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The Armoury and blast walls at former RAF West Raynham

A Grade II Listed Building in Raynham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.7893 / 52°47'21"N

Longitude: 0.7354 / 0°44'7"E

OS Eastings: 584550

OS Northings: 324810

OS Grid: TF845248

Mapcode National: GBR R7S.0RQ

Mapcode Global: WHKQB.84GZ

Plus Code: 9F42QPQP+P5

Entry Name: The Armoury and blast walls at former RAF West Raynham

Listing Date: 17 March 2023

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1483925

ID on this website: 101483925

Location: North Norfolk, NR21

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Raynham

Built-Up Area: West Raynham Airfield

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk


The Armoury to former RAF West Raynham, comprising two-storey offices and an attached single-storey building with workshops and armouries, and separate blast walls.


The Armoury to former RAF West Raynham, comprising two-storey offices and an attached single-storey building with workshops and armouries, and separate blast walls.
DATE: 1936, extended between 1954 and 1969.
ARCHITECT: P M Stratton, based on a 1934 pitched-roof design by A Bulloch.
Materials: concrete, with steel doors and windows.
PLAN: the building has an irregular plan-form. The original part of the building forms an H-plan, with the two-storey architectural frontage of the building facing north-west. For ease of reference this will be referred to as the west of the building, and the rest of the building described in accordance. The single-storey range forming the eastern part of the H is wider than the west. It extends in an L-shape to the south and east.

EXTERIOR: all parts of the building have flat roofs. The front elevation of the two-storey office building (the western range) is mostly symmetrical with steel-framed windows of various sizes and a central entrance of double doors under a semi-circular flat concrete canopy. On the ground floor, to the right (south) of the front door, are small windows with glass bricks and steel hatches beneath them, used for handing weapons in and out. There are three small lights above the windows. The north and south sides of the office range, and the linking range (forming the centre of the H) also contain steel-framed windows to both storeys. There are steel double doors in the south end.

The north end of the single-storey range contains two sets of steel doors (giving access to separate armoury rooms inside). There is a detached blast wall in front of the building at this location.

The east elevation contains three steel doors, a single and two double doors, also providing access to separate armoury rooms. There is another detached blast wall located here. At the southern end the return of the attached range contains concertina-folding garage doors.

The south elevation is the 1960s extended area and contains six 15-light steel-framed windows with a concertina-folding garage door to the right (east) and a slightly lower section with double doors.

INTERIOR: both the office and the workshop ranges retain their original plan-form. The office building has a central entrance and hall leading to a corridor with rooms of various sizes originally used as offices and classrooms. The AML Bombing Teacher was located on the ground floor with its target floor located in the small basement room which is reached by stairs with plain steel balusters. The stairs also go up to the first floor to a cantilevered landing. The basement room has a steel door. There would have been a large opening in the ceiling to allow the projection with the AML Bombing Teacher but it has been filled in.

The first floor contains a series of rooms either side of a spine corridor. The projection room of the AML Bombing Teacher would have been here (the first room adjacent to the stairs) and the station photographic section with separate rooms for the different parts of the photographic process were housed here. Most internal doors are original four-panel doors, a few have been removed from their hinges. Some are sliding doors. There are no other fittings of note.

In the ground floor of the office building is an internal door into the single-storey part of the building: the main space is a large central workshop, lit by a central lantern light. Towards the north the back of the workshop contains the brick built, canopied bar area from the 1980s. Behind this are rooms with steel external doors, originally for storing ammunition.

At the east end of the workshop area is a lobby with a store area to the left (north) and steps up to the room that contained the camera obscura to the right (south). There is a circular concrete cover in the ceiling where the camera obscura was located.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are detached blast walls outside the north east corner of the building, one in front of the north elevation and the other in front of the east.


Construction of RAF West Raynham commenced in 1936, as part of the RAF expansion scheme, and officially opened in April 1939. As built, the site conformed to the typical layout of the 'Expansion Period' aerodrome, consisting of a roughly rectangular grass surfaced landing ground with runways in triangular plan, with the technical site, hangars and accommodation blocks grouped close together at the north-west corner; bomb stores were located to the south-east.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the base was converted to accommodate Very Heavy Bombers (VHBs), one of only five airfields in the country to be modified for this use. This necessitated the construction of a new Air Traffic Control building (ATC). Not all works were eventually carried out at West Raynham, in particular, the runways are not as long as specified for VHB stations.

