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Latitude: 51.9173 / 51°55'2"N
Longitude: -1.1471 / 1°8'49"W
OS Eastings: 458755
OS Northings: 224651
OS Grid: SP587246
Mapcode National: GBR 8X4.QT3
Mapcode Global: VHCX4.22DJ
Entry Name: Building No 20 (Dining Room and Institute)
Listing Date: 1 December 2005
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1391629
English Heritage Legacy ID: 496021
Location: Caversfield, Cherwell, Oxfordshire, OX27
Civil Parish: Caversfield
Built-Up Area: Bicester
Traditional County: Oxfordshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire
Church of England Parish: Bicester with Caversfield
Church of England Diocese: Oxford
SP5824 SKIMMINGDISH LANE (SOUTH-WEST)
1714/0/10049 RAF Bicester: Domestic Site
01-DEC-05 Building No 20 (Dining Room and Instit
Dining rooms and leisure facilities. 1939, by J.H.Binge, architect to the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings (Drawing No 8055 and 2522/38). Flemish bond brickwork cavity walls, flat roofs with asphalt.
PLAN: A large complex of buildings, mostly in 2 storeys, with a broad symmetrical front range in wide H-plan, containing principal dining spaces and generous staircase halls at each end; recreation rooms above. To the rear is the kitchen with stores, and on the main axis a 2-storey office building with central throughway. To the right is a long low single storey wing, part of the original design, and to the left a straggling low range, mostly of later date. The ground floor interior has been opened up for later unrelated uses, but was at first in 2 principal dining spaces linked by sliding doors.
EXTERIOR: The main (SE) front is very formal, with central pair of part-glazed doors set to recessed and modulated jambs under a flat Art Deco canopy embracing a bay each side with window. Windows generally are steel casements with large horizontal panes, the central section in 9 bays, the middle 3 to the upper floor having projecting window jambs, the remainder to continuous lintel bands. The short forward returns at each side have 2 windows at each level, those to the right with continuous lintel and sill bands. The broad projecting ends have 3 bulls-eye lights with continuous brick voussoirs above central recessed paired panelled doors in heavy squared and recessed jambs. All 3 doors have had access ramps added. This front has a deep plinth in concrete blocks, brought to lower sill level, and a frieze band flares out to the flat roof edge. Returns each end include deep window casements. To the right is a wide 2-storey section stepping down to an 11-bay wing. The rear office unit is in 6 bays, symmetrical with steel casement, and wide central through-way. Set back, to its left, is the 3-sided raised clerestory lighting to the main kitchen.
INTERIOR: Plain principal space with at each end wide open-well staircases in concrete with terrazzo surfaces housed to closed strings; typical Art Deco flat steel rails to paired balusters and a hardwood swept handrail. Secondary staircases are similar. Access to basement air raid shelter.
HISTORY: This building comprises a key element in the development of this uniquely well-preserved and historically important site. It is an unusually well-preserved example of a building of considerable architectural character, grouped with the contemporary boiler house (qv) and 'H' barracks block (qqv) at an angle with and to the N of the earlier buildings. These 1938 type designs, with flat concrete roofs built for protection against incendiary devices, were in a more consciously modern style than earlier Expansion Period designs. They formed part of the Scheme M contracts placed in November 1938.
Bicester is the best-preserved of the bomber bases constructed as the principal arm of Sir Hugh Trenchard's expansion of the RAF from 1923, which was based on the philosophy of offensive deterrence. It retains, better than any other military airbase in Britain, the layout and fabric relating to both pre-1930s military aviation and the development of Britain's strategic bomber force - and the manner in which its expansion reflected domestic political pressures as well as events on the world stage - in the period up to 1939. It was this policy of offensive deterrence that essentially dominated British air power and the RAF's existence as an independent arm of the military in the inter-war period, and continued to determine its shape and direction in the Second World War and afterwards during the Cold War. The grass flying field still survives with its 1939 boundaries largely intact, bounded by a group of bomb stores built in 1938/9 and airfield defences built in the early stages of the Second World War. For much of the Second World War RAF Bicester functioned as an Operational Training Unit, training Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders as well as British air crews for service in Bomber Command. These OTUs, of which Bicester now forms the premier surviving example, fulfilled the critical requirement of enabling bomber crews - once individual members had trained in flying, bombing, gunnery and navigation - to form and train as units.
For further historical details see Building 16 (Officers' Quarters and Mess).
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