Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1130219

Date first listed: 19-May-1975

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Jul-2012



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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Huntingdonshire (District Authority)

Parish: Brampton

National Grid Reference: TL2081970239


A former country house of the early-C19 and earlier, rebuilt for Lady Olivia Bernard Sparrow by Thomas Steadman Whitwell in 1821-22. John Buonarotti Papworth undertook further alterations in 1825. The house was partially rebuilt in 1907 after a fire, extended in the mid and late-C20 and refurbished in the 1980s.

Reasons for Designation

The Officers' Mess at RAF Brampton, formerly Brampton Park House, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: although the original east end of the building was destroyed by fire in the early C20, the remaining part of the early-C19 house retains its exterior form. The distinctive, rhythmic arrangement of turreted pediments united by crenellated parapets confers a robust dignity to the principal south elevation;

* Alterations: the rebuilt east end is harmonious in scale and treatment to the early-C19 phase and does not diminish the architectural interest of the building unduly;

* Interior: the early-C19 plan-form is legible and although interior fixtures and fittings of that date are few, the first-floor Pump Room with its domed, gilded ceiling and casement windows with shutters is a notable survival;

* Group Value: the Officers' Mess has group value with the Coach House and Stable block and the Lodge, both listed at Grade II.


Brampton Park has C12 origins when it was held in direct fealty to the King by William the Sokeman. It is likely that a Royal hunting lodge existed on the estate, but its exact location is unknown; the house was described as ruinous by 1328. During the C16, the Throckmorton family built ‘a fair brick house’ here. The house was extensively remodelled between 1805 and 1825 by Lady Olivia Bernard Sparrow, who ran the estate after the death of her husband in 1805. Elements of the C17 house may have been incorporated into Brampton Park House which is currently used as the Officers’ Mess and listed at Grade II. Lady Olivia commissioned Thomas Steadman Whitwell to rebuild the house in 1821-22. John Buonarotti Papworth undertook further alterations in 1825 and probably designed the Coach House and entrance lodge, both listed at Grade II. Historic map extracts included in the desk-based assessment demonstrate the evolution of the house’s footprint in the first half of the C19, and historic illustrations and photographs attest to its grandeur and rich architectural detailing.

In 1863, the house became an institution for the treatment of people with speech impediments and remained little changed until the eastern half of the building was destroyed by fire in 1907. Although sympathetically rebuilt, the gothic detailing was not replicated after the fire, and the current building is considerably smaller than the early-C19 house. Most of the other buildings and structures built as part of the estate no longer remain. One arm of the wall garden survives and incorporates C17 brickwork. Elements of the designed landscape including some of the early-C19 garden terrace walls have been incorporated into the base’s layout, but the pleasure gardens and parkland have been considerably altered during the military tenure of the site. During World War I the camp housed German prisoners of war. At the end of hostilities, the house was restored to Lord Mandeville, who let it for domestic use. During World War II the house was known as Sun Babies Nursery caring for about 100 babies evacuated from London. It continued in this role until spring 1942 when the estate was taken over by the United States Army Air Corps, being officially activated as the First Bomb Wing Headquarters. In September 1945 the First Air Division HQ, as Brampton was now known, moved to nearby Alconbury. In 1955 RAF Brampton became a permanent establishment and from 1957 accommodated the Central Reconnaissance Establishment (CRE), and Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC); JARIC remains to this day. Today, RAF Brampton is an operational site under Air Command, providing accommodation and support facilities for a range of lodger units. A flat-roofed extension was added to the south-west of the Officer’s Mess in the 1950s. In the early 1980s, a fire on the first floor necessitated some rebuilding and in 1987 an extensive programme of refurbishment commenced, including the construction of a new porch on the north elevation and remodelling of the entrance hall.


MATERIALS: Principally of red brick laid in Flemish bond at the rebuilt east end with sections of yellow and pink brick walling at the west and south elevations. There are occasional stone dressings. The roofs have tile coverings.

PLAN: A rectangular range aligned east west with cross wings and advancing gables at each end.

EXTERIOR: The house has twelve window bays, including three to each cross wing. The main range has a gable roof, with a number of brick ridge stacks, some with stone dressings. The cross wings have hipped roofs with advancing gables to the south and north. There are saw-tooth brick cornices at the eaves and a crenellated parapet punctuated by pediments, each with a central turret finial. There are turret finials at the corners of the wings. The recessed centre of building has an external chimney stack, with two round, elongated pots of moulded brickwork rising from a corbelled plinth. Below this are two traceried panels on the face of stack, which then gradually tapers to ground level. The chimney is flanked by a number of C20 casements in varying styles, those to the west retaining dripstone moulds. Off-centre to the east is an early-C20 entrance with a moulded architrave, quoins and shallow hood above. The double, timber panelled door has a round arched fanlight with glazing bars above. The north elevation is plainer. At the west end is a projecting, early-C19 gabled wing , partially built in yellow brick, with angled corner buttresses surmounted by turret finials and crenellated parapets to the east and west eaves. The two west window bays of the main range are of pinkish-red brick, obscured at the ground floor by a projecting rich red brick entrance porch of the late-C20. At the east end is the early-C20, projecting moulded stone entrance, the door of which has been partially blocked to form a window. The porch is flanked by two advanced pediments with moulded stone panels at the apex.

INTERIOR: Most historic fixtures and fittings are of the early C20; refurbishment in the later C20 has resulted in the loss of features of interest particularly on the first floor. Rooms on both floors of the main range are accessed from axial corridors with vaulted ceilings. On the ground floor, the main reception area has been remodelled in the late-C20. The two principal, early-C20 dog-leg staircases at the centre and east end of the main range have carved timber balusters with finials to the newells. The ground floor polite rooms are to the east. They retain fireplaces, rich decorative cornices and plasterwork to the ceilings. Of particular note is the recessed east hall fireplace which has a richly carved timber surround, an ornate plaster overmantle with a regimental coat of arms and a pair of carved timber settles. The service range to the west has few features of note; some pointed-arch door openings and timber, panelled doors remain. On the first floor is the Pump Room with an early-C19 ornate, gilded and domed ceiling, and timber casement windows with shutters.


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

Legacy System number: 54530

Legacy System: LBS


Chris Daniell, RAF Brampton Desktop Assessment, May 2011,

End of official listing