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Hangar 4 at former RAF West Raynham

A Grade II Listed Building in Raynham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.7903 / 52°47'25"N

Longitude: 0.739 / 0°44'20"E

OS Eastings: 584790

OS Northings: 324929

OS Grid: TF847249

Mapcode National: GBR R7S.1P5

Mapcode Global: WHKQB.B457

Plus Code: 9F42QPRQ+4J

Entry Name: Hangar 4 at former RAF West Raynham

Listing Date: 17 March 2023

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1483967

ID on this website: 101483967

Location: North Norfolk, NR21

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Raynham

Built-Up Area: West Raynham Airfield

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk


A Type-C Aircraft Hangar with annexes housing stores, workshops and offices, constructed between 1936-1939 to Air Ministry drawings 5053/36 and 5054/36.


A Type-C Aircraft Hangar with annexes housing stores, workshops and offices, constructed between 1936-1939 to Air Ministry drawings 5053/36 and 5054/36.


The building is principally constructed of 14-inch reinforced concrete walls with a steel roof structure covered in asbestos slates.


The long, side elevation faces the flying field. At each end there are full-height steel doors, running to external gantries. The side elevations house annexes on the flying field side for squadron offices, and on the other side for workshops and stores.


The roof is concealed behind a parapet with a (later) metal balustrade. It comprises a series of transverse ridges with hipped ends, covered in asbestos cement slates.

The long side walls are built of plain concrete with a slightly bush-hammered surface. At mid-height are 10 large window openings separated by concrete piers, with late-C20 glazing replacing the original Crittal multi-pane casements. One bay at each end, also in concrete, is slightly brought forward in a 'Moderne' manner, and with a higher parapet; a tall single light with horizontal bars is centred to the bay. Facing the flying field, a very large number 4 is painted centrally at parapet level.

The end elevations have six full height and width steel doors, with replacement glazing at the top, under a deep, projecting rail which carries the rolling headgear. Beyond the opening a light steel lattice beam projects out and is carried by a light steel strutted support, with ground-stops for the doors. Above the doors, contained by the wing walls of the first bays, there is a deep apron with hanging asbestos-cement slates at the west end, at the east end the slates have been replaced with corrugated asbestos-cement sheet. The east doors also have a water tank added at high level. The western end has had a roller shutter insterted between the opened doors, which are otherwise fully retained.

There are single storey annexes on each of the long side elevations. The southern (office) annex has had every window and door replaced with uPVC units. The northern (workshop) annex has also had most of its doors and windows replaced with uPVC, though an earlier set of rubber doors has been retained at the central entrance and one doorway has been infilled. The north elevation is the most altered of the four hangars at West Raynham. An historic extension to the workshop annex runs along the three western bays, built of brick and covered in pebble-dash render. Six of the upper windows have been partly-infilled to accommodate post-WWII boiler units, installed by the USAF. A large amount of C21 mechanical equipment and plant has been erected on the north side of the building, with various flues and ducts running into and out of the hangar walls. At the eastern end of the north elevation is covered single-storey cage-like structure, possibly a store or dog kennel.


The principal interior space, the hangar itself, is twelve bays long and has no structural subdivisions. A large number of free-standing units have been created within the hangar as part of the building's C21 use as a manufacturing business. The complex lattice of roof girders remains visible, along with the roofing boards above it, some of which are stained from fire damage. There are four gantry cranes with surviving mechanisms at bays 2, 6, 7 and 11, capable of carrying either 1.5 tons or 6 tons as indicated by surviving signage. The steel structure supporting the roof is buried in the reinforced concrete walls, except for additional structural support in each of the end bays. The floor is formed of plain concrete.

Access to the annexes is gained through multiple doorways on the north and south sides of the building. Centrally on each side there are massive metal fire doors which originally lead directly outside, and now to enclosed spaces.

The northern annexes originally housed workshops, stores and storage tanks. They have undergone various other uses since then, but retain much of their original layout as well as heavy metal doors, radiators, and windows. Some historic workshop benches survive. One room with a metal door and a spy-hole may have historically been an armoury.

The southern annexes, facing the flying field, were originally intended to house squadron offices. Most of the plan form has been lost as these areas have been modified to accommodate C21 open plan offices and show rooms.


