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Latitude: 52.7268 / 52°43'36"N
Longitude: 0.966 / 0°57'57"E
OS Eastings: 600382
OS Northings: 318472
OS Grid: TG003184
Mapcode National: GBR SB5.519
Mapcode Global: WHLRR.TQ5G
Plus Code: 9F42PXG8+P9
Entry Name: Control Tower
Listing Date: 1 December 2005
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1391586
English Heritage Legacy ID: 495979
Location: Hoe, Breckland, Norfolk, NR20
Civil Parish: Hoe
Built-Up Area: Robertson Barracks
Traditional County: Norfolk
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk
Church of England Parish: Worthing St Margaret
Church of England Diocese: Norwich
402/0/10004 ROBERTSON BARRACKS (FORMER RAF SWANTON
Control tower. 1939-40, to 1939 Watch Office with Meteorological Section design by Air Ministry's Directorate of Works. Drawing no. 5845/39. Brickwork walls, reinforced concrete floors and roof, with asphalt finish.
PLAN: a near-square plan on three floors with wide glazed balconies facing the flying field. The ground floor has the main watch office and pilots' room, forecast and teleprinters, and WCs; at first floor is the main control room backed by the meteorological and signals offices; the rear staircase gives access also to the glazed observation room at second floor level.
EXTERIOR: the original steel casements with horizontal glazing bars have been retained almost throughout, including those to the long observation frontages. At ground floor the front has three large 4-light windows separated by brick piers, under a concrete balcony cantilevered out to semi-circular ends, and with a steel balustrade to simple uprights; at this level is a continuous multi-light window returned to quadrants at each end, above a low breast wall, and with a deep parapet wall taken up as a balustrade to the top deck, which has a further range of full-width glazing to a set-back observation room. The return walls each have a series of tall casements, linked at the upper level by a 'frieze band' under the cantilevered flat slab with the nautical balustrade continued to the rear to the stair tower. The rear fa?ade has a single light each side of the projecting stair tower, with a small bulls-eye above a deep stair light, and small lights on the return. The building is flanked at each side by two-bay fire tender and flare stores.
INTERIOR: original doors and joinery; solid concrete staircase.
HISTORY: With West Malling, Swanton Morley has the best-preserved example of the most definably Art Deco of the Air Ministry's control tower designs, with a meteorological section incorporated into the design behind the control room. Its distinctly Art Deco treatment strongly recalls the Bauhaus tradition from which this style was evolved. In the second half of the 1930s, increasing attention was being given to the dispersal and shelter of aircraft from attack, ensuring serviceable landing and take-off areas, and the control of movement: the result was the development of the control tower, from the simple watch office of the 1920s, and the planning from 1938 of the first airfields with runways and perimeter tracks. The development of radio communication, and the increasing need to organise the flying field into different zones for take-off, landing and taxiing, brought with it an acceptance that movement on the airfield needed to be controlled from a single centre: control towers thus evolved from the simple duty pilot's watch office to the tower design of 1934 and integration of traffic control and weather monitoring in the Art Deco horizontality of the Watch Office with Meteorological Section of 1939. The control tower became the most distinctive and instantly recognisable building associated with military airfields, particularly in the Second World War when they served as foci for base personnel as they awaited the return of aircraft from operations.
One of the last phase of 1930s Expansion Period stations, Swanton Morley was opened as a medium bomber base on the 28th of September 1940, followed one month later by the arrival of Blenheims from Watton. It played an active operational role in Bomber Command's 2 Group, as a medium bomber and especially Mosquito base. Both Churchill and Eisenhower were present on the 29th of June 1942, for the launch of the first combined bombing raid with British and American personnel. From December 1944 to the end of the war Swanton Morley's Bomber Support Development Unit came under the command of 100 Group.
Paul Francis, British Military Airfield Architecture (Sparkford, 1996); RAF Museum, Hendon, drawings collection; Operations Record Book, PRO AIR 28
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