Memorial museum at Biggin Hill to commemorate site’s service in both World Wars is approved
PUBLISHED: 11:47 01 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:50 01 May 2017
But funding still needs approving
A museum celebrating the service of Winston Churchill’s ‘strongest link’ during the Battle of Britain has been approved.
The Biggin Hill Memorial Museum will commemorate the significant contribution Biggin Hill made in the First and Second World Wars, including the aerial battle in 1940.
The so-called “sensitive” design of the museum will see it wrap around St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance, a chapel which honours all RAF servicemen and women.
According to Bromley council, the design will “wrap around the chapel in the vein of a garden wall or cloisters”, while ensuring the chapel “remains a permanent shrine of remembrance to those who gave their lives for our freedom and that Biggin Hill’s heritage is protected and revealed”.
Churchill, who lived nearby at Chartwell, led a fundraising campaign to build the chapel in 1951.
The wooden floor is made from slats of sectioned propeller blades and 12 stained glass windows are designed by Hugh Easton’s studio, which created the Battle of Britain window at Westminster Abbey.
The museum will tell the story of the people and place of Biggin Hill during the World Wars. The experiences of both ‘The Few’ and The Many will be revealed, from the fighter pilots facing the realities of aerial combat, the local pub landlady creating a sense of normality, to local children scavenging the crash sites.
Through Biggin Hill airport, Britain became the first nation in history to retain its freedom through air power, helping to lead the fight against Axis forces.
The Chapel was built in 1951 following a fundraising campaign championed by Churchill who lived nearby at Chartwell. The wooden floor is made from slats of sectioned propeller blades. The twelve stained glass windows are designed by Hugh Easton’s studio (responsible for the Battle of Britain window at Westminster Abbey)
Councillor Stephen Carr, leader of Bromley council, said: “Working in partnership with the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust, the long held vision for a museum at Biggin Hill has taken a major step forward. The story of Churchill’s ‘Strongest Link’ will be told to future generations at the place it actually happened and we will remember all those who served there.”
Bruce Walker, chairman of the trust said, “This is enormously positive news. We can now firmly focus on finally building the Memorial Museum that so many want to see. We are hopeful that construction will start later this year so that the Museum can open in time to be part of commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. The museum will be a permanent and fitting tribute and crucially, a place for reflection and learning, alongside the continued worship at St George’s Chapel.
Councillor Lydia Buttinger, chairman of plans-subcommittee said, “This application has seen a huge amount of public interest and a strong community commitment to ensuring a lasting tribute to commemorate the fallen. The approval of the plans will now allow the final funding to be secured and officers will work closely with the applicant to ensure that the materials used and landscaping are to the highest quality, reflecting both the historic importance of the site and the sensitive location in the Greenbelt.”
Now the building awaits approval for a £2million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Should the fund approve the grant, building works are expected to start in October this year.