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Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

Operational 1916-19. The most complete former Royal Flying Corps aerodrome, part of London's air defence against attacks by German airships and bombers.


Region:
Essex
Red Wheel Site:
Yes
Transport Mode(s):
Air
Address:

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome , Hackmans Lane, Purleigh, Nr Maldon, Essex CM3 6RN

Postcode:
CM3 6RNï
Visitor Centre:
Yes
Website:

About Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

The story so far…

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome is a unique place. Its story covers 100 years of life comprising feverish excitement interspersed with periods of calm and tranquillity. The aerodrome lies to the east of Chelmsford and west of Maldon, Essex, within an area of gently-rolling farmland. It is the largest known surviving group of RFC buildings on a WWI aerodrome which was not adapted for further military use later in its history. When considered with its growing collection of objects directly related to the site and its activities, a truly unique resource is evident.

Figure 1: Bentley and Sopwith Pup in front Pilots Ready Room

Figure 1: Bentley and Sopwith Pup in front Pilots Ready Room

Figure 2: Engine and Dope Workshops - now hosts a permanent exhibition

Figure 2: Engine and Dope Workshops - now hosts a permanent exhibition

Figure 3: Living Historians recover a downed aircraft

Figure 3: Living Historians recover a downed aircraft

The site has significant natural heritage value and is in Natural England’s Higher Level Environmental Stewardship scheme. Ponds and a meadow have been created and the land supports declining farmland species such as brown hare, corn bunting, yellowhammer and a variety of owls, including barn owls and overwintering short-eared owls. Originally opened in 1916 as home to B Flight of No 37(HD) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, the aerodrome saw the birth of the Air Defence of Great Britain in response to the first raids by Zeppelins and Gotha bombers on London and the South East. It played a key role in the Battle for Britain (the first London Blitz) the following year. It was at Stow Maries that No 37 Squadron transitioned from the Royal Flying Corps to the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918. It continued in its dedicated role until Spring 1919 – when the RAF closed its doors forever. The site reverted to Flambirds Farm and its age-old farming role. The existing buildings were repurposed or converted to residential and agricultural use and the airfield turned over to pasture. Following its re-discovery by a private concern, the site was designated a conservation area in 2009 and in 2012 all 24 surviving buildings were listed Grade II*. Because of the site’s condition and importance, it was included on the English Heritage “Buildings at Risk Register” in the same year. In late 2012 the aerodrome was put up for sale and a campaign led by Essex County Council and Maldon District Council led to the acquisition of the site for the nation, placed under the management of Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Ltd, (SMGWA) a charitable trust.

Figure 4: View of the Pond from the Engine Workshop Museum

Figure 4: View of the Pond from the Engine Workshop Museum

Since the Trust’s inauguration, great amounts of work have been undertaken. Supported by an army of volunteers, the site has seen leaps forward. Hangers are now in place; aircraft are based here and the Mess once again turns out food for hungry pilots, crew and visitors. Historic England announced in 2018 that we have successfully enabled 5 buildings to be removed from the At-Risk Register when it is reviewed. We are presently devising plans for four more.

Figure 5: B Flt, 37(HD) Sqn, RAF Stow Maries Aug'18 Lts. McFadden, Hollington, Coote, Stokes, Briggs and Murray.

Figure 5: B Flt, 37(HD) Sqn, RAF Stow Maries Aug'18 Lts. McFadden, Hollington, Coote, Stokes, Briggs and Murray.

Figure 8: A busy day in the Airmen’s Mess Hall

Figure 8: A busy day in the Airmen’s Mess Hall

Figure 6: Volunteers building our Temporary Hangar

Figure 6: Volunteers building our Temporary Hangar

Figure 7: Stow Maries Staff preparing a Sopwith Camel for flight Ops.

Figure 7: Stow Maries Staff preparing a Sopwith Camel for flight Ops.

A shop, run solely by volunteers, sells novel gifts and goods that spark interest and nostalgia. Our wonderfully popular exhibitions tell the story of the site and are the first three of six planned for Stow Maries. Alongside a bustling events program, the site is in talks with regional and national funders with a view to establishing learning and education programs for all manner of topics – including, but not restricted to, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Conservation and Heritage Construction – as well as developing apprenticeships and Museum Outreach programs.

