys in 13 bays. Each recessed bay is framed by pilasters rising to dentilled cornice and from stone cill course; rusticated corner pilasters; flat arches over transomed cross windows, with steel small paned lights, with tall stair window to right of porch.
EXTERIOR: glazing-bar sashes (boarded) to brick voussiors and stone sub-sills. The parade ground front is symmetrical, with a recessed 5-bay centre having 12-pane above 16-pane sashes. Portland stone porch, with Tuscan columns in antis and balustraded parapet; panelled double doors in moulded surround. Portland stone bay window to right, with moulded cornice to plain parapet and 1:3:1 fenestration; that to left was destroyed after enemy action in August 1940. Similar fenestration and articulation to accommodation blocks, which have hipped roofs and 3-bay fronts and are linked by Portland stone Tuscan colonnades with balustraded parapets to the main range.
INTERIOR: remodelled for office accommodation, the principal feature remaining being the wooden dog-leg staircase with turned balusters.
HISTORY: The careful proportions of this building reflect the impact of Air Ministry consultation with the Royal Fine Arts Commission. In contrast to the Battle of Britain sector stations at Biggin Hill and Northolt, Kenley has lost most of its buildings but boasts the most complete fighter airfield associated with the Battle of Britain to have survived. A large part of Kenley Common, managed by the Corporation of London, was converted for use as an aerodrome for the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and enlarged through an Act of Parliament in 1939. The 800-yard runways and perimeter tracks completed in December 1939 (extended by a further 200 yards in 1943) and all 12 of the fighter pens under completion in April 1940 have survived: this is a uniquely important survival, and one that relates to a military action of world historical importance. At the end of March 1939 the Air Ministry had agreed to Sir Hugh Dowding?s proposals for all-weather runways and perimeter tracks for critical fighter bases prone to waterlogging, mostly those in 11 Group in the south east of England. In the following month it was agreed that fighter stations should have dispersals for 3 squadrons of 12 aircraft each, subsequent to which fighter pens with blast-shelter walls and internal air-raid shelters were erected on key fighter airfields: the designs, in which Dowding had taken a close interest since trials in August 1938, had already been established by Fighter Command Works.
Despite the demolition of the perimeter pillboxes in 1984, the survival, character and importance of Kenley?s flying field as a uniquely well-preserved Battle of Britain site is thrown into sharper relief when it is realised that it was subject, on the 18th of August, to one of the most determined attacks by the Luftwaffe on a sector airfield, photographs of which - including an attack on a fighter pen - were afterwards printed in Der Adler magazine. During this raid, three personnel were killed and 3 hangars and several aircraft destroyed. 39 personnel were killed and 26 wounded on the 30th of August, raids on the following day damaging the operations block. Its scars can still be read in the form of post-war repair work to the officers mess, prominently sited on the west side of the aerodrome, and which now stands as the most impressive surviving building dating from the rebuilding of the station between 1931 and 1933. The last surviving hangar and the control tower were destroyed by fire in 1978, and the sector operations block was demolished in 1984.
(Operations Record Book, PRO AIR 28/419, includes series of block plans showing completion of new airfield layout in late 1939; Peter Corbell, Kenley, in W.G. Ramsey (ed), The Battle of Britain Then and Now, (5th edition, London, 1989); Peter Flint, RAF Kenley. The Story of the Royal Airforce Station, 1917-74 (Lavenham, 1985); Alfred Price, Battle of Britain: The Hardest Day (London, 1979))

Listing NGR: TQ3323557695

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