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Latitude: 51.917 / 51°55'1"N
Longitude: -1.1476 / 1°8'51"W
OS Eastings: 458722
OS Northings: 224613
OS Grid: SP587246
Mapcode National: GBR 8X4.YDX
Mapcode Global: VHCX4.224S
Entry Name: Building No 22 (Central Heating Plant)
Listing Date: 1 December 2005
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1391630
English Heritage Legacy ID: 496022
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)
1714/0/10050 RAF Bicester: Domestic Site
01-DEC-05 Building No 22 (Central Heating Plant)
Central heating plant, with fuel store and garaging. 1939. By the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings, to drawing number 6217/39. Flemish bond brickwork, concrete flat roofs with asphalt.
PLAN: A stark cube of brickwork housing the main plant, from which rises, off-centre to the NE side, a slightly stepped brick shaft with water tanks. To the rear a large enclosure, formerly for coal, contained in high brick walls. This area now has 2 oil storage cylinders, each of 40,000 litres, and a large (later) pair of garages with single-slope roof.
EXTERIOR: The power house has steel casements in 4 lights, with pivoting openings on three sides, set high, and the water tower has narrow lights above a panelled door, in stepped recessed brick jambs and a small flat concrete hood; to the left are 3 narrow lights above a wide doorway with louvres. The tower is T-shaped on plan, with slight stepped recesses at upper levels, in typical Art Deco fashion. The fuel area walls are set on a high rendered plinth. At the time of survey (April 1998) still in original use.
INTERIOR: Not accessible, but basically one large, high space.
HISTORY: This building comprises a key element in the development of this uniquely well-preserved and historically important site. It is a well-preserved example of a building of considerable architectural character, grouped with the contemporary Institute (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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