Figure 9: Another happy visitor

Figure 9: Another happy visitor

Our exhibitions include the 37 Squadron Museum, housed in the B Flight Offices. Led by the same awardwinning team as our Engine Workshop Museum, this amazing permanent exhibition tells the most important stories of all – that of the people that made the exciting and terrifying journey from the beginnings of flight at Stow Maries, through the early war and formation of the Royal Air Force through to the closure of Stow Maries in 1919. This family museum is a true tribute to the vital work done here – poignantly opened by HRH the Duke of Gloucester in the centenary year of the first Sorties from RFC Stow Maries. It is accompanied by ‘Rule Britannia’ – the story of the women’s Great War. This exhibition was developed in partnership with Imperial War Museum, and our guest Curator was historian Viv Newman. Opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Mrs. Jenny Tolhurst, it showcases the work delivered by women across many spheres of the Great War.

Figure 10: Members of the Curatorial Team selecting Objects for display

Figure 10: Members of the Curatorial Team selecting Objects for display

Figure 11: Volunteers writing text panels

Figure 11: Volunteers writing text panels

Figure 12 Lord Lieutenant of Essex Mrs jenny Tolhurst and John Whittingdale MP open Rule Britannia.

Figure 12 Lord Lieutenant of Essex Mrs Jenny Tolhurst and John Whittingdale MP open Rule Britannia.

Figure 13 Volunteers building display cases

Figure 13 Volunteers building display cases

Of course, our work has barely begun. We are in partnership with Natural England, working together to safeguard our vital ecological collection. We are very keen to protect and develop this wildlife oasis, while still focusing on our built heritage. We are in partnership with Historic England, who, to date, have funded in excess of £500k of repairs to our buildings. We have received a Development Grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – designing and compiling a vast array of policies, plans and surveys to truly define our future as part of a 20-year masterplan. We are developing our network comprehensively, with our Patrons now including the Lord Lieutenant of Essex Jenny Tolhurst, Lord Petre, popular Historian Dan Snow and academic and historian Dr Saul David. Dan has commented that Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome has a future as ‘the centre for early aviation history in Europe’ – a view we strongly agree with. Our volunteers want this too – hence them committing 31,130 hours of time in 2018/19 and winning the Queens Award for Volunteering Service! We are at a crucial stage in our journey and look very much towards building partnerships with organizations or individuals that want to join us as we move to achieving even greater success.

Mrs Jenny Tolhurst, Lord Lieutenant OF Essex – Patron

Mrs Jenny Tolhurst, Lord Lieutenant OF Essex – Patron

Dan Snow - Patron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Snow - Patron

Dan Snow - Patron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Petre - Patron

Dr Saul David - Patron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Saul David - Patron

QAVS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QAVS

 

This narative was kindly provided by Ian Flint, Chief Executive Officer, Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust

Entry for cars via Hackmans Lane only. Sat nav use CM3 6RJ

Entry for coaches is via Crows Lane only. Sat nav use CM3 6RN

 

Car parking

Please park in the grassy, roped-off designated area on the left as you approach the buildings (it can be muddy if wet).

 

Directions from the M25

At Junction 28 of the M25, turn North on the A12.
At Junction 18 (Chelmsford Park and Ride) of the A12, turn East on the A414 towards Danbury and continue through Danbury towards Maldon.
At the roundabout take the 2nd exit, straight across, onto the B1010 Burnham Road.
Take the first right, Marlpits Road, towards Cock Clarks and Cold Norton. There is a ECC Brown sign advertising us on the right.
At the crossroads, go straight on. This is now Hackmans Lane.
Follow Hackmans Lane through the village of Cock Clarks towards Cold Norton.
Approximately 1.5 miles from Cock Clarks, there is a large sign on the right hand side there is a further ECC Brown sign. At the entrance, ther eis a large white sign showing the entrance to Flambirds Farm.
Turn right onto the concrete track. You will pass another white sign at the bend. Move past the farm to the Aerodrome (0.75 miles).
Park in the designated grassy cordoned off area to the left before you reach the main buildings.
Visitors should report to the Engine Workshop Museum, on the right hand side, almost opposite the large green hangar.

volunteer group 

Cooksley, Peter, The Royal Flying Corps Handbook 1914-18, Sutton Publishing, ISBN-10: 0750947721 (2007)

Delve, Ken, The Military Airfields of Britain: Northern Home Counties (Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Oxfordshire), The Crowood Press, ISBN-10: 1861269072 (2007)

Lewis, Peter, Squadron Histories: Royal Flying Corps, R.N.A.S. & R.A.F. Since 1912, Bodley Head, ISBN-10: 0370000226 (1968)

Norris, Geoffery, The Royal Flying Corps: A History, Muller, ASIN: B0000CMQZN (1965)

Smith, Alistair, Royal Flying Corps (Images of War), Pen & Sword Aviation, ISBN-10: 1848848897 (2012)

 

Red Wheel heritage plaque

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR