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Latitude: 51.7777 / 51°46'39"N
Longitude: -0.7231 / 0°43'23"W
OS Eastings: 488192
OS Northings: 209557
OS Grid: SP881095
Mapcode National: GBR D3F.J0M
Mapcode Global: VHDVD.FL31
Entry Name: Building Nos 6, 7 and 8-13 (Groves Barracks) and 14,15 and 16-21 (Henderson Barracks)
Listing Date: 1 December 2005
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1393050
English Heritage Legacy ID: 497680
Location: Halton, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, HP22
District: Aylesbury Vale
Civil Parish: Halton
Built-Up Area: Wendover
Traditional County: Buckinghamshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire
Church of England Parish: Halton
Church of England Diocese: Oxford
569/0/10013 RAF HALTON : EAST CAMP
01-DEC-05 Building Nos 6, 7 and 8-13 (Groves Bar
racks) and 14,15 and 16-21 (Henderson
Groups of identical barracks blocks, 16 in all: Buildings Nos 6, 7, 14 and 15; 16 - 21; 8 - 13. Description is based on Building No 18. Designed 1919 by the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings, completed by 1922. Drawing Nos 981/19, 19/20 and 476/20. Stretcher bond red brickwork, some limestone dressings, concrete tile roofs (originally slate).
PLAN: A long 3-storey hipped range with short wing to rear as central arm to 'T'. Central entrance lobby via short flight of steps to lobby with imperial stairway, flanked by small single rooms for NCOs. Service wings with washrooms and lavatories. Groves Barracks comprise a line of 2 units (Buildings 6 and 7) at the E side of the group, plus 6 units (Buildings 8 - 13) centred to the N of the parade ground; these are exactly balanced by Henderson Barracks, with Buildings 14 and 15 to the E, and 16 - 21 to the S. The whole, incorporating the Parade Ground and Drill Shed, and including the accompanying functional and leisure accommodation, extends approx 400m N/S and 215m E/W, on ground falling slightly from S to N.
EXTERIOR: Units were built to a common design, with minor variations only. Windows throughout are wooden glazing-bar sashes, mainly 12-pane with some 8-pane, generally set to low segmental brick-arched heads and stooled stone sills. Roofs are hipped, to a simple box eaves, and there are no stacks. The entrance front is in 15 bays; each side of the centre unit are 6 bays, with 8-pane sashes at each end. The stepped-forward central feature is in 3 parts, with a narrow hipped pavilion each side having a sash at each level, to a sunk panel crowned by a semi-circular arch and vertical brick tympanum containing a small ventilation slot; between first and second floor windows the panel is in herring-bone work. The centre bay has a large gridded stone mullion and transom window in 4 x 3 lights to flush work, above a pair of panelled doors with top panel glazed, on a broad single stepped landing, under a deep square cantilevered concrete lead-covered canopy carried on deep console brackets to bold pilasters, and with moulded architrave. The pilasters rise from a moulded and black-painted plinth. Most units retain an original iron foot-scraper on the landing.
The rear has 6 bays each side of the projecting utilities block, with 12 and 8-pane sashes as to the front; a spiral iron escape stair to concrete landings is set to the third bay, with escape doors. The narrow outer end has a 12-pane sash at first and second floors, above a plain door with overlight. The utilities block has two windows adjacent to the main block, and 2 to the hipped outer end.
The brickwork up to the first floor sill level is banded by setting back one brick course in every 7; this is taken completely round the building. The front central feature has a one-course projecting stone string to the head of the top window, taken above the work-on-edge soldier course, and returned at each side immediately below the box eaves; also at the second floor level to this centre, and the outer ends of the main range, there are 3 stone 'quoins', one course deep, and 1 1/2 bricks long.
INTERIORS: Each has imperial stair with cast-iron balusters and handrail to wooden newels. Photographs of standard dormitories in Taylor (p.34) show Spartan spaces, with deep square concrete ceiling beams to each bay, and pairs of part-glazed doors beneath a multi-pane overlight at the entrance from the stair lobby. Floors are in concrete, and roofs were originally in timber king-post trusses.
HISTORY: The Groves and Henderson barracks, designed immediately after the First World War as a permanent base for the world's first independent air force, occupy an important place in the early development of British military air power. They were designed in the Domestic Revival style favoured by the War Office for its army barracks from the 1870s, and are externally complete with the exception of the loss of their slate roofing. The consistency of materials and treatment produces a harmonious and homogeneous ensemble, amply backed by the planted woodlands to the E and S. Although designed well before the self-conscious structures of the 1930's Expansion Period, when the pronouncements of the Royal Fine Arts Commission made an impact on the RAF architectural development, these buildings show that considerable care was taken to avoid utilitarian severity, evidenced in the restrained treatment to the ground floor walling, and the relatively elaborate detailing of the 3-bay central unit. They also established a format subsequently used by the RAF for all its barracks quarters including, for the first time, ablutions, drying rooms and latrines in the same building as the dormitories. Each was built to house 126 apprentices, for sergeants and six corporals; the central section, with its main entrance hall, staircase and ablutions to the rear, related to flanking barrack accommodation whose size depended on any situation's operational requirements.
When the RAF was formed as the world's first independent air force in April 1918, and during the period of retrenchment which lasted from the Armistice until the early 1920s, its founding father and first Chief of Air Staff, General Sir Hugh Trenchard, concentrated upon developing its strategic role as an offensive bomber force. His primary considerations were in laying the foundations for a technology-based service, through the training of officers at Cranwell and technicians at Halton. Delays in the building of permanent buildings at Cranwell until the early 1930s has resulted in the fact that only the Groves and Henderson Barracks at Halton relate to this critical period of development. They established a template for the planning of barracks buildings on RAF bases, marking a departure from the generally temporary accommodation provided for the Royal Flying Corps and from the planning of army barracks as practised since the Cardwell reforms of the 1870s.
Halton had been established as an army camp in September 1913, on part of a Rothschild estate, the tented accommodation being replaced by wooden hutting for 12,000 men on three sites in early 1915. Plans to centralise technical training for the Royal Flying Corps - which relied on the instructional schools established at major towns and cities in 1915 - had been underway from June 1917, and RFC personnel had been moved to take over the army camp in summer 1917, the sum of ?100,000 having been allocated for the construction of a large workshops building. The site was also greatly expanded in 1918 by the purchase of the Rothschild mansion (listed grade II) as the officers' mess and parts of the estate for the sum of ?112, 000, far below the market value. Sir Hugh Trenchard, on his return as Chief of Air Staff in early 1919, viewed the establishment of central training establishments as the fundamental building block of an independent technology-based service, and thus Halton became the home of the Aircraft Apprentice Scheme, in which boys of above-average educational attainment would receive 3 years of training - compared with the usual 5 years for civilian apprentices. The first arrivals came in 1922, moving into the Groves and Henderson barracks. Two reused seaplane hangars were built on the flying field in 1924, backed by various tented Bessoneau hangars, and a substantial hospital was added in 1927. Three further groups of barracks were built, the last begun in 1936, also a school and additional technical buildings. The three parts of the base are still separated by public roads and the woodland planting - now an important aspect of the layout - was part of the original scheme.
The Apprentice Scheme was temporarily suspended from 1939 to 1947, and the final intake graduated in 1993.
(Bill Taylor, Halton and the Apprentice Scheme, Midland Publishing, 1993)
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