The Biggin Hill website has been on-line for more than 8 years, and we have been really pleased (and not a little surprised!) with the amount of interest it has generated and all the positive comments, encouragement and feedback from people everywhere via the guestbook and through e-mails. To develop the site further we thought we would try an editorial-type feature, where we can comment on issues of local interest, and let you know about significant additions to the site.
Voice your views on the development of Holwood House
A MUSEUM AT BIGGIN HILL
For many years the people of Biggin Hill have wanted a museum but this has never come to fruition. I believe this is mainly due to the Bromley Council of the time considering Biggin Hill to be an area of lower value housing on the outskirts of the borough that was not suitable for a museum.
In the short time I have been webmaster of Biggin Hill I have received many emails from people around the world saying that they are visiting Biggin Hill and want to know if there is a museum. Biggin Hill, being the most famous RAF fighter station in the world, you would think would have a museum, but no, instead Bernie Ecclestone is busy knocking down and changing the barracks etc so that they will be unrecognisable by future generations. Agreed the buildings were not interesting individually, but as a group they were of interest to historians.   A museum at Biggin Hill encompassing a detailed model of the RAF station with detailed pictures of the site, would have gone some way to saving its historical value. What better building to house a museum than the magnificent Officers Mess, which was sold off by the MOD for a song, along with its listed carved wood bar, which no doubt no longer exists, SWIMMING POOL and tennis courts which have been made unavailable for the people of Biggin Hill. I believe that an offer was made to the MOD by Mike Hughes and Joe Merchant to purchase the Mess by private treaty and to turn it into a hotel. They drew up a business plan with the help of specialist consultants and had discussions with Bromleys planning department who indicated that they saw no reason to reject an application providing that we made access to bars and other facilities available to local people (i.e. the public). The idea was to make it a centre for foreign tourists (using charter flights from the airport) and to exploit the wealth of history in this area as well as develop leisure activities with the existing swimming pool and courts. They offered £600,000 but, the MOD insisted on an auction which involved considerable delays during which time the state of the building deteriorated. In the meantime their consortium lost interest! All very sad when you see what has subsequently happened with the MOD insisting that it went to auction, where it fetched a lower price than the private sale offer. What are we doing with our heritage?
BROMLEY MUSEUM at ‘THE OLD PRIORY’ in Orpington has acquired from Sotherby’s a Military Medal awarded to Sergeant Joan Mortimer. This was awarded for her bravery during one of the worst air raids on RAF Biggin Hill during World War II. On the 18 August 1940 Joan Mortimer manned the telephone linking the aerodromes defence posts as well as being in charge of the dispatch of ammunition. A large amount of