Life After The Airfield

An aerial view showing the extensive gravel works that were carried out by Hoveringham Gravels Ltd on the former site of the Hornchurch aerodrome.
Photo source, After The Battle publications.

Taken on the 2nd June 1976, at the East London quarry.

Taken on the 2nd June 1976, at the East London quarry.
Photo source, Charlie Gridley.

Head of a defused German bomb dug up from Berwick Pond Road, Rainham, Essex. The former airfield site while excavating for Gravel and defused by the bomb squad, 1976.

Head of a defused German bomb dug up from Berwick Pond Road, Rainham, Essex. The former airfield site while excavating for gravel and defused by the bomb squad, 1976.
Photo source, Charlie Gridley.

Road Names

Following the sites closure on the 1st July 1962, it was for a time used by the Ford Motor Company for the storage of the Ford Cortina. Then the long period of gravel extraction by Hoveringham’s Gravel Limited took place until the infilling with refuse in the 1970s, the airfield was extensively landscaped to create the Hornchurch Country Park, with work commencing in 1980. Most of the former administrative and technical areas, including the two Type A’ and one Type C’ hangars, were all levelled in the late 1960s and now most of the area is covered by housing estates. The names of the streets on the estates commemorate the airfields pilots, as well as other airfields and aircraft. Here is an example of some of the names of the roads, streets and pathways: Bouchier Walk, Kirton Close, Sarre Avenue, Robinson Close, Tuck Road, Dewey Path, Malan Square, North Weald Close and Sopwith Close. The story behind the street names can be found in a publication produced by the Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Society, the booklet is entitled “Signs of our Times… What’s in a Name?” and is available for a £5 donation.

Front cover of the Signs of our times book.

Front cover of the Signs of our times book.
Photo source, Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Society.

On this exact spot at Tangmere Crescent on the 27th June 1940, King George VI stood to present the DSO and DFC’s to pilots from RAF Hornchurch, they were Pilot officer Allen, Flight lieutenant Tuck, Flight lieutenant Deere, Flight lieutenant Malan and Squadron leader Leathart.
On this exact spot at Tangmere Crescent on the 27th June 1940, King George VI stood to present the DSO and DFC’s to pilots from RAF Hornchurch, they were Pilot officer Allen, Flight lieutenant Tuck, Flight lieutenant Deere, Flight lieutenant Malan and Squadron leader Leathart.

On this exact spot at Tangmere Crescent on the 27th June 1940, King George VI stood to present the DSO and DFC’s to pilots from RAF Hornchurch, they were Pilot officer Allen, Flight lieutenant Tuck, Flight lieutenant Deere, Flight lieutenant Malan and Squadron leader Leathart.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot and A. C. Deere.

A road sign around the site of the former airfield.
A road sign around the site of the former airfield.

Some of the road signs around the site of the former airfield.
Photo source, both images A. K. Philpot.

Officers Mess

The former Officers Mess building is now the Rosewood Medical Centre in Astra Close and the single officers Quarters of Astra Court East, West are all now private dwellings. The former Sergeants houses still standing in Wood Lane are all now privately owned, all the above-mentioned buildings are included in the RAF Hornchurch Conservation Area.

Once used by officers from RAF Hornchurch, it is now the Rosewood Medical Centre.

Once used by officers from RAF Hornchurch, it is now the Rosewood Medical Centre.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The former single officers’ quarters at Astra Court West, in Astra Close.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

A view of the front of Astra Court East. This block was also used as quarters for the single officers.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Accommodation

Although standing just outside the conservation area are the former 1950’s built Officers houses in Cavendish Crescent and Cavendish Avenue. As well as the former airmen’s married quarters in Kilmartin Way. On part of the green behind these properties will stand a new development of 18 houses and a new road called (Sopwith Close) these properties are being built by Glenmen construction with completion expected in early 2018.

Former officers house Cavendish Crescent.

Former officers house Cavendish Crescent.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Work begins on the new development behind the former RAF houses in Kilmartin Way.

