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Remembered Today:

RFC Yatesbury aeroplane sheds, Wiltshire


Moonraker
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Yesterday the Wiltshire Historical Military Society arranged a visit to the site of RFC Yatesbury, which is being developed by a Jordanian businessman. He is refurbishing the three Great War aeroplane sheds (hangars), with work being more or less completed on one, and going well on another. The third - actually formerly a repair shed - will be more of a challenge as the roof fell in some years ago.

Much of the original timber is being replaced, though most of the original cross beams have been retained, as have metal bits and pieces - bolts, brackets etc.

One air shed will be used as a garage for the luxury accommodation resulting from the conversion of 1930s RAF buildings on the site. I'm all for retaining old buildings, but it would have been easier to demolish the brick-built ones, as many are mere shells. There was a great deal of debate - I don't know the details - before the local authority gave planning consent, and I believe one requirement was that the aeroplane sheds be restored before work began on the "luxury accommodation". We didn't like to ask if the economic downturn was affecting the overall scheme.

It would be a great spot to live, close to Avebury and the Marlborough Downs, and not far from Chippenham (High-Speed trains to London) and the M4.

See

here

for photos of the aeroplane sheds. (I've just checked this website, and currently it includes photos that are a couple of years old. It will be updated soon with pics of yesterday's visit.)

The repair shed is close to a public road, but the other two are down a private road and on a fenced building site. The site foreman told me that visitors are welcome, but would have to wear hard hats and high-visibility vests.

Moonraker

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The site I linked to in my first post has now been updated, and among the new photos of Saturday's visit is a great one of the new roof, showing "the greyish coloured joists [which] are reclaimed original woodwork".

Moonraker

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  • 3 months later...

Sad news, but not completely unexpected, as I wondered about the continuing viability of this project during my visit in late August: The Royal Bank of Scotland - which has its problems - has withdrawn funding from the development of the airfield site, having already put up almost three-quarters of the required money. This is leaving the developer in a very awkward position.

I know little about the discussions that took place before planning consent was given, but it seemed to me a big ask to expect the developer to restore the three RFC hangars before starting work on the 1930s buildings. The latter were to be converted into luxury housing, but what was standing were just shells that would have needed a great deal of work on them. And I doubt that their historical value would have been retained.

Moonraker

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So many conflicting thoughts on this one. If all the timber was going to be replaced, how much would then be original?

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Some of the original roof beams were being retained, as were metal fittings. The alternative was for all three hangars to fall to pieces. The roof of one had collapsed a few years ago. How much of the Cutty Sark and Victory is original? (Rhetorical question; don't let's go off topic.) Dunno what the hangars' fate will be now.

Moonraker

(And there's always Trigger's "original" broom in Only Fools and Horses, which had had several new heads and several new handles :lol: )

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How much of the Cutty Sark and Victory is original? (Rhetorical question; don't let's go off topic.)

I know its off-topic but I can't resist answering this. I went round HMS Victory a few years ago and asked the guide how much of it was the original wood - he said about 30%.

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  • 10 months later...

Sadly the renovation of the Grade 2 listed RFC hangars and the 1930s Bristol School of Flying looks to be seriously threatened. As a result of the recession and the withdrawal of funding by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the developing company was recently placed into liquidation. A final attempt is being made by petition to try RBS to persuade them to make further funding, but given the problems facing the bank I fear this is a forlorn hope.

The on-line petition is

here

Whilst the petition has places to enter name, address, email address etc, entering your name and email adress only is acceptable,and the latter is not displayed.

I visited Yatesbury a few months ago and a little work was continuing then, but this seems fated to cease.

Moonraker

MODS: I'm not completely sure that plugging petitions such as this is within the rules, If not, apologies, but I hope that you can leave my first and last paragraphs.

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Thanks Moonraker, signed - i'll post it on other WW1/aviation forums if that's okay too

Cheers, Rob

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Moonraker

Signature added. As signee number 104 I hope many more will follow.

Dave

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Interesting! This is hardly the right place to metion it but I spent about 9 months there in 1955-56 learning to be an Air Radar Fitter. Ah, happy days, mostly...........

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  • 7 months later...
Interesting! This is hardly the right place to metion it but I spent about 9 months there in 1955-56 learning to be an Air Radar Fitter. Ah, happy days, mostly...........

Yes I too guarded those hangars in 1960 when it was known as Cheryl airfield. Of interest are the RFC graves in the churchyard down the cul-de-sac lane to the village.

H

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  • 1 month later...

Today I walked across the Marlborough Downs and visited Yatesbury airfield for the first time this year, and the hangars and other buildings looked just the same as they did last year - rather sad. I could see no sign of life, so I assume that the conversion project has been abandoned and the developer gone into liquidation. I wonder who's paying for the hired scaffolding around some of the buildings.

On a noticeboard were the minutes of Yatesbury Parish Council, which was concerned about the state of local roads and footpaths. And the Lansdowne Monument high on the hill above Cherhill (Not Cheryl)White Horse looked to have some sort of platform around it, presumably for workmen to patch it up.

Then, as I approached Marlborough, where I had left my car, a lady asked me if I was as tired as I looked.

Everything's falling to pieces!

Moonraker

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  • 7 years later...

Eight years  since last I posted here ... :blink:

 

I re-visited Yatesbury Airfield today, and it looked as if one of the old RFC hangars had disappeared and it looked as if another was being demolished.  Back home, I Googled and found

 

this

 

and in Wikipedia:

 

"By 2008 the three hangars were on the Heritage At Risk register. The condition of one deteriorated and permission was granted to demolish it in 2012; the other two remained At Risk in 2015."

 

The 1930s buildings remain shells.

 

Time was when one could get up close to the buildings, but there are now strict signs up  prohibiting access and warning of dangers (from the dilapidated buildings). I glimpsed what I could from Juggler's Lane, a public right of way.

 

Moonraker

 

 

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Watched that hangar collapse a few years ago: we got there just as the roof caved in. The ARS Shed on No.1 Camp East was being restored when bank finance was pulled: it only took a mild storm to do the rest. My hope is that something will be left by the time work resumes (if ever) :(

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