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Description: Lawrence House, Calshot Activities Centre
Date Listed: 1 December 2005
Building ID: 1418345
OS Grid Reference: SU4884102109
OS Grid Coordinates: 448841, 102109
Latitude/Longitude: 50.8165, -1.3081
Lawrence House, Calshot Activities Centre
Barrack block. 1927. Stretcher bond brick to cavity walling, gabled slate roof with brick stacks.
Plan: dormitory rooms to either side of central entrance and stairhall.
Exterior: 2 storeys; 13-window west front. Entrance has date plaque over keyed semi-circular arch with voussoirs and bracketed cornice at impost level; late C20 glazed door with overlight; door set in slightly-projecting bay with ramped cornice. 12-pane sashes set under concrete lintels with stooled cills; two small lights to left of entrance, and smaller 8-pane sashes to end bays.
History: This externally little-altered building relates to the II* listed seaplane hangars at Calshot, which date from between 1913 and 1918 and which exemplify as a unique evolved group the remarkable development in aero engine and aircraft technology in this period better than any other site in Britain and probably Europe.
Built on a spit projecting into the Solent, which had developed as a coastal fort from the building of the Henrician fort in 1538, Calshot was opened as a Royal Naval Air Service base in March 1913. It then comprised three seaplane sheds, nearby Coastguard Cottages providing quarters for the men. It is the best-preserved of a chain of bases whose construction was encouraged by Winston Churchill in his position as First Lord of the Admiralty: Churchill himself made his first seaplane flight from Calshot in March 1913, piloted by Tommy Sopwith (who later taught Churchill to fly). It became a key coastal base in defence of Home Waters during the First World War, especially in anti-submarine work: this work - in addition to its early development of aerial bombing - placed the RNAS in the forefront of the strategic development of air power during the First World War. A narrow-gauge railway was run from Eaglehurst - next to the principal domestic quarters - to Calshot in order to aid its expansion and associated building works from 1917. Retained for use as a naval and navigational school immediately after the war, Calshot became well-known between 1927 and 1931 as the base of the RAF High Speed Flight, the Schneider Trophy being won by the British team in September 1931. The Trophy was one of the principal incentives to the development of aviation technology in the inter-war period, the winning aircraft in 1931 - the Supermarine S.6B seaplane, powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin engine - being one of a series designed by R J Mitchell which culminated in the Spitfire. There are no sites in Britain which relate so clearly to this episode in aviation. It became a training and repair base for Sunderland flying boats during the Second World War, Air Sea Rescue being another key role. The station closed in 1961, and the hangar group is now in use as part of one of the largest Outdoor Adventure Centres in Britain.
(Christopher Ashworth, Action Stations 5 (Military Stations of the South-West), Cambridge, 1982, pp.48-52; E Hawkes, The Schneider Trophy Contests (1913-1931), Southport, 1945; Norman Barfield, R J Mitchell, 1895-1937, British Aerospace, 1990; A History of Calshot, Hampshire County Council, 1999; Operations Record Books, PRO AIR 28/120-124)
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.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.