Work begins on the new development behind the former RAF houses in Kilmartin Way.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

These former officer’s houses are situated in Cavendish Avenue and were built slightly later than the houses opposite, probably sometime between 1947-48.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The airmen’s married quarters, Kilmartin Way. 
Photo source A. K. Philpot.

One of the former sergeant’s houses in Wood Lane.

One of the former sergeant’s houses in Wood Lane.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

These former officers married quarters are situated between Cavendish Avenue and Park lane. The houses were originally built sometime in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s within RAF Hornchurch’s domestic area. During the 1980’s new infill Blocks were built linking the original houses and turning them into a new development of retirement and sheltered apartments.
Photo source, A.Currey.

R. J. Mitchell & Scotts Schools

A local primary school, named the R. J. Mitchell School, was named after the man who designed the Supermarine Spitfire, Reginald Joseph Mitchell. The school opened its door on 6th September 1967 and was officially opened on the 2nd of December 1968. The school stands on part of the former airfields technical site and parade ground. On the 5th July 1983, a publicly funded memorial stone dedicated to the men and women that had served at RAF Hornchurch 1928 – 1962, it was unveiled by Air Chief Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst, this stone was the brainchild of the late Mr. Ted Exall, founder of the now defuncted RAF Hornchurch Association. The stone was purposely placed near the spot where the main entrance led into the RAF Fighter Station on the South End Road.
Although in the summer of 2015 the stone was moved to the main entrance of the R. J. Mitchell school in Tangmere Crescent. Another primary school also built on part of the former site is Scotts school, although this does not have a direct link to the airfield as it was named after a local farm.

Scotts school, built on part of No. 1 flightpath.

Scotts school, built on part of No.1 flightpath.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The unveiling of the RAF Hornchurch memorial stone in 1983.

The unveiling of the RAF Hornchurch memorial stone in 1983.
Photo source, RAF Hornchurch Association.

R. J. Mitchell’ s School, before the new classroom extension to the school in 2016.

R. J. Mitchell’ s School, before the new classroom extension to the school in 2016.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The memorial stone in its new position 2016.

The memorial stone in its new position 2016.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Sanders Draper School

Another local secondary school formerly known as (Suttons senior school) which was renamed Sanders Draper School in 1973, in honour of the American pilot, Flying Officer Raimund (Smudge) Sanders Draper of 64 squadron who sacrificed his own life to save the lives of everyone that were in the school on the 24th March 1943. F/o Draper was flying with the Royal Air Force at the time and he suffered an engine failure shortly after take-off but stayed at his controls to ensure his aircraft didn't crash on the buildings. In 2014 the school decided again to change its name, this time to the Sanders School.

Old Sanders Draper School Badge

The old and the new, both badges that the school have used featuring the name of Sanders Draper.
Photo source, Sanders school.

New Sanders Draper School Badge

An artist’s impression of the fatal day Sanders Draper crashed.
Photo source, RAF Hornchurch Association.

Flying Officer Sanders Draper.
Photo source, RAF Hornchurch Association.

Hornchurch Country Park

The Hornchurch Country Park covers an area of around 104.5-hectares and has a good mix of heritage and ecology. The park was awarded gold in the Best Country Park and Large Conservation categories for London in Bloom 2015.

The children’s play area includes climbing equipment in the design of a Spitfire in clouds. For those visitors who wish to exercise then there is an outdoor gym and ‘trim-trail’ which extends throughout the park. Hornchurch Country Park directly joins several other local green spaces - Ingrebourne Hill, Berwick Woods, Berwick Glades and the Hacton/Gaynes Parkway.

Hornchurch Country Park Sign

The new country park main entrance sign which was installed in late 2016.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The bases are still able to be seen although nature is trying to reclaim the land. The buildings that once stood here were the former accommodation blocks used by the ladies of the women’s Legion Auxiliary at Suttons Farm.
photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Part of the trim trail that now weaves its way through the country park.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The new country park visitor centre sign.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Looking back towards the dispersal pen, now the car park. This green was once part of the original No.1 flightpath. This area is now where the fitness gym equipment is located.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The famous Spitfire aircraft now incorporated into the children’s climbing equipment within the play Area of the park.
Photo source, A.K. Philpot.

