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Historic England Research Records

Hangars 72, 76 And 186

Hob Uid: 1508507
Location :
Wiltshire
Upavon
Grid Ref : SU1558554685
Summary : A group of hangars that are part of RAF Camp Upavon. Consisting of west to east, Hangar 72, Building 188, Building 159, Hangar 76 and Hangar 186. Hangar 72 was built to the same standard specifications as hangar 76, though has undergone more extensive alterations following a recent refurbishment. It has been fully re-clad with corrugated metal and its brick annexes have been rendered. The brick garage (building 188) standing adjacent to its rear, has a rectangular plan and accommodates space for five vehicles. The former watch office for the duty pilot now functions as a club house for a local gliding club (building 159). Hangar 76 is a 7-bay wide Type A shed with a steel frame and roof structure and concrete walls, with those to the annexes in brick. The original roof covering to the multi-pitched roof, including its gables visible along the north and south elevations, and the sloping roofs to its annexes, which are of varied height, have been replaced with corrugated metal. Hangar 186 has 12 bays constructed of a steel frame and steel roof trusses with reinforced concrete walls. The roof covering, formerly asbestos slate or sheets, has recently (2009) been replaced by corrugated metal. It has a series of single-storey flat-roofed annexes along its north and south elevations which housed former squadron offices, workshops, and rest rooms.
More information : RAF Upavon has a long and complex history. It is one of three airfields situated around the Army training ground at Salisbury Plain which relate to the crucial formative phase in the development of military aviation in Europe, prior to the First World War. The selection of Upavon was a direct result of the Committee for Imperial Defence's decision to unify the army and naval arms of the British military aviation within one organisation. Opened in June 1912, one month after the formation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), Upavon was established as the Central Flying School (CFS) for the RFC, under Capt. Godfrey Paine RN. The temporary buildings of 1912 were replaced from 1913, as pupil numbers and demand for improved accommodation rose. The CFS ran an advanced course for military purposes, as pilots had already completed the elementary stage before arriving here. Upavon, like the nearby sites of Larkhill and Netheravon, offered an ideal hill-top position for military flying, close to the army training areas on Salisbury Plain. The first pilot's certificate issued at the end of the first training course was to Capt (Brevet Major) Hugh Trenchard, who by January 1918 had risen to the post of Assistant Commander at Upavon and went on to become the RAF's first Chief of Air Staff. In 1924 the CFS at Upavon was replaced by Wittering in Lincolnshire.

According to the applicant, night flying and aviation fighting training was given at Upavon between 1926 and 1934. The CFS was re-established at Upavon in 1935 after the airfield had been briefly used as a Fleet Air Arm shore base. By 1935 a large building programme was underway. Upavon was visited by King George VI on 9 May 1938, and from 1939 to 1940, the talented and charismatic fighter pilot Douglas Bader attended a flying course at Upavon. During the Second World War, from 1942 to 1945 the base continued as a flying school, by then known as Flying Training School. After the Second World War, in 1946, Upavon became a transport base, and in the summer of 1948, 38 Group, who were based at Upavon, were called in to support 46 Group in operation `Plainfare¿ in order to sustain the Berlin Airlift.

There are conflicting claims over the construction date of the three interwar hangars at Upavon: the MOD claims all three were constructed in c1939, whilst the applicant claims they date from 1927 with one hangar (building 186) added slightly later. An MOD aerial photograph of 1913 and the Ordnance Survey map published in 1924, show Upavon airfield with a row of 7 earlier hangars occupying the site of the current three aircraft sheds. As with most military sites, RAF Upavon is not marked on the Ordnance Survey map published in 1939, in anticipation of a possible enemy attack.

Hangars 72 and 76 at Upavon can be identified as standard type A aircraft sheds. This type was designed in 1924 and first introduced by the RAF in 1925. The Type A hangar was the first of the permanent end-opening hangar of the interwar period, and at the time was the largest aircraft shed ever constructed. Type A hangars remained to be built until 1940.

