In 1959, Kenley was closed as an operational base of the Royal Air Force (RAF), bringing an end to its many years of service for powered aircraft. However, it remains an active airfield and is now used to train the pilots of the future, using gliders.
English Heritage identified Kenley as “the most complete fighter airfield associated with the Battle of Britain to have survived”. Unlike other fighter stations that were modernised, Kenley has retained its original runways, giving visitors a true flavour of its historic purpose.
Nowadays, several organisations are custodians of the land on and around Kenley airfield, working to protect and conserve its important features.
Royal Air Force
The Ministry of Defence owns the airfield, including the runways and the remaining buildings. The RAF uses it at weekends to train the 615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron Air Cades, who come from London and the south-east region. www.615vgs.com
Surrey Hills Gliding Club
This private club leases the airfield on weekdays. They provide ‘experience’ flights and training for civilian glider pilots. www.southlondongliding.co.uk
The Kenley Airfield Friends Group
This group represents the local community and those with an interest in or historic tie to the airfield. The Friends are working to secure the long-term preservation of Kenley and to inform people of its historic use. www.kafg.org.uk
The City of London Corporation
The City owns and manages the open space surrounding the airfield, known as Kenley Commons. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/openspaces
As the government advisor on England’s historic environment, English Heritage protects and promotes Scheduled Monuments, such as the blast pens on Kenley Common. www.english-heritage.org.uk