Two World War II air traffic control buildings, 620m west and 560m WSW of Whitewall Corner, on the former airfield of RAF Culmhead, Trickey Warren


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Two World War II air traffic control buildings, 620m west and 560m WSW of Whitewall Corner, on the former airfield of RAF Culmhead, Trickey Warren
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Taunton Deane (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 20751 15610, ST 20820 15531

Reasons for Designation

Each airfield included a watch office, or control tower, from which air traffic control staff operated. Given its significant role in recording aircraft movements, it typically occupied a central strategic position on the flying field. There are some eighteen types of watch office, some reflecting evolving techniques and technology associated with reporting and observation, and some a combination of roles, for example, with the incorporation of a meteorological (`Met') office within the building. There are also differences between the types of watch office found on fighter and bomber stations, while some individual structures display evidence for their adaptation as the station's role evolved or changed. During the war years the watch office had one or two storeys: in the two storey examples, the bottom level housed the Met office, while air traffic control was confined to the upper level. At the start of World War II there were no air traffic control or operations (`Ops') staff working in the watch office, and only operational aircraft had radio. At this stage the duty pilot would log aircraft movements manually. It was only as the skies became busier that air traffic control and operations personnel were employed, and that radio became more widely used. Of the 500 or so examples originally built, some 220 watch offices survive, all of which constitute significant and symbolic structures. However, examples are considered to be of particular importance where they have an obvious and visual relationship with the flying field and other contemporary structures and buildings, such as hangars; where they survive as good examples of their type, perhaps with original fixtures; or where the station has operational significance, such as an association with the Battle of Britain.

The Old Watch Office at Trickey Warren survives as a standing building in good condition with its window fittings surviving and some of its internal features, including a pyrotechnic cupboard, still intact. Of the 37 known examples of this type of building built in World War II this is one of only eight which survive in their original form without wartime extensions; it is one of even fewer not to have had significant internal modification. The control tower of 1943 at Trickey Warren, which survives as a standing building, was of a standard design built at 164 airfields across the country. However, only about one third of this total are extant and the survival, in this case, of both the Old Watch Office and its replacement control tower is unusual. These buildings retain design features which illustrate the measures taken in World War II to provide the South West and Wales firstly with an operational air defence against German aircraft raiding across the Channel from northern France, and then with an active support for Allied bombing raids across the channel. They also provide an obvious visual focus for the associated World War II remains which survive at the former airfield.


The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes the original air traffic control building, known as the Old Watch Office, and its later replacement control tower, both buildings standing within the now disused airfield of the World War II fighter station of RAF Culmhead at Trickey Warren. Trickey Warren is an area of flat ground at the east end of the Blackdown Hills approximately 9.5km south of Taunton and close to the village of Churchstanton. It was selected early in the course of World War II as an emergency landing ground and, a little later, Trickey Warren Farm and its surrounding land were requisitioned for the War effort. Construction of a three runway airfield intended as a satellite station of the principal sector airfield at Exeter began at the site in 1940. However, the airfield was subsequently equipped as a fully operational fighter station and was officially opened on 1st August 1941. Known as RAF Churchstanton, the station was redesignated in 1943 and it is usually referred to by its later name of RAF Culmhead. The Old Watch Office was one of the first buildings constructed on the site as part of the original satellite fighter station. Standing to its full height of about 3m and with all walls intact, it is built of several thicknesses of unrendered 9in brick, supporting a reinforced concrete roof, and is 6.5m by 5.2m in plan. The design of the Old Watch Office is considered to be typical of the type of control building found within an early satellite fighter station. The layout was simple with an entrance passage, protected by a blast wall running the length of the building, leading to a gas-proof door giving access to a single room. Surviving within the building is a pyrotechnic cupboard with a gas-proof steel door set into the north eastern corner. Also surviving are the original steel window frames. The Old Watch Office looked out over the airfield to its south and was used for air traffic control purposes until 1943 when its function was taken over by a new and larger control tower. After it became redundant in its original role, it was used for the remainder of World War II as a battery charging room but was known as the Old Watch Office in recognition of its former role. The new control tower, believed by virtue of its design characteristics to have been built no earlier than 1943, was constructed some 100m to the SSW of the Old Watch Office. This control tower was built to the standard specification adopted from March 1943, the term `watch office' being dropped in favour of `control tower' at about the same time. It comprises a two storey building almost square in plan and much larger than the Old Watch Office, with ground dimensions of about 12m by 11m and with a height of 6m. It was constructed in 9in brick except for the front elevation which is 13.5in brick; all exterior surfaces are rendered in cement. The flat roof and first floor were built of `Seigwart' type hollow concrete beams. Situated on the ground floor of the building were the meteorological office, the duty pilot's rest room, the watch office, and the switch room. On the first floor were the signals office, the controller's rest room, and the control room. A concrete observer's balcony is located on the exterior of the building at first floor level. This balcony runs the full length of the front of the control tower overlooking the airfield runways to the south. The balcony also extends around the front corners of the building for a few metres on either side where access from the first floor was possible from the doorways provided. The balcony is about 1.5m wide and is fronted by a tubular steel railing which partly survives. On the western side, a steel stairway gives access from the balcony to the roof of the building. The front of the building was provided with three large steel framed windows at first floor level and three smaller windows on the ground floor; these survive with some of their original glass panes intact as do other windows situated around all sides of the building. There is a single door in the rear elevation and a blocked door on the western side. A number of different squadrons were stationed at RAF Culmhead during the course of World War II all of which, for the most part, carried out anti- shipping sweeps and reconnaissance over the Channel alternating with bomber escort duties. In the early part of the War, Hurricanes were the principal fighter aircraft but Spitfires soon became the choice for most squadrons. The station witnessed the arrival of the very first jet propelled aircraft to enter service with the Allies when two Gloster Meteors flew in on the 13th July 1944 to join 616 Squadron. RAF Culmhead ceased to operate as a fighter station in August 1944. It was utilised as a training airfield until July 1945 when it was relegated to Care and Maintenance; it was finally decommissioned in August 1946. A history and condition survey of the fighter station at RAF Culmhead was commissioned by the Blackdown Hills Project, Somerset County Council, and Taunton Deane Borough Council and was undertaken and produced by Paul Francis of Airfield Research Publishing. This survey also contains a summarised operational history of the station.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Francis, P, RAF Culmhead, (1997), 27-29
Francis, P, RAF Culmhead, (1997), 26


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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