Post-war, RAF West Raynham became the RAF's premier fighter development station. The Central Fighter Establishment was established here, its primary roles included the development of fighter tactics and aircrew training. Unlike the other VHB stations, it remained under RAF, rather than USAF, command. The station maintained both an operational and training role until its closure. From the mid-1960s it also accommodated Bloodhound Mk II surface to air guided missiles, located within its own compound on the East side of the airfield. In 1983, it became the main centre for training operators of Rapier, a short-range air defence missile system, and home to units responsible for this system.

The station closed in 1994, although the Ministry of Defence did not dispose of it until 2006. Most of the Bloodhound Missile site was cleared. The VHB Control Tower was listed at Grade II in 2012 and later converted to a dwelling. Part of the site was converted to a business park.

The armoury was built in 1936 to the designs of P M Stratton, based on a 1934 pitched-roof design by A Bulloch. It had two distinct but internally-linked spaces: a two storey office block and a single storey workshop and armouries block. The building was positioned between Hangars 2 and 3 and located close to where work was carried out on the aircraft. The building had many functions as it contained photographic laboratories, a lecture room, a gas respirator workshop and armament instruction rooms, as well as arms storage facilities. It was designed to centralise Air Gunnery missile requirements of three bomber squadrons within a single building.

The two-storey office block contained the Air Ministry Laboratory (AML) Bombing Teacher and the station photographic section, with the first floor mostly used for various stages of photographic processing: analysis of photographs taken on flying missions was considered extremely important.

The AML Bombing Teacher, formerly called the “Vickers-Bygrave Bombing Teacher” was apparatus designed for the instruction in air navigation and bomb dropping techniques. The teaching took place in the basement room which was dark but had a whitened floor, onto which an aerial photograph was projected (from the first floor through holes in the ceiling of the ground floor and basement) showing recognisable ground features. There was a platform to represent the aircraft above, fitted with navigation and bomb sighting equipment. The image of the ground slowly moved towards the platform thus simulating the flight of the aircraft. The person under instruction was asked to open a switch to simulate the release of a bomb when the target appeared. There was a circle painted on the floor known as a ‘fixed trail point’ which marked the point on which the correctly aimed bomb should drop through. Any error could be seen by the difference in the position of the target and the fixed trail point.

The single storey range contained workshops and armouries and was also fitted with a Camera Obscura to be used for training pilots to fly straight courses, to find wind speed plus direction and for the simulation of level bombing. In the roof over part of the single-storey section was a large circular wide-angle glass lens through which the image of the aircraft was seen on a table. Aircraft overhead simulated release of a bomb with a flash of a magnesium bulb fitted to the aircraft. From the position of the image in relation to the focal centre and fixed target position on the table, the instructor could tell where the bomb would have fallen.

The two-storey building was modified at an unknown date: a separate room was created at the south-west corner, which could only be accessed from outside. The room to the right of the front door on the ground floor was blocked off internally, and a new set of steel double doors were inserted in the southern end wall. The three windows were replaced with smaller windows of glass bricks with steel hatches beneath them. This formed a discrete storage area for small arms which could be handed out through the hatches.

At an uncertain date between 1954 and 1969 the single storey range was extended to the south and east for servicing ADEN guns of Hunter aircraft.

Part of the single-storey range was used as a bar and social club from around the 1980s for both RAF staff and local people. In the C21 this part of the building became used for workshops and storage related to the business park use of the site. The two-storey range ceased to be used from around the 1990s.

Reasons for Listing

The Armoury at former RAF West Raynham, Norfolk, constructed in 1936, extended between 1954 and 1969, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* for its illustrative value as part of the RAF's expansion period, testifying to the Government's recognition in the inter-war period of the growing threat to British security, and to the increased investment in military aviation;
* for its multi-functional use and the important operational and training role it played;
* for its rarity as one of the best-preserved RAF armoury buildings nationally.

Architectural interest:

* for the quality of the 1930s office block designed in RAF “house style”;
* for the survival of original fixtures and fittings.

Group value:

* for its contribution to the overall importance of RAF West Raynham as an exemplar airfield.

External Links

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