1182/6/142 A 342
03-JUN-86 Trenchard Lines
UPAVON CAMP (OFFICERS' MESS), BUILDING 21
Officers' Mess 1914-5, designed by the War Office's Directorate of Fortifications and Works. Drawing No 74/14 and 180/14. Scribed rendering on concrete block, some stone dressings, synthetic slate roofing (re-roofed 1996).
PLAN: A very complex formal composition for 80 officers, with central entrance on long north side to a short cross axis and long lateral wings in two ranges with central open-ended courtyards; the ground rises steeply from north to south, and the mainly single-storey building is on two levels. A near-symmetrical layout with entrance vestibule and a small dining room on the short axis, with anti-room and billiard room to the right separated from the long main dining room to the rear (S) by a long lounge, occupying a former open courtyard. To the left is a ladies' room and bar, at the front, with kitchen and service areas to the rear; between these is a 2-storey conference suite, and a deep open-ended courtyard. A narrow quarter-landing internal staircases rises to a single room above the small dining room, and on the short central axis of the building.
EXTERIOR: Windows are of two principal kinds; to the main suite of rooms are plain-glazed casements set to flush mullions and transoms, and to the kitchen, service areas and conference suite glazing-bar sashes. The entrance front has 8 bays to the left and 6 to the right of the emphasised central feature, which has a coped gable on kneelers and with weathered haunches over a small triple light with mullions under a stepped stone drip course to a panel inscribed '1915 C R V'. Below is a bold tetrastyle Roman Doric portico with flat entablature on a landing at the head of 9 broad steps, covering a central pair of 10-panel hardwood doors, each with 4 panels in leaded glazing, flanked by a small light each side. To the right are two bold half-octagonal bays, and to the left three similar; each has 1:3:1 lights to mullions and transom, but that furthest left has one large plain light centrally, and this and the adjoining bay, left, have glazed escape doors on the splay returns. All bays have a moulded cornice aligned with the box eaves to the principal roof; and a high parapet which returns and is swept down the roof slope. Each side of the centre feature are two lights, with a further single light between projecting bays and at the outer ends; these are all 2-light openings with mullion and transom. Stone sills are steeply weathered. A high plinth is marked by a very slight projection, and at the left-hand end this is concealed by a (later) terrace. There is one ridge stack, with capping, between the two bays to the right.
The left return has a plain coped gable on corbelled kneelers above a plain wall, continued at a lower level to a flat-roofed addition which runs across the rear, under 2 small celestory lights. This faces a narrow open yard, with a 2-storey hipped block having four 12-pane sashes at each level, each side, also a cropped stack, and a doorway, to the north. Beyond, to the left, is a low gabled storage building.
The right-hand return has a similar coped gable, but with additional central kneelers to a slightly projected central section containing a 2-light casement with mullion and transom. This continues flush with the link unit, containing a pair of glazed doors and flanking 2-light casements with built in transom. The doors are under a later open covered way, above which is a broad overlight, and the straight coped parapet has a tall raised centre section. Beyond is the wide coped gable to the dining room; this has a projecting hexagonal section under a hipped leaked roof, flanked by typical 2-light casements.
The rear reflects the complexity of the plan: a high central block on the short axis has a coped parapet on high kneelers, with a very small window above a central pair of glazed doors with 8-pane overlight, flanked by a plain sash each side, each with a floating cornice, and with stepped drip-course over the door. The opposite gable is similarly treated, and each gives to a balcony with coped solid balustrade, raised at the centre. To each side of this upper storey are 2 small sashes.
From the left are three projecting bays of the dining room, the innermost of these brought forward, and under a coped gable, but otherwise detailed as on the N side. Stepped forward from this, at a lower level, is a hipped range with four 12-pane sashes, adjoining the higher gabled kitchen which has a verge with barge-board over a large 16-pane central sash, flanked by a smaller 12-pane to its left; the sill remains from the corresponding blocked light to the right. A small sash on the return adjoins a balancing hipped wing, with a paired light - one in 16 panes and the other re-glazed with 12, a further 12-pane and a small light, before a paired plank gateway to the service court, beyond which is the gable to the storage building. The conference block is linked to the main building by a single-storey range, and the high roof over the vestibule has two 2-light dormers, at differing levels facing into the courtyard to the E.
INTERIOR: The interiors of the main public rooms are richly detailed, and are on a grand scale. A small vestibule from the entrance doors leads through a revolving door to the main lobby, which is in 2 parts, divided by an open screen of 2 Doric columns with responds. Each part has a segmental panelled ceiling, and is panelled in polished oak to a height of approx. 1.7m with a deep 3-part entablature including egg-and-dart cornice mould. The first section has a telephone booth each side of the revolving door, a pair of painted panelled doors in hardwood architrave and entablature to the right, and a plain arch to transverse corridor to the left. This part is lit by the triple light above the entrance door. The rear section, with roof lantern, has a pair of doors to the right, identical with the other, and to the rear 5 marble steps to a cross passage. Each side of the opening are responds to the internal screen.
