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Building No 26 Henderson Sergeants' Mess (Groves and Henderson Barracks)

A Grade II Listed Building in Halton, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.7784 / 51°46'42"N

Longitude: -0.7198 / 0°43'11"W

OS Eastings: 488416

OS Northings: 209638

OS Grid: SP884096

Mapcode National: GBR D3F.JTM

Mapcode Global: VHDVD.GKTJ

Entry Name: Building No 26 Henderson Sergeants' Mess (Groves and Henderson Barracks)

Listing Date: 1 December 2005

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393054

English Heritage Legacy ID: 497687

Location: Halton, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, HP22

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Aylesbury Vale

Civil Parish: Halton

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Halton

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

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Listing Text


01-DEC-05 Building No 26 Henderson Sergeants' Me
ss (Groves and Henderson Barracks)

Former sergeants' mess. Wing HQ. Now Chaplaincy Centre. 1920, to Air Ministry Directorate of Works drawings 220/20 and 344-345/20. Red brickwork in stretcher bond to cavity walls, some dressings in limestone ashlar, concrete plain tiles (replacing slate) on timber trusses.

PLAN: A single-storey near-square hipped block with small internal service yard. In addition to the dining room, there were writing, reading and card rooms, a billiard room, and the kitchen with services to the rear. This mess located adjacent to and as part of the Henderson barracks (qv) at the E end of the main parade ground.

EXTERIOR: The front has small-pane casements, and the returns glazing bar sashes combined with fixed lights above a transom. The front has a bold hexagonal bay each side of the centre, with casements framed by bold stone mullions and transom, in 1:3:1 lights, set flush to brickwork below, and carried up to a parapet with coping above the eaves line. At the centre is a pair of part-glazed panelled doors in stone pilaster surround with a flat canopy on brackets, above which is a small tripartite lunette in a brick arch; to each side is a tall narrow casement with stone transom, lintel and sill. The right return has three sashes, the centre unit paired, and near the front is an external stack, cropped at eaves level; the left return has a small extension with casement, under a swept-down section of the roof, and behind this the entry to the service yard. A simple eaves box is taken round the whole building.

INTERIOR: original joinery and panelled doors, including half-glazed hall doors set in semi-circular arched overlight; panelled moving partition to right.

HISTORY: This is one of two identical messes, the other (Building No 27, qv) is at the W end of the parade ground, associated with Groves Barracks (qv). It forms part of this comprehensive group, little changed externally since its completion in 1922.

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. 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)

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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