Two Men in a Trench

In 2006 RAF Hornchurch was the subject of one of the programmes on the BBC 2 series, ‘Two Men in a Trench’ presented by Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard. In the programme, several of the defences were examined. One of the Tett Turrets was excavated, the backfill of which contained a pair of 1940 RAF pilot's goggles along with material from the hospital. The fire trench, a partially buried pillbox and an E pen were excavated, while the gun emplacement on the northern end of the site was cleared of vegetation.

One of the many excavations carried out for ‘Two Men in a Trench’.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Excavating one of the Tett turrets.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The Good Intent

The Good Intent public house situated on the South End Road was a popular haunt with the aircrews. A large concrete, planetarium-like dome stood just over the back of the pub, it was used for training air gunners, but sadly it was demolished some years ago and replaced with houses. 

The Good Intent public house.
Photo A. K. Philpot.

The Good Intent signage, showing a 65 squadron Spitfire in pre-war markings.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Structures

Various structures of the site’s former life as RAF history are still visible from within the park including an aircraft dispersal pen, pillboxes and some short stretches of perimeter track, together with the largest number of surviving Tett Turrets anywhere in the country, these structures are able to be viewed along the eastern boundary of the former airfield.

Sunken pillbox situated just before the fishing lake.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Tett turret along the Eastern boundary.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

These two Tett turrets are situated along the eastern boundary and can be found opposite the large section of perimeter track.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Entrance into the underground shelter.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

A sign showing what the country park car park once looked like as a dispersal pen.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

This type 22 pillbox can be found just beyond Pine Hill along the eastern boundary.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

A short stretch of perimeter track is still visible on the left-hand side of the path, just after the visitor centre.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

One of the surviving dispersal huts from RAF Hornchurch, now being reused by the Havering Association for people with disabilities. The hut was re-sited on land in Woodhall Crescent in the early 1980’s.
Photo source, A.Currey.

This building was used as the Station Headquarters not long before the Airfield closed, although it is unclear what its original use was. Now one half of the building is used by the Hornchurch & Elm Park Amateur Boxing Club. While the other side is occupied by the Havering Asian Social & Welfare Association.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Type 22 pillbox.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

One of the Tett turrets just along from the sunken pillbox, this has now been covered over to help preserve it.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

This type 22 defence pillbox is situated behind the former Dispersal pen.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Looking back from the dispersal pen to what was once flightpath No:1.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Not the compass set point as is always mentioned, but the remains of a gun post.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

A large section of perimeter track still exists along the eastern boundary.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

This gun post and ammunition ready stores are now partially hidden by the hedgerow and undergrowth.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

RAF Dispersal Hut

Another former RAF dispersal hut from Hornchurch. This one now stands derelict but was used as a taxi office, it stands next to the Spencer’s Arms public house, which is now called The Ardleigh.
Photo source, A.Currey.

This is the interior of the Hornchurch & Elm Park Amateur Boxing Club.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Nature Reserve

The site is now a designated Local Nature Reserve, the park is an integral part of the Ingrebourne Valley which is rich in wildlife and has good opportunities for bird watching. ​The marshes, containing the largest freshwater reed bed in London is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The park has open areas of grassland for informal recreation and a lake which can be used for fishing. 

Wildlife can be found in abundance within the country park.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The fishing lake is situated towards the Albyns Farm end of the country park.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

The Essex Wildlife trust had a visitor centre built just past the children’s play area, it officially opened in of October 2015.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Looking back across the marshes towards the visitor centre.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

Looking across some of the wide-open space of the Hornchurch country park.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.

This roundel monument was designed by Julian Stocks and unveiled in September 2016, it stands next to the visitor centre in the wildflower meadow.
Photo source, A. K. Philpot.