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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

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

West Sussex
Chichester (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 90796 06645


This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 30/09/2014

1080/0/10071 TANGMERE Neville Duke Way Harvey Court RAF Tangmere: barrack block (Building 116) to the former RAF airbase

(Formerly Listed under CITY FIELDS WAY) 16-APR-07 II Barrack block (Building 116) to the former RAF Tangmere airbase, 1938, with minor late C20 modifications. MATERIALS: Red brick, tiled roof, Crittall windows. PLAN: H-shaped two-storey building with partial basement containing a bomb shelter.

EXTERIOR: The building conforms to Air Ministry design 8/84 (the hipped roof variant). Two entrance elevations, to the west and east, both are Art Deco in style with curved canopies; that to the west had rounded piers. Brickwork in Flemish bond with air bricks at ground level, between the ground and first floor and in the eaves, which are decorated with a header course of brick. Some panels of writing painted onto the exterior walls at low level, such as 'O C Squadron 4'. Crittall windows throughout; those to the west and east have a four over six pane configuration with shallow cills. Fenestration in the main north and south elevations has a horizontal trend other than the elongated corner stair windows to the south. Many windows boarded up at the time of inspection (2006).

INTERIOR: Plan broadly similar on both floors. Each of the four wings, to the north west, north east, south west and south east, contains a large dormitory except for the north west room which was allocated for a sitting room on the original plan. Central west-east range has a central corridor with borrow-light windows, flanked by ablutions, NCO accommodation, and other domestic rooms (such as laundry rooms). Ablutions retain toilet and shower doors with painted signage. First floor laundry room retains a laundry cupboard with fold-down ironing board. Two open-well staircases with wooden banisters and Art Deco metal balustrades provide access to the first floor, located to the south of the central corridor. Narrow basement staircase beneath the eastern staircase.

Floor treatments include linoleum, concrete and tile (to the ablutions) and polished narrow boards to the dormitories. Original panelled doors throughout, some half-glazed. Cast iron radiators, Bakelite switches, cleaning bends and moulded dado rails to main corridors. Surviving original paint scheme with pale yellow or white for the walls, and pale green for doors and balustrades. Small basement level air raid shelter with blast door to stairs up and escape hatch leading out of the building to the east. This contains original benches, lighting, space for a W.C., an escape tunnel with a vertical ladder to a hatch outside the building, and graffiti such as squadron numbers and names and ranks - e.g. 'RAF Squad 43' and 'LAC [Leading Aircraftsmen] Webb'.

HISTORY: Land for an airfield at Tangmere was requisitioned in September 1917 under the Defence of the Realm Act. Work was well advanced by February 1918 and the field was used for training by the Royal Flying Corps. In September 1918 it was briefly handed over to the United States Air Service before being used as a holding station for squadrons returning from the continent. In common with many airfields after World War I, Tangmere was considered surplus to requirements and was closed in 1920.

During the early 1920s, plans for proposed war stations for the Home Defence Force led to the reacquisition or reactivation of many sites including Tangmere which, with Kenley (near Croydon), was one of the first bases to be occupied. It initially reopened as a Coastal Area Storage Unit for Fleet Air Arm aircraft in June 1925, and the airfield was reactivated, becoming RAF Tangmere, on 23rd November 1926. It was initially occupied by numbers 1 and 43 Squadrons flying Gamecock and Siskin aircraft. Barrack blocks, married quarters and mess buildings were constructed here in the late 1920s. Tangmere saw further expansion in the late 1930s when it was modified to form a permanent station with an extra squadron. This included the construction of more barrack blocks, including Building 116, workshop and training buildings as well as the extension of the airfield to the east to elongate the runway.

During World War II Tangmere was a key fighter station with a number of different Squadrons stationed there (see Ashworth 1985 for a useful summary). The station was attacked by German aircraft on 16th August 1940 and was very badly damaged including the destruction of two hangars and severe damage to a further three. Workshops, the water pumping station, Officers' Mess and the sick quarters were destroyed and thirteen people were killed. The airfield was the home of Douglas Bader and a number of other flying aces and was a key airfield of the Battle of Britain. It was also involved in the clandestine 'Black Lysander' operations whereby Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents were flown in and out of occupied France. Violet Szabo, who was the only woman to receive the George Cross for outstanding service, left from Tangmere on the mission for which she won her medal. Both Bader and Szabo had films made about them, both directed by Lewis Gilbert; the 1956 Reach For The Sky starring Kenneth More, and Carve Her Name With Pride in 1958, starring Virginia McKenna.

After the war the airfield was home to the RAF's High Speed Flight and the world airspeed record was broken here in September 1946 and August 1953. The field was also modified for use by Meteor jet aircraft in the 1950s. The base closed in 1970 although the airfield continued to be used by a gliding school until 1975. In 1982 a museum was founded by volunteers to tell the story of the airfield and the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, as it is known, is currently located on the edge of the former airfield.

Building 116 provided accommodation for three non-commissioned officers and seventy-two other ranks with eighteen to a room. At the time of the inspection it was in use as a furniture and file store.

SOURCES: Ashworth, C, 1985, Action Stations 9: Military Airfields of the Central South and South-East, pp265-275 C S Dobinson, 1997, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England Volume IX.1 & IX.2: Airfield Themes. Council for British Archaeology P Francis, 1996, British Military Airfield Architecture: from Airships to the Jet Age. Patrick Stephens Limited. Stafford, D, 2000, Secret Agent: The True Story of the Special Operations Executive. BBC Books www.tangmere-museum.org.uk website of the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum Air Ministry drawing 9972/38 for the construction of Building 116, 1938

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: Building 116 is an H-block two-storey barrack building. It was built to Air Ministry design 8/84 in 1938 as part of the late 1930s expansion of RAF Tangmere, when the base was modified and improved to form a permanent station with accommodation for an additional squadron. Originally one of three H-blocks on the base, Building 116 is now the only remaining example and is believed to be the only surviving accommodation block from the former airbase. It is remarkably complete both externally and internally where its plan-form, fixtures and fittings provide a fascinating insight into accommodation for airmen at this Battle of Britain fighter station. The building is a good and intact example of an Air Ministry H-block, which has additional historic interest as a surviving barrack block from RAF Tangmere, and which provides insights into the accommodation provision for airmen here during World War II.


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

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Books and journals
Ashworth, C, Military Airfields of the Central South and South-East, (1985), 265-275
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England Volume IX.1 and IX.2: Airfield Themes, (1997)
Francis, P, British Military Airfield Architecture From Airships To The Jet Age, (1996)
Stafford, D, Secret Agent: The True Story of the Special Operations Executive, (2000)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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