History in Structure

Buildings 1 to 5 (Airmens Barrack Blocks)

A Grade II Listed Building in Darwin, London

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Latitude: 51.3293 / 51°19'45"N

Longitude: 0.027 / 0°1'37"E

OS Eastings: 541321

OS Northings: 160862

OS Grid: TQ413608

Mapcode National: GBR M6.5GL

Mapcode Global: VHHP9.FV4B

Plus Code: 9F3282HG+PR

Entry Name: Buildings 1 to 5 (Airmens Barrack Blocks)

Listing Date: 1 December 2005

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1391589

English Heritage Legacy ID: 495982

ID on this website: 101391589

Location: Leaves Green, Bromley, London, TN16

County: London

District: Bromley

Electoral Ward/Division: Darwin

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Bromley

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Biggin Hill St Mark

Church of England Diocese: Rochester

Tagged with: Building

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Buildings 1 to 5 (Airmen's barrack blo

Group of five airmen's barracks blocks. 1930, to Air Ministry Directorate of Works drawings 99-109/23. Red brickwork in stretcher and Flemish bond to cavity walls, slate roofs.

PLAN: Two rows of gabled two-storey long frontage buildings with central pediment and entry, with a short T-arm central to the rear, at slightly lower eaves and ridge level, and to hipped outer end. Central lobby and staircase flanked by small rooms for NCO's, then dormitories for 64 airmen; the rear wing with ablutions and services. Building 04 (Croydon) is larger, accommodating 80 airmen.

EXTERIOR: Buildings were originally identical (except for 04); the most fully retained externally being Building 05 (Manston). Windows are generally wooden glazing-bar sashes set in slight reveals, with brick voussoir heads and concrete sub-sills. The long front has a 3-bay centre slightly stepped forward to an open pediment. A central feature in painted concrete has a part-glazed panelled door with 5-pane overlight, on two steps, with pilasters to a simple architrave and cornice; above this a 12-pane sash in flat architrave surround flared out and on a blocking-course below, and to a central keystone. To each side are 8-pane sashes at each level, in brick panels brought forward from the central panel, and the eaves/pediment mould broken to the centre. A small ventilation slit in the head of the gable. To each side are 4 bays of 12-pane sashes, grouped 1:2:1. Small brick stacks flank the centre unit. The gabled returns are also treated as open pediments with short returns of the eaves moulding, with a single 12-pane to each floor, and ventilation slit at the head of the gable. The rear has four 12-pane and one 8-pane to each floor, on either side of the wing which has two broad 4-pane and a narrow 8-pane on one side, a paired sash and a similar opening faced with glass block to leave level, and an 8-pane above a blocked door to the other. The outer end has two small sashes above one and a flush door with 4-pane over-light or louvres. A small box eaves on a bed-mould is carried round the whole.

VARIATIONS: Building 01 (Tangmere) has one storey only to left of centre, the result of aerial bombing in 1940, and the rear has two blocked openings and no glass block fill. Building 02 (Kenley) has smaller plain sashes in rebuilt jambs in bays 8 - 11 upper floor, front and bays 1 - 3 upper floor, rear. The service wing has to the rear plain casements, and the window above the door (with louvres) has been blocked in brick. Building 04 (Croydon) has 5 bays each side of centre, with 3-bay returned ends in 8-pane sashes, but the ground floor sash to bay 1 at the front is replaced by a steel casement, and on the left return steel replacements flank a blocked centre light to the ground floor. The service wing has slit windows each side, but retains 6-pane sashes to the outer end.

INTERIORS: original joinery including panelled doors. Dog leg staircases with simple steel balustrades.

HISTORY: The buildings are located at the north end of the domestic site, and immediately adjacent to the public highway (A 233), set in two parallel rows, following the curve in the road. In view of the many sustained attacks on the base, especially in the Battle of Britain, these buildings are surprisingly well retained; the loss of an upper floor to part of Tangmere block, however, is a poignant reminder of that period. This barracks format was devised in 1923, during the Trenchard Home Defence years, and developed with minor variations and extensions until the introduction of the 'H'-plan after 1938.

Biggin Hill acquired a reputation as the most famous fighter station in the world, primarily through its associations with the Battle of Britain, the first time in history that a nation had retained its freedom and independence through air power. It was developed as a key fighter station in the inter-war period, playing a critical role in the development of the air defence system - based on radar - that played a critical role in the Second World War. Of all the sites which became involved in The Battle of Britain, none have greater resonance in the popular imagination than those of the sector airfields within these Groups which bore the brunt of the Luftwaffe onslaught and, in Churchill's words, 'on whose organisation and combination the whole fighting power of our Air Force at this moment depended'. It was 11 Group, commanded by Air Vice Marshall Keith Park from his underground headquarters at RAF Uxbridge, which occupied the front line in this battle, with its 'nerve centre' sector stations at Northolt, North Weald, Biggin Hill, Tangmere, Debden and Hornchurch taking some of the most sustained attacks of the battle, especially between 24 August and 6 September when these airfields and later aircraft factories became the Luftwaffe's prime targets.

For further details of the history of the site, see description for Station Headquarters.

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