Europe’s largest surviving WWI aerodrome, Stow Maries near Maldon in Essex, is set to benefit from a £200,000 grant; one of the largest ever awarded from the Heritage Fund.
The money – which comes from a fund of almost £1 million that helps to save important heritage sites – will go towards restoring and repairing four of the site’s key buildings. These are the Royal Engineers’ Workshop, the Night Flying Store, the Pilots’ Ready Room and the Motor Transport workshop.
Now in its fifth year, the grant – awarded by not-for-profit business organisation, WREN – is part of a national Heritage Fund that funds the repair, maintenance or restoration of a building or structure of historic or architectural importance.
Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome was built in 1916 as a base for the Royal Flying Corps, a precursor to the RAF. The site was instrumental in defending London from the threat of German Zeppelin airships and Gotha bombers, but in 1919 it stopped being used by the military and for the next almost 100 years the site returned to agricultural use.
A few years ago the aerodrome and tumbledown buildings were saved from redevelopment by local people. Twenty-four buildings survive and today they comprise one of only a few near-complete First World War airfields anywhere in Europe. The Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Ltd, a charitable trust, was set up to raise funds to buy the site, restore it and open it up to the public.
Jeremy Lucas, chairman of the Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust, said: “The Trustees of Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome are absolutely delighted that WREN has offered us such a generous grant towards the repair and restoration of some of the Buildings at Risk within this unique historic site. Supplemented by a further grant from English Heritage, this will enable us to make an early start on extending the already breathtaking visitor experience of understanding something of what life was like for the pioneers of wartime aviation during the First World War.
“We shall be working with our partners to seek funding for the internal fitting out of these structures, once they are again safe and weatherproof, so that we can tell even more of the extraordinary story of the work which was done to try to protect London from air attack during the latter half of the Great War. We are extremely grateful to the Board of Directors at WREN for this opportunity and to English Heritage for helping to make it possible.”
Stow Maries is one of 17 projects awarded a grant from WREN’s Heritage Fund scheme this year. Since the Heritage Fund launched in 2010, WREN has awarded 69 projects over £3.3 million.
WREN awards grants to community, conservation and heritage projects situated within tem miles of landfill sites, from funds donated by UK waste and resource management company FCC Environment to the Landfill Communities Fund. Projects which could benefit from the fund must be signposted to WREN by one of its four partner organisations: English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw (Wales) or the National Churches Trust.
John Ette, Principal Adviser for Heritage at Risk for English Heritage in the East of England said: “The 24 grade II buildings at Stow Maries are the largest surviving group of Royal Flying Corps operational buildings on a First World War aerodrome. Only two other Royal Flying Corps Officers’ Messes are listed and there are no designated examples of some of the other building types which remain at Stow Maries, including the Pilots’ Ready Room. The significant grant awarded by WREN is a fantastic investment towards the conservation and repair of four of the most prominent buildings on site, and a reflection of the importance of Stow Maries in our national and architectural heritage.”
The Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust was able to purchase the site last year thanks to funding totalling around £1.8 million in grants and loans from supporters including the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Essex County Council and Maldon District Council.
For more information about the Heritage Fund, or to find out if your project could be eligible to receive a grant in 2015, please contact WREN Special Projects Manager Peter Moralee on 01379 687 226 or visit www.wren.org.uk.