The ante-room, to the right, has a deep bay with polished hardwood seating. At the far end is a broad artificial stone 'Minster' fire surround to a projecting chimney breast, with a pair of painted panelled doors in deep-carved architrave, to the left; there is a corresponding door at the entrance and, to the left are pairs of small-pane glazed doors in similar architraves. There is a deep moulded skirting, a moulded picture rail about 30cm above the door heads, and broken forward above each of them, and a simply moulded cornice to the 12-compartment ceiling to keep beams. The square billiard room beyond is similar, but the bay window seat is painted, and there is a small fire opening with later surround.
From this room a pair of part-glazed doors leads to the central lounge, which has a long central lay light beneath a segmental glazed roof-light. The S side has 3 doorways, and 4 flat Doric pilasters rising from a tall mounded skirting to ceiling height. The long wall to the S side has 2 sets of 5 marble steps rising through deep recesses to paired part-glazed doors, and with corresponding flat pilasters. A central brick fireplace of 1930s design is decorative only. The outer wall is mainly glazed, and the inner, adjoining the lobby, has part-glazed doors in architrave with entablature. The dining room runs parallel with the lounge, and is sub-divided by a proscenium 'arch' with panelled pilasters. The first part, to the W, has a 9-compartment ceiling, and a segmental arch through to the bay. To the right is a wide recess under a segmental arch, above which is 'Jacobean' panelling in pilasters, and flanking the doors from the lounge are deep square-headed recesses with glazed trophy cabinets; above here are two 3-light clerestory windows. In the second part of the room are a further 6 compartments to the ceiling, and to the S, a deep recess to the projecting bay. The end wall has a wide chimney breast, now without fire opening, flanked by pairs of flush doors, and there is a further clerestory window on the inner wall.
The wing left of the lobby has the ladies' room with a 6-compartment ceiling, the bay windows are without seating, and a simple dropped proscenium has a continuous curtain, giving to the square space containing a late C20 bar. The corridor to the S of this unit has a high moulded skirting, 2 doors with moulded architraves and entablature, and a panelled ceiling, and the service areas have been modified by necessary updating.
HISTORY: The Officers' Mess has been ingeniously planned, and accommodated to the sloping site with a compact and functional layout. The view to the north from the portico was very extensive, across Salisbury Plain, but later tree planting has concealed this. A drawing dated June 1914 is ascribed to E W Ellison, ARIBA. It has great historical importance as one of the key buildings relating to the development of military aviation in its formative years before the First World War, and was the finest building erected for the RFC until its abolition in 1918. No survivals of this type relating to the pioneering years of aviation are known to have survived elsewhere in Europe or America.
Upavon comprises one of three sites around the Army training ground at Salisbury Plain which relate to the crucial formative phase in the development of military aviation in Europe, prior to the First World War. The selection of Upavon was a direct result of the Committee for Imperial Defence's decision to unify the army and naval arms of British military aviation within one organisation. Opened in June 1912 - one month after the formation of the Royal Flying Corps - Upavon was established as the Central Flying School (CFS) for the RFC, under Capt. Godfrey Paine RN; the temporary buildings of 1912 were replaced from 1913, as pupil numbers and the demand for improved accommodation rose. The CFS ran an advanced course for military purposes, as pilots had already completed the elementary stage before arriving here. Upavon, like the nearby sites of Larkhill and Netheravon, offered an ideal hill-top position for military flying, close to the army training areas on Salisbury Plain. The first pilot's certificate issued at the end of the first training course was to Captain (Brevet Major) Hugh Trenchard, who by January 1918 had risen to the post of Assistant Commander at Upavon and went on to become the RAF's first Chief of Air Staff.
Upavon remained the Central Flying School until 1924, when its location at the core of the Wessex group led to its replacement by Wittering in Lincolnshire. This function was re-established after a brief period as a Fleet Air Arm shore base in 1935, by which time a large building programme was underway. It became a Flying Training School from 1942 to 1945, and a transport base from 1946: 38 Group was responsible for organising the Berlin Airlift from here.
The varied buildings reflect the complex history of the base, the most significant part of which is the domestic camp located on the north side of the A343. The precise direction of its future development as the Central Flying School was not planned at the outset, its construction in permanent fabric waiting for two years after its opening. The buildings of 1914 were all designed by the War Office's Directorate of Fortifications and Works, the most notable of these being the Officers' Mess (Building 21), the airmen's barracks and officers' quarters planned after those at Netheravon and Buildings 68, 70 and 110.