Seminar: The Conservation of 20th-Century Military Architecture

On 13 June 2019, the Kenley Revival Project hosted a Conservation Seminar in conjunction with Historic England. The focus of the day was conserving twentieth-century military architecture and a large variety of case studies were presented, showcasing different methods of conservation. A big thank you to Wayne Cocroft and Jane Sidell for chairing the seminar and to all the spearkers who delivered 11 presentations of case studies all differing in their approach to conserving military architecture.

Please see below for copies of some of the presentation from this seminar.

RAF Kenley Airfield, Kenley Revival Project

The day started with an introduction by Dr Jane Sidell, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England who gave an overview of the Kenley Revival Project and of the challenges the team have faced attempting to conserve the most intact fighter airfield remaining from the Battle of Britain period. The project is currently trying to find a solution to a sulphate attack, which has affected reconstructed and original brickwork.

Stow Maries First World War Airfield

Simon Buteux and Malcolm Starr from Historic England then presented the conservation work that has taken place at Stow Maries First World War Airfield, in Essex. In contrast to Kenley’s outdoor structures, it was the buildings and hangars that faced major conservation works at Stow Maries. With rooves falling in, volunteer-led conservation and debates over whether to present spaces as as-found or as reconstructed spaces, the team faced a great number of challenges.

Hooton Park

Hooton Park’s First World War hangars in the Wirral, have faced the reconstruction of Belfast Truss structures, which were no longer fit for purpose. This paper was presented by Jonathan Howard from Hooton Park Trust, who also explained how this heritage space has developed working relationships with other heritage organisations, such as heritage bus owners, and film production companies in order to use the hangars to provide a service, creating an income to maintain conservation.

Great War Huts Project

A far from traditional approach to building conservation was presented by Taff Gillingham of Great War Huts, who have been conducting a First World War hut project in Bury St Edmunds. The team at Great War huts have rescued First World War structures of historical significance, many of which were scheduled to be dismantled or destroyed and they have formed a collection at Bury St Edmunds. Whilst this space is currently not open to the public, it will become a fantastic space for learning and visiting in the future.

Greenham Common Control Tower and Airfield

Conservation at the heart of a community has taken place at Greenham Common Control Tower and airfield. Presentations from Meg Thomas, (Director Greenham Control Tower), Ed Cooper, (Project Manager Restoration of Greenham Common), Andy Nicholls (Project Manager Place Partnership Restoration of Greenham Control Tower) and Mike Hall (Military Archaeologist and Volunteer Greenham Control Tower). They have faced the challenges of making a cold war structure accessible for the 21st century: both physically accessible as well as accommodating individuals who wish to commemorate conflicting parts of Greenham’s history. This project also showed how vital it is to engage with services in the local area, such as the local police force.

Bletchley Park

Janie Price from Kennedy O’Callaghan Architects gave an interesting insight of the conservation of the codebreaking huts at Bletchley Park, where the team faced the difficulties of conserving historically significant buildings intended for practical purposes conserved for use by visitors.

Harperley Prisoner of War camp

The Conservation at Harperley Prisoner of War camp presented by Lee McFarlane of Historic England tells the fascinating story of POWs making themselves at home in the space in which they were detained. Not only has the project conserved the décor inside the huts but an innovative solution of building a hut to surround both original huts has been implemented to preserve the outer walls too.

Bicester Airfield

At Bicester Airfield, Nicola Lauder, Historic England, explained how the features of a World War II Bomber Base, including seagull trenches and gunning placements have been conserved by a business model that creates an alternative use for the site, in this case events showcasing vintage cars, in order to finance the conservation. This model has worked successfully for both Hooton Park and Bicester Airfield.

Alconbury Airfield

Like Greenham Control Tower, at Alconbury airfield in Cambridgeshire, a Second World War control tower and Nissen hut have become part of the community. Rebecca Britton, Communications, Communities and Partnerships Manager at Urban & Civic gave a presentation about how this building has been conserved as a historic construction for modern uses by local community groups and residents.

Farnborough Wind Tunnels & Airship Hangar and Dover Admiralty Lookout

Clive Dawson of Hockley and Dawson Consulting Engineers gave a fascinating presentation about The Farnborough Wind Tunnels & the (not so portable) Airship Hangar and the Admiralty Lookout at Dover. These are all great feats of innovation, each presenting their own conservation issues caused by their environment including rust and corrosion of metal.

RAF Barnham Atomic bomb store

Finally, Trudi Hughes of Historic England highlighted the significance of cold war structures at RAF Barnham Atomic bomb store, where Historic England have aided private landowners in preserving another specialist type of architecture.

To round off the day Wayne Cocroft of Historic England provided an insightful keynote, summarising the challenges of conserving 20th century military architecture.





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