Historic Second World War watch office restored for use as community hub
- Credit: Archant
An historic Second World War-era watch office has been restored to its former glory at Alconbury Weald.
The Grade II listed building has been transformed by Urban&Civic, the master developer at Alconbury Weald, and the watch office will soon be home to a library, community and heritage
Built in 1940-41, the watch office was the first permanent control tower at Alconbury Weald, a former RAF airfield that operated between 1938 and 1995. It served as a central operations building and was later replaced with Building 120, an 'all stations' watch office.
It is outstanding example of a standard-type build for bomber satellite stations during the Second World War. Only 214 were built in the UK, with just a handful remaining.
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From the earliest consultations and vision for the development, the building formed a central and defining feature of the first phase of development: providing a physical historical link to the Second World War role of the former RAF airfield, which is growing into a thriving community of homes and businesses.
The painstaking restoration has taken almost a year to complete. The process involved the installation of Nissen hut roof cladding, a prefabricated steel structure for military use made from a half-cylindrical skin of corrugated steel.
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Protected by a Listed Building Consent, the watch office had to be restored in the same manner it was originally built. This presented a huge range of construction challenges, not least because the building had suffered wide-ranging incendiary damage in 1943 when a bomb accidentally exploded as crew members loaded B17 Flying Fortresses from 95th Bomb Group preparing for their next mission.
Original features of the building have been retained or reinstated where possible, including stairs, timber door sets, original walls and flooring, a roof access ladder and the roof balustrade. Having also been used by American servicemen, the building features American electrical sockets alongside British counterparts, and these have also been reinstated.
Discussing the restoration, Nick Armour, local conservation officer at Huntingdonshire District Council, said: "It has been an honour to work on a restoration project of such high historical significance. We
are pleased that Urban&Civic has integrated this fine example of war-time architecture into the masterplan, ensuring it benefits the community by raising awareness of the heritage of the site and providing new facilities".
Rebecca Britton, head of communities and partnerships at Urban&Civic, added: "The opening of the restored watch office is a major milestone, and we couldn't be happier to see this important heritage building back on its feet. It's been hard work, working through with Nick how to save as much of the original building and features as possible, while ensuring it is warm, dry and suitable for modern day uses. Now we have the chance to put in some of the
heritage story that is such an important part of Alconbury Weald."