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Four Hangars

A Grade II Listed Building in Eastchurch, Kent

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Latitude: 51.393 / 51°23'34"N

Longitude: 0.8445 / 0°50'40"E

OS Eastings: 597992

OS Northings: 169832

OS Grid: TQ979698

Mapcode National: GBR RSR.QB0

Mapcode Global: VHKJG.L7BZ

Plus Code: 9F329RVV+5R

Entry Name: Four Hangars

Listing Date: 1 December 2005

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1391502

English Heritage Legacy ID: 495536

Location: Eastchurch, Swale, Kent, ME12

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Eastchurch

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

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01-DEC-05 CH)
Four Hangars

Aircraft hangars. 1912, built by the engineers Harbrows for the Admiralty. Steel-framed, with stanchions at 10 ft centres; lower sections of party walls separating hangars and the same stratum of their front elevation are of coarse concrete blocks; corrugated iron cladding; all roofs are of felt on timber boarding.

PLAN: two end-opening paired sheds, each of 60 x 70 ft, built in-line as two semi-detached units, with a central linking annexe.

EXTERIOR: plain, the full-width front doors partly infilled.

INTERIOR: steel trusses, portal-braced to front, with timber trusses to central annexe.

HISTORY: Ashworth records that the facilities were expanded in February 1912, when ten acres of ground close to the Club sheds were leased and work on six new sheds and 3 portable hangars commenced. These hangars are shown on a plan of December 1912 (PRO ADM 116/1292) and were built as part of the Navy's expansion of Eastchurch as a training base. These are of a larger (50 ft) span and length to four sheds identified at a similar (but not the same) position on a Royal Aero Club site plan dated June 1910. There are other structures at Eastchurch dating from the First World War period.

Eastchurch, together with Larkhill in Wiltshire, is one of the two sites in Britain where aircraft sheds built in association with the early pioneers of powered flight (1910 at Larkhill and 1912 at Eastchurch) have survived. They are amongst the most historically significant structures associated with the pioneering phase of powered flight to have survived anywhere in Europe or America: there are other structures at Eastchurch dating from the First World War period, in addition to the altered mess building of 1912. Flying at Eastchurch - now the site of an open prison - began in July 1909, when C.S. Rolls used Standford Hill for tests of his glider, designed and built by the pioneer Short brothers at their nearby Leysdown works. Griffith Brewer had selected the Golf Course at Shellbeach, Leysdown, on behalf of the Wrights who were licensing Short Brothers to build their Flyer. Shorts, who were the Aeronautical engineers to the Aero Club, then acquired Leysdown, whose golf course was turned by Frank McLean into an airfield for Aero Club members: the clubhouse is listed grade II. McLean, acting on behalf of the Aero Club, then acquired the new site at Eastchurch. From May 1910 Eastchurch became a fashionable centre for aviation pioneers, and by September of that year there were 18 sheds rented by now-famous pioneers such as Moore-Brabazon, C S Rolls and Tom Sopwith. In November 1910 the Royal Aero Club offered the site's facilities to the military for training purposes, whose facilities were expanded over the next two years. In 1911 Eastchurch hosted the Gordon Bennett Air Race, held at Rheims in 1909 and New York in 1910.

After the formation of the Royal Flying Corps in April 1912, the Senior Officer Sheerness and Naval Flying School's commander, Captain Godfrey Paine RN, was nominated as the Commandant of the Central Flying School at Upavon in Wiltshire and Eastchurch was established as the Naval Wing HQ. The aerodrome became known as HMS Pembroke II (after the naval barracks next to Chatham naval dockyard), and after the formation of the Royal Naval Air Service in July 1914 naval landplanes were sent to Eastchurch for mobilisation. In addition to its key role in training naval pilots, the base's War Flight - reinforced by the RFC's No 4 Squadron - became responsible for the defence of the naval dockyards at Chatham and Sheerness: this function continued until 1917. The RNAS, in the forefront of the development of military aviation as a strategic force, conducted the official trials of the Handley Page 0/100 bomber on this site.

Expansion in 1916 and 1917 resulted by November 1918 in a 600-acre site at Eastchurch, with a diverse range of 29 hangars. It became the Armament and Gunnery School on April 1 1922, renamed the Air Armament School in 1932: this function moved to Manby in Lincolnshire in August 1938, Eastchurch being transferred to Coastal Command in November of that year. The base was used to mount raids on shipping and barge concentrations in German-occupied ports, until a series of severe raids put the airfield largely out of action from September 1940 to June 1942. It became an unofficial landing ground for battle-damaged USAAF fighters and bombers during 1943-4, and after 1950 the airfield returned to agriculture and the Home Office converted the buildings into an open prison.

(Chris Ashworth, Action Stations 9. Military airfields of the Central South and South-East, (Wellingborough, 1985, pp. 88-94. Air Commodore Bill Croydon, Early Birds. A short history of how flight came to Sheppey, (Sheppey Heritage Trust, c1999)

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