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. The technical site, hangars and accommodation blocks were grouped close together at the north-west corner. Bomb stores were located to the south-east. Until the onset of perimeter dispersal from the late 1930s all the aircraft of an operational airfield - typically an omni-directional flying field of 1000 yards diameter - would be accommodated in its hangars.

The hangars were built as two pairs in a long arc at one edge of the flying field, with space set aside for a fifth hangar if needed. The steel frames for the roofs were constructed before the erection of the concrete walls. Steel girders were delivered to East Rudham station and then dumped on the airfield to be pulled into place by tractor. The walls were raised in shuttered lifts, with all the concrete poured by hand from wheelbarrows over the course of a single day per lift.

The design of the hangars is attributed to A Bulloch, an Air Ministry architect. They conform to drawing numbers 5053/36 and 5054/36 and were originally called Type-C Aircraft Sheds. They became the standard hangar design for the post-1934 expansion period, with 155 built in total. Their plan allows for workshops and squadron offices to be built either side of the main hangar space. Its dimensions (300ft long, 150ft span and clear height of 35ft), were intended to accommodate 100-ft span aircraft, enabling new specifications to be issued to manufacturers by the Air Ministry. This new design provided a completely clear interior space of 45,000 square feet without any internal structural supports, something earlier hangar types had never achieved. Its hammered walls of reinforced concrete were also an innovation, departing from earlier brick-faced designs which were seen to be less safe against the damage wrought in the event of enemy attack.

Two paved runways were constructed in 1943, replacing the originally grass-covered flying field. The only buildings air-side of the hangars are the contemporary watch-office, and the later (Grade II listed) Air Traffic Contol (ATC) building.

During the Second World War the hangars were camouflaged with huge hessian screens attached to their sides. Nevertheless, RAF West Raynham endured several direct attacks by enemy forces. The first of these began at 05 44am on 10 July 1940. A lone enemy aircraft dropped 21 bombs on the airfield. Hangar 1 was struck, causing a fire which burnt a portion of the roof, destroyed three Avro Ansons and a Gloster Gladiator, and damaged three Fairey Battles and an Avro Tutor. It was one of the first enemy air raids on the UK of the Second World War.

Raynham again came under attack multiple times in October and November 1940, and February 1941. On 7 March 1941 a Do 215 Luftwaffe bomber attacked the airfield, causing some damage to Hangar 1, beginning a small fire, and breaking glass in the Officers’ Mess.

Two further attacks took place on 11 April 1941. At 04 20am a dive-bomber dropped a salvo of eight bombs between Hangar 4 and the number 3 petrol installation to its rear. Damage was caused to the roof and windows of the hangar and two aircraft.

The week of 5 May 1941 saw sustained attacks at the airfield. The final attack took place on the night of 31 July 1941 when three 500lb bombs were dropped, two of which fell to the rear of Hangar 4 but, apart from craters, caused no damage.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the base was converted to accommodate Very Heavy Bombers (VHB), 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).

Post Second World War, West Raynham became the RAF's premier fighter development station. The Central Fighter Establishment was based here, its primary roles included the development of fighter tactics and aircrew training. The station maintained both an operational and training role until its closure and is notable for the presence of Bloodhound and Rapier missile defence systems. In 1983 it became the main centre for training Rapier operators.

RAF West Raynham closed in 1994, although the Ministry of Defence did not dispose of it until 2006. Since that time all the hangars have been repurposed for industrial uses, with Hangar 4 used by a manufacturing business.

Reasons for Listing

Hangar 4 at former RAF West Raynham, constructed between 1936-1939 to Air Ministry drawings 5053/36 and 5054/36, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* for its evocation of the progressive architecture of the 1930s, found in its moderne form, steel and concrete structure, and rejection of ornament;
* for the high degree of intactness identifiable in its original core elements: the open volumes of the airplane shed, sliding doors and gantry pylons, workshops and offices.
* as a good example of Type-C hangar design, a significant development in the provision of vast unfettered interior spaces without any internal structural supports.

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 continual operational role during the entire period of the Second World War and Cold War.
* as a physical witness to the impact of enemy attacks on British airfields.

Group value:

* for its contribution to the overall importance of RAF West Raynham as an exemplar airfield and functional relationship with the other listed buildings at the site;
* as part of the monumental arc of four listed hangars at the edge of the flying field.

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