Proposals to build a memorial museum at Biggin Hill airfield – the former Royal Air Force station which played a decisive part in the Battle of Britain – have been unveiled by Robin Lee Architecture
The £5 million scheme aims to safeguard the future of St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance, which is dedicated to the memory of the 454 crew stationed at the base who died protecting Britain from German air attack during the Second World War.
The Ministry of Defence withdrew its annual £50,000 funding for the chapel in Bromley, south London, in early 2015, claiming that the running costs were no longer an ‘appropriate use of defence resources’.
Robin Lee’s concept, which wraps around and ‘frames’ the existing 1951 chapel and consecrated garden, has already been awarded a stage one pass for a £2 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant and is expected to be submitted for planning next month.
Exhibition designer Redman Design is developing the museum displays while Donald Insall Associates is working on the heritage aspects of the project, which is backed by Bromley Council and the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust.
Biggin hill plan
Stephen Carr, leader of Bromley Council, said: ’There has been a longstanding wish to safeguard Biggin Hill’s Second World War heritage through the building of a museum. In partnership with the trust, the council will continue to work with like-minded groups and individuals to realise this important project.’
Biggin Hill played a pivotal role in the Second World War and was described by Winston Churchill as the Battle of Britain’s ‘strongest link’.
Trust patron and the wartime prime minister’s great-grandson, Randolph Churchill, said: ‘Biggin Hill was at the forefront of action to defend our skies in the Battle of Britain.
‘In recognition of the important part she played in that battle, my great-grandfather, Winston Churchill, personally led the fundraising campaign for the chapel’s construction in 1951, to be a permanent shrine of remembrance to those who gave their lives for our freedom. This important museum will remember ‘The Few’ and honour the many, ensuring that Biggin Hill’s internationally significant heritage is preserved in the nation’s memory.’
The project’s funding includes a ‘significant endowment’ to the trust to enable the museum to be self-sustaining in perpetuity. To date £1 million has been secured, in addition to the HLF funding, and the team has identified other potential sources of funding to reach the overall target.
Stuart Hobley, head of HLF London, added: ‘The people who served at Biggin Hill, particularly during the Battle of Britain, played a significant role in creating the world we live in today, and this project offers a fantastic opportunity to honour their memory and preserve and make known their stories.
‘We are very pleased that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to offer our support, and we look forward to seeing the detailed plans in due course.’
Location Biggin Hill
Type of project New build museum
Client London Borough of Bromley
Architect Robin Lee Architecture
Historic buildings and conservation architect Donal Insall Associates
Landscape architect LDA
Structural engineer Stand Consulting Engineering
M&E consultant Ritchie+Daffin
Quantity surveyor Appleyard & Trew
Planning supervisor Appleyard & Trew
Main contractor TBC
Funding HLF, London Borough of Bromley
Tender May 2017
Start on site August 2017
Completion November 2018
Contract duration 15 months
Gross internal floor area 360m²
Form of contract TBC
Total project cost £5 million