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Very Heavy Bomber Control Tower

A Grade II Listed Building in Raynham, Norfolk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.7867 / 52°47'12"N

Longitude: 0.7379 / 0°44'16"E

OS Eastings: 584727

OS Northings: 324533

OS Grid: TF847245

Mapcode National: GBR R7S.7CG

Mapcode Global: WHKQB.96MY

Entry Name: Very Heavy Bomber Control Tower

Listing Date: 13 June 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1407941

Location: Raynham, North Norfolk, Norfolk, NR21

County: Norfolk

District: North Norfolk

Civil Parish: Raynham

Built-Up Area: West Raynham Airfield

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Raynham East St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

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Summary

A Very Heavy Bomber air traffic Control Tower, built in 1945 and extended in the late C20.

Description

MATERIALS:
Brick, concrete and steel.

PLAN:
Rectangular, built in accordance with Ministry of Defence standard design (294/45).

EXTERIOR:
A three-storey control tower, with a glazed, Visual Control Room (VCR) of steel construction above. The original crittall casement windows in unaltered openings remain throughout. The east elevation faces the runway, and has a balcony with metal balustrade at the second-floor wrapping around the north and south elevation. The VCR is located above with a metal balustrade around the parapet. The original fire station, with blocked openings, and night flying equipment store is attached to the south. A later C20, five bay, fire station is attached on the airfield side. Additional structures associated with the control tower include the station square to the east, although the lettering is no longer apparent, and the meteorological enclosure to the south-east.

INTERIOR:
The main entrance is at the rear of the building, which gives access to a small lobby leading to the ground-floor rooms and staircase with metal balustrade. The interior layout is largely unaltered, conforming to the prescribed design, although some modern stud partitions have been inserted on the second floor, without removing the originals. Of particular note is the remaining equipment including a Pneumatic Lamsom tube plant, a vacuum pump and pipe system for delivering messages around the building. In addition the telephone exchange gear survives on ground floor, as does the airfield lighting control desk and Controller's desk in the VCR. The VCR is accessed by the original ladder and remains intact, although requires maintenance.

History

Construction of RAF West Raynham commenced in 1936, as part of the RAF expansion scheme, and officially opened in April 1939. As built, the site conformed to the typical layout of the 'Expansion Period' aerodrome, consisting of a roughly rectangular grass surfaced landing ground with runways in triangular plan, and the technical site, hangars and accommodation blocks all grouped close together at the north-west corner, with the bomb stores to the south-east. It is an almost complete example of pre-WWII aerodrome, having much of the infrastructure and buildings surviving. Particularly notable is the original watch office located to the west of the runway, and four, little altered, 'C' type hangars.

Towards the end of WWII, the base was converted to accommodate Very Heavy Bombers (VHBs), one of only five airfields in the country to be modified for this use. This necessitated the construction of a new Air Traffic Control building (ATC) and the extension of the perimeter track, creation of hardstandings and lengthening of runways to accommodate the anticipated Vickers Windsor, Avro Lincoln and B-29 Superfortress bombers. Not all of these works were actually undertaken at West Raynham, in particular, the runways are not as long as specified for VHB stations. Post-war, RAF West Raynham became the RAF's premier fighter station. The Central Fighter Establishment were stationed here, whose primary role was training fighter and bomber pilots and crews. Unlike the other VHB stations, it remained under RAF, rather than USAF, command. The station maintained both an operational and training role until its closure, but from the early 1960s also became a Bloodhound Mk II surface to air guided weapon site, located within its own compound on the East side of the airfield.

Between 1926 and 1965 there have been ten different designs of Watch Office and Control Towers for RAF Bomber stations. The VHB ATC was designed at the end of the war in Europe. The control towers had a standard design (294/45), accommodating the additional technical demands required for VHB air traffic control which included, for the first time, a Visual Control Room (VCR) at the top of the tower.

The ATC at West Raynham survives much as it was built. There have been some minor alterations, most notable of which is the construction of a new Fire Station, and the conversion of the original into additional crew rooms.

Reasons for Listing

The Very Heavy Bomber Air Traffic Control building is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: the air traffic control building is an important design in the evolution of control towers, marking the transition from simple pre-war and wartime structures to the post-war multi-storey designs and for the first time incorporating a Visual Control Room;

* Rarity: one of only five remaining in the country and thus a rare surviving example of this type;

* Intactness: remains substantially intact and the most complete of the five remaining;

* Interior: retains significant interior features including the Visual Control Room ladder and equipment, and the Lamsom pneumatic messaging system.

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