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Description: G1 Building at the Royal Aircraft Establishment
Date Listed: 20 August 1979
English Heritage Building ID: 137831
OS Grid Reference: SU8703354423
OS Grid Coordinates: 487033, 154423
Latitude/Longitude: 51.2823, -0.7535
991/2/8 BELSIZE ROAD
G1 BUILDING AT THE ROYAL AIRCRAFT ESTA
Headquarters of No 1 (Airship) Company of the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers. 1911. Roughcast over steel frame with brick infill panels; gabled pantile roof (replacing original diagonally-set asbestos cement tiles) and rendered brick stacks. Rectangular plan, incorporating 2-storey HQ building to left (S) of a single-storey balloon equipment store.
EXTERIOR: Bracketed flat canopy over main entrance to left of centre which has double-leaf bolection-panelled doors with small-paned overlight. HQ building is divided into 5 bays by pilasters that express the steel frame: horned 6/6-pane sashes except 4 steel-framed windows with centre-hung casements and two associated doors with overlights that served the area to the right of the main entrance and which functioned as an extension of the balloon store. Similar sashes to left-hand and rear elevations, with steel-framed windows to ground floor of latter. The balloon store is similarly divided into bays, the front elevation having 6 steel-framed windows with centre-hung casements. Hipped to right end, the return wall having 2 similar windows and the rear having 4 double doors with overlights and one original steel-framed window.
INTERIOR: steel-framed roof to balloon store. Entrance hall of HQ building has half-glazed inner porch doors, open-well stair with stick balusters and wreathed handrail and is lit through spine wall by steel-framed window adjacent to tall door with small-paned overlight to rear office. The HQ area has timber skirtings, architraves, dados moulded into plaster walls and chimneypieces of typically eclectic classical designs for the period.
HISTORY: This building, built in 1911 as the HQ and store for the Royal Engineers' Air Battalion, marks a nationally-important place in the development of military aviation in Britain. Farnborough, by virtue of the activities of army balloonists and aeronauts in the last decades of the 19th and first decades of the 20th centuries, occupies a place of prime importance in the development of military aviation. No site in the United States is comparable, the closest comparison in a European context being Chalais Meudon north of Paris, where in 1793 a Military Balloon Research Centre was established within the grounds of a Le Notre park. It was renamed the Military Balloon Establishment in 1877, and a number of structures - including a magnificent iron-framed hall brought from the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878 - associated with this phase of its history have been protected by the French government, in addition to the 1930s wind tunnel and other structures associated with its use as a research establishment. It was not until 1879 that the Royal Engineers formed a Balloon Equipment Store at Woolwich Arsenal, which was subsequently moved to Chatham (1882), then Aldershot (1890) and finally Farnborough (1905). Its operational and training units were combined as the Balloon Factory in April 1906, the same year seeing the construction of the army's first airship shed at the Balloon School's new factory (demolished 1965) and 1910-11 the erection of two more airship sheds (moved to Kingsnorth and demolished c1930) adjacent to a new 'Portable Airship Shed'. The latter, a canvas-covered shed comprising in section a parabolic arch made up of rivetted box-section lattice units, was dismantled and now survives in two halves, the bottom half in a fabric shop and the upper half in a forge and foundry building: both of these buildings, erected in 1916-17 for the Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, are now listed grade II (as Buildings Q27 and Q25). Despite the fact that the country's total of 6 airship sheds had increased to 61 by November 1918, only the examples at Farnborough and at Cardington have survived. These are survivals of importance and great rarity in a European context, particularly in view of the lack of survivals in Germany - which led the field in this technology. The balloon house of 1892-3 - moved to Farnborough from Aldershot - was listed in 1979 and demolished ten years later.
The Royal Engineer's Balloon Section had built the first British Army aeroplane, flown in October 1908 by the American Samuel Cody, who had worked on the development of kites and balloons at Farnborough. Under R.B. Haldane, whose tenure of office as Secretary of State for War between 1906 and 1911 witnessed the triumph of the materiel school of warfare in the debate concerning the future direction of Britain's armed forces, aviation was put on a scientific footing. An Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (which as the Aeronautical Research Council continued until 1980) was established in order to advise government and oversee research at the National Physical Laboratory and the Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. The formation of the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers, in April 1911, formally recognised the role of military flying and the HQ of No 1 (Airship) Company was immediately established on the site: this unit became 1 Squadron of the RFC (the Royal Flying Corps) on its formation on May 13 1912, and served as the Royal Naval Air Service's Airship Detachment until the completion of Kingsnorth in March 1915. Whilst No 2 (Aeroplane) Company was based at Larkhill in Wiltshire (where a hangar of 1910 has survived), No 1 (Airship) Company at Farnborough was responsible for the training and instruction of men in handling kites, balloons and aeroplanes. The Battalion's headquarters building (Building G1) is an outstanding and unique survival from this period, comprising a school building with attached balloon mobilisation store. One hangar (The Black Sheds, qv) survives from the pre-First Word War air station.
Listing NGR: SU8762456569
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.