From the mid-1930s, a larger, new type of shed was developed due to the expansion of the RAF: the Type C hangar. Hangar 186 at Upavon can be identified as this type. There are two main variations: the 1934 and the 1938 edition. The earlier edition has gabled roof rafters similar to earlier hangars, with walls clad in brick or stone, and one patent glazed window to each bay. The architectural treatment of the earlier Type C hangars, in order to ameliorate their large industrial appearance, was more carefully considered and resulted in the adoption of the `Moderne¿ style. In 1935 the roof of the 1934 Type C was changed to a hipped shape, and from 1936 reinforced concrete was also used for the walls. Hangar 186 at Upavon was most likely built to this adapted Type C design, and thus probably dates from c1936-7, at around the time the Handing Flight was being established. The later edition of 1938, also known as Type C Protected, was designed to be more economical on materials, and was built with steel cantilevered roof frames clad with asbestos sheeting exposed above the doors. Walls were built in either brick or concrete with the top area in patent glazing. Both editions of the Type C hangars were no longer built after the early 1940s because during the Second World War the RAF needed hangars of a lighter construction that were
fast and easy to assemble.

The former watch office for the duty pilot at Upavon and the brick garages to its rear are situated between hangars 72 and 76, and although they are probably built around the same time, in circa 1926-7, their exact construction date could not be established.

Hangar 186 has 12 bays constructed of a steel frame and steel roof trusses with reinforced concrete walls. The roof covering, formerly asbestos slate or sheets, has recently been replaced by corrugated metal. It has a series of single-storey flat-roofed annexes along its north and south elevations which housed former squadron offices, workshops, and rest rooms. The multi-pitched roof is formed of a series of transverse ridges with hipped ends, set behind a tall parapet, and with a deep apron above the doors. The long north and south elevations are in plain concrete, though that to the south has recently been clad in corrugated metal. Both elevations have 10 large horizontally-placed 32-pane fixed steel casement windows at mid-height. The distinctive, slightly projecting end bays have central, tall and long 12-pane steel lights with horizontal bars, set high above an entrance with a single metal door. The end bays to the south elevation, originally concrete, have recently been clad in corrugated metal. The end elevations to the east and west have full-height sliding doors of six leaves constructed in bolted sheet steel. Originally, each leaf had a horizontal 16-pane metal casement window to the top, but these have recently been covered up by corrugated metal sheets, their glazing removed. Although the steel runners of the doors remain visible, their original opening mechanism and gantries have not survived. New smaller openings with metal shutters have been created by keeping the sliding doors permanently ajar. The horizontal multi-pane metal casements and metal doors to the lean-to annexes to the north elevation have survived intact though those to the south elevation have all have been replaced. Inside, the original concrete floor and exposed steel roof structure survive, including the underlining of the roof slopes in softwood boarding. No other internal fixtures or features remain, and the internal space has now been subdivided into offices with brick and concrete block walls.

Hangar 76 is a 7-bay wide Type A shed with a steel frame and roof structure and concrete walls, with those to the annexes in brick. The original roof covering to the multi-pitched roof, including its gables visible along the north and south elevations, and the sloping roofs to its annexes, which are of varied height, have been replaced with corrugated metal. The east and west elevations have full height, four leaf sliding doors with original metal gantries to either side. The bottom half of the doors are clad in bolted steel, the upper half has been re-clad in corrugated metal. The strip of patent glazing (9 lights to each bay) to the long elevation has survived, including the original steel sashes to the painted brick annexes. Inside its exposed roof structure has survived, though its originally open space has been subdivided.

Hangar 72 was built to the same standard specifications as hangar 76, though has undergone more extensive alterations following a recent refurbishment. It has been fully re-clad with corrugated metal and its brick annexes have been rendered. The original metal sashes to the annexes have been replaced with plastic casement windows. Its sliding doors have been re-clad and smaller openings have been inserted. Inside a number of offices have been created with concrete block walls, and the timber boarding to the roof has been replaced with metal boards.

