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Flying Boat Hangar, Hythe and Dibden

Description: Flying Boat Hangar

Grade: II
Date Listed: 28 June 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1403146

OS Grid Reference: SU4279807624
OS Grid Coordinates: 442798, 107624
Latitude/Longitude: 50.8665, -1.3932

Locality: Hythe and Dibden
Local Authority: New Forest District Council
County: Hampshire
Country: England
Postcode: SO45 6GJ

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Explore more of the area around Hythe and Dibden, Hampshire at Explore Britain.

Listing Text


Flying Boat Hanger or Shed built 1917 to 1918 and designed by HM Office of Works under Sir Frank Baines.

Reason for Listing

The Flying Boat Hangar at Hythe is recommended for designation at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* The hangar is an early, largely intact example of an unusual type of flying boat shed, and its sawtooth-profile northlight roof appears to be unique.
* The hangar has special historical interest in its production of flying boats such as Southamptons, Supermarine Seagulls and Walruses which mark the high point of flying boat aviation between the wars, and with the introduction of the air mail service to Britain.
* The roof construction of this enormous hangar displays a stage in the development of hangars and other manufacturing workshops in solving the problem of spanning large surface areas without the need for intervening columns obstructing a large floor area.
* It stands on Southampton Water, an area with particularly strong associations with flying boats, and is close to the related complex at Calshot.


The hangar was built during the First World War for the construction of flying boats for the RAF. During the First World War the company of May, Harden & May of Hythe occupied a ship building yard at Shore Road Hythe, and were building Felixstowe flying boats for the Royal Naval Air Service and subsequently for the RAF. On the southern side of the shipyard was a large private house called Winterton Hall, which the War Office took over and demolished, and the Admiralty built what became the Hythe Flying Boat Depot. The Depot was constructed by John Molem and Co. between 1917 and 1918, and consisted of a large construction hangar, concrete apron, and a slipway into Southampton Water.

The National Archive (NA MUN4/997) shows that the seaplane shed was designed in the office of the distinguished architect Sir Frank Baines and was overseen by him. Sir Frank Baines is famous for the design of Thames House (1929-1930) in London which became the headquarters of MI5. He later became the architect heading Her Majesty's Office of Works and was involved in engineering work to preserve the roof structure of Westminster Palace amongst other major conservation projects.

A number of the most famous flying boats produced in Britain between the wars were constructed in this hangar. The large size of the shed at Hythe is important as it demonstrates a new trend towards building bigger aircraft. This fact is reflected when May, Harden & May took over the management of the facility for the construction of the large Felixstowe flying boats and subsequently the Fairey Atalanta. There are other early flying boat hangars at Calshot, not far from Hythe and near the mouth of Southampton Water, which form an outstanding group dating to 1914 -1918, most of which are now listed Grade II*. The large sheds at Calshot were also producing aircraft of large size. In September 1925 the Hythe hangar was taken over by the Supermarine works; the Southampton firm famous for the racing aircraft which won the Schneider Trophy between the wars and for the development of the Spitfire which played such an important part in the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. Supermarine produced the Mark 1 Southampton and Supermarine Southampton here which was based on a design by the famous designer of the Spitfire R J Mitchell; the large hangar was refurbished, and Mark 1 and Mark 2 Southamptons, Supermarine Seagulls and Walruses were assembled here, names significant in the history of flying boat aviation.

In 1928 Vickers took over Supermarine, but did not start producing aircraft again until 1935 when it manufactured Supermarine Stranraers for the RAF. This work lasted until 1938, and was followed by work on the Walrus flying boats until the operation was transferred to the Woolston works in 1939 and the aircraft production at the Hythe Works ceased.

In addition to the production of famous aircraft, the Hythe depot, including the hangar, was also involved in the introduction of the air mail service. In 1937 part of the Hythe Works had been leased to Imperial Airways as a maintenance depot for their Empire Flying Boats, and as Supermarine gradually used less of the site, Imperial Airways progressively took over more until, with the closure of the Works in 1939, they took complete control of the whole site. Imperial Airways had, through negotiations with the British Government, established the Empire Air Mail Scheme, which was an intercontinental air service linking the countries of the British Empire. This Scheme began in 1937, and the Supermarine hangar and other buildings were used for the maintenance of the new fleet of flying boats. Even when, with the advent of the Second World War, the Empire Service was transferred to Poole Harbour, the maintenance of the flying boats was retained at Hythe.

During the Second World War the Hythe site undertook work under contract for the War Department which included the repair, maintenance and modification of four Heinkel 115s which were used to take agents into German occupied areas.

When the war finished the British Overseas Air Corporation, the successor to Imperial Airways, brought their commercial flying operation to Hythe, but the company changed to land-based aircraft and in December 1949 the BOAC flying boat services ceased and the Hythe base was closed down.

In 1953 the base was taken over by the Royal Navy as a care and maintenance base for the minesweeper HMS Diligence, and remained as such until 1963 when it was closed again.

When France left NATO in 1966 the US army facility near La Rochelle was closed, and HMG offered the Hythe depot to the US army, an offer it accepted. The US Field Army Support Brigade/Combat Equipment Battalion - Hythe began occupation of the Hythe site in 1967, and used the base mainly for small boat repairs. This use continued until 2006. For administrative purposes all American bases in the UK need to have a British name, and the Hythe base became RAF Hythe.


Flying Boat Hanger or Shed built 1917 to 1918 and designed by HM Office of Works under Sir Frank Baines. The area covered by the hangar is nearly 7,000 square metres. There are a number of later additions which include; a re-clad brick building extension at the east end, further extensions and a tower on the south side. Internally the west end is occupied by a 1993 free standing blockwork building and a portacabin-type building at the east end.

EXTERIOR: The hangar is clad in painted corrugated steel with a saw tooth roof of four apexes with northlight glazing. It has, on its south, east and west elevations, raking angle-iron buttresses. Sliding doors open the whole of the north long axis of the hangar to the apron and there are also sliding doors in the south side. There are extensions to the hangar including, at the east end, a re-clad brick building extension which houses the workshops, toilets and boiler room, on the south side a boiler house, office extension and a tower have been added. These later extensions are not of special interest.

INTERIOR: The roof is supported on deep lattice trusses with stanchions and steel rakers. Internally the hangar has three bays which provide one large open area, and a fourth bay at the west end, occupied by a suite of workshops and offices built in 1993 of concrete blockwork. This blockwork building is free standing with no attachment to the 1917-1918 hangar which houses it. At the east end of the hangar is a portacabin-type building raised on scaffolding poles, which is also free standing.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.