Life After The Airfield
Life After The Airfield 1962-Present
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The school has now changed its name back to Sanders Draper School.
Statement from the school website, ‘Our history, a name change and a new House System.
Sanders is a school with a rich and fascinating history. We are delighted to announce the change in our school name to Sanders Draper from September 2021 alongside our launch of our new house system to honour, remember and celebrate many Heroes of WW2’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.