The former watch office for the duty pilot now functions as a club house for a local gliding club (building 159). It is likely that it was built when the two Type A hangars were introduced in c1926-7, and according to Francis (1996, p 118-9) it was later extended. The single storey building is constructed in whitewashed red brick, and has an L-shaped plan, with a surprisingly domestic appearance, due to the two canted bay windows to the south front. Since 1993 (see Francis, 1996, p 118), the covering of the double pitched roof has been replaced with corrugated metal, its brick chimney has been lost, and all its windows and doors have been replaced with plastic ones. The interior could not be inspected.

The brick garage (building 188) standing adjacent to its rear, has a rectangular plan and accommodates space for five vehicles. It has corrugated metal shutters placed under a plat band and tall parapet along the west side with other elevations blind. This may be the former flare path trolley shelter described by Francis (as above), though this could not be verified.

In line with English Heritage's Selection Guide for the listing of military buildings published in March 2007 and with government policy, it is clear that in cases of mass-produced or frequently encountered military structures and/or buildings, much greater selectivity is required and only the best and most representative surviving examples will be considered for listing. Where a military site has strong historic associations or where a building contributes to the understanding of certain defence policy or technological development, it ought to be well preserved and it should survive in a form which directly illustrates and confirms this historic link.

The important role of RAF Upavon within the development of military aviation and its clear historic associations with a number of nationally and even internationally important events has been widely understood and acknowledged. The domestic site at Upavon has survived remarkably well, containing good and representative buildings, a number of which are listed including one at Grade II*. The buildings forming the technical site at RAF Upavon clearly contribute to the special interest of the buildings in the domestic part, and to the understanding of the historic development of the airfield as a whole. Although these hangars must have been used during the later years of the CFS, and during significant events such as the Berlin Airlift, they did replace a number of earlier hangars which were used during the earlier years of the CFS. The current hangars are of a standard, mass produced design (in 2001 approximately 196 Type C hangars remained on 66 sites owned by the Ministry of Defence), and as such greater selectivity is required when assessing them for listing, their level of intactness being an important deciding factor. Hangar 72 has been extensively altered resulting in the loss of most of its historic fabric and features. Although the roof and frame to hangar 76 has been retained, it has been subdivided internally and its recent cladding with corrugated metal has greatly affected its original character. It is true that Hangar 186, especially because of its surviving north elevation in the `Moderne¿ style, makes a positive contribution to the overall appearance of the airfield, and it has survived reasonably intact. However the re-cladding of the entire roof, gables and south elevation, the loss of all four gantries, and the window replacements to the southern annexes, have greatly affected its overall level of interest. When comparing the hangars at RAF Upavon with listed examples of the same type, such as the grade II Type A and early Type C hangars at RAF Bicester and RAF Scampton, it is clear these show a greater degree of intactness, both individually and as a planned group. As such, in a national context, the three hangars at Upavon can not be recommended for listing.

The former watch office, as clearly illustrated by the photograph taken in 1993 by Paul Francis, has since undergone significant change. The recent new roof covering in corrugated metal resulted in the loss of its chimney stack, and all windows and doors have been replaced with uPVC. This has greatly affected its original appearance, and although the building contributes to the understanding of the historic development and original functioning of the airfield, this does not outweigh the level of loss of its historic fabric. The garages standing to its rear appear to have remained intact, and if they are indeed the former flare path trolley shelter mentioned by Francis, it is potentially a rare survival. However, it is important to assess this building as part of a group with the hangars and the former watch office, as its historic function is intrinsically linked to the original function of the technical site as a whole. Unfortunately, as stated above, these buildings have undergone significant alterations, and this has adversely affected the interest of the garages. As such the garages and the former watch office can not be recommended for listing on a national level.
(1)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : English Heritage Listing File
Source details : Adviser's report on case 167274, in file 506180/001.
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : 1926-1939 built between
Monument End Date : 1939
Monument Start Date : 1926
Monument Type : Hangar, Garage, Watch Office
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Late 20th Century
Display Date : 1996 altered after
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date : 1996
Monument Type : Hangar, Garage, Watch Office
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : No List Case
External Cross Reference Number : 167274
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 15 SE 125
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :