Description: Building No. 3 ('the Cinema'), Former King's Standing Radio Communications and Transmitter Station
Date Listed: 17 December 2007
English Heritage Building ID: 499506
OS Grid Reference: TQ4756829085
OS Grid Coordinates: 547568, 129085
Latitude/Longitude: 51.0422, 0.1036
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17-DEC-07 King's Standing
Building No. 3 ('The Cinema'), former
King's Standing radio communications a
nd transmitter station
Building No. 3, c.1942. Former transmitter hall, designed by Cecil Williamson, part of the former King's Standing radio communications and transmitter station.
MATERIALS: Red brick, concrete frame, glass bricks.
PLAN: Rectangular bi-partite building of eight bays oriented approximately north-south. Western section of one and half storeys; eastern section is single storey. Both with flat roofs divided by concrete cross ribs.
EXTERIOR: Entrance elevation to the north with decorative front with vertically laid bricks, and tripartite window with curved brick divisions and glass bricks. The entrance porch with projecting concrete hood and a curving glass brick rear wall which draws the visitor into the building through a pair of double doors to the east. These have wooden frames with glass panels. A roller-shutter door on the north elevation provides access to the eastern part of the building. The west elevation has a single, long, glass brick window with projecting slates running almost the entire length of this elevation. The east elevation divided into eight bays by shallow piers and has glass brick horizontal windows (without projecting slates) to the second and seventh bays. The central pair of bays have wooden louvres with small high windows and an inserted door. On the lower of the two flat roofs there are air ducts, and clerestory glazed brick windows on the wall behind lighting the eastern side of the transmitter hall. The south elevation has a further roller-shutter door to the east and small glass brick windows to the ground floor level, with a casement window and paired ventilation windows above. Access to the roof is via a wall fixed ladder.
INTERIOR: (Only partially inspected; other evidence from recent photographs and plans.) Decorative north entrance hall. This has plastered walls and ceilings, with a largely pastel colour scheme with understated gilding. In the entrance hall or lobby there is a half-spiral staircase around a circular column: this has a moulded top and photographic evidence reveals a mirrored upper surface which is presumed to survive. Curving stairs exhibit remnants of a pink and black colour scheme. There are gilded, cone-shaped, Art Deco wall up-lights at the top of the stairs. There is a decorative blind window to the staircase which conceals wall lights behind glazing. The frame of this blind window is ribbed and merges with the ribbed cornice beneath a subtly decorated plaster ceiling. At the top of the stairs between the pair of wall up-lights, double-doors with wooden frames and glazed panels lead to the transmitter hall at mezzanine level. This formerly housed transmitters known as ASPI 3 and ASPI 6. The hall is large with two small offices along the north wall for the shift engineers with glazed partition walls to allow viewing. It has a parquet floor and a longitudinal ceiling beams. Ground floor accommodation to the east was accessed from the transmitter hall by timber staircases down from the hall.
HISTORY: Winston Churchill approved the plans for the King's Standing radio communications and transmitter station site in 1941. It was developed in 1941-42 under the control of the Political Warfare Executive (a branch of the British intelligence services). The primary 600kw transmitter was the biggest and most powerful transmitter in the world at that time and so was codenamed 'Aspidistra', shortened to Aspi, after Gracie Fields' 1928 song 'The Biggest Aspidistra in the World'.
The station became operational in early November 1942 when its first transmission was pre-recorded speeches by President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower on the Operation Torch landings in North Africa. The station was used by the BBC to broadcast its European service and by the Political Warfare Executive to broadcast 'black propaganda' (i.e. the sending of disinformation) from January 1943 to Germany. The black propaganda broadcasts were significant in making the German population believe that the broadcasts were coming from genuine German radio stations. The broadcasts were therefore able to influence behaviour and disrupt the German war effort.
From 1943 the station was also used by the Foreign Office's Diplomatic Wireless Service (DWS). After the war the site continued to be used by the Diplomatic Wireless Service, and was a satellite service to the main intelligence network based at Woburn Abbey. The BBC also continued to broadcast the World Service to Europe.
The station ceased to be operational by 1984 when it was acquired by the Home Office as the site for a Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ) to serve Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Sussex Police have used parts of the King's Standing site since 1988, initially as a store for vehicles used in crime and for public order training. The Police purchased the whole site as a training facility in 1996.
Building No. 3 was a transmitter hall and was built as part of the initial building campaign of the early 1940s by the Political Warfare Executive to house two transmitters: ASPI 3 and ASPI 6. It was also used by the Diplomatic Wireless Service between 1943 and the mid 1980s. It is colloquially known as 'The Cinema'. The form of the north entrance and its décor is reminiscent of 1930s cinema architecture and it was designed by Cecil Williamson who had worked in the film industry before the war.
BBC WAC File: R52/69/3 (Technical Foreign) Reception File 3, BBC Written Archives Centre
Cocroft, W D & Thomas, R J C, 2003, Cold War: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989, pp197-235
Kenyon, M, 1992, `Black Propaganda', in After the Battle, No. 75, pp.8-31
National Monuments Record Monument Report 1308007 & 1308010
National Monuments Record Archive File No: BF 109328, particularly photographs BB99/05334 and 05335
Martin, R, 2000a, Report on King's Standing, Crowborough: Former Political Warfare Executive Broadcasting Station for ASPI 4, 5, 7, 8 & 10: Sussex Police Building No. 2. Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society survey
Martin, R, 2000b, Report on King's Standing, Crowborough: Former Political Warfare Executive Broadcasting Station for ASPI 3 and 6: Sussex Police Building No. 3. Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society survey
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
Building No. 3 (c.1942) at the former transmitter stations at Kings Standing is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* An unusual World War II communications building in that a more commonplace utilitarian form is rejected in favour of an architectural statement with Art Deco flourishes inside and out, reminiscent of 1930s cinema architecture.
* A remarkably intact and unaltered building through which one can understand its function as an early 1940s transmitter hall.
* A building which combines historic and architectural interest as an exemplar of the nationally important work of the former King's Standing radio communications and transmitter station to national security through the transmission of black propaganda, and to BBC broadcasting both during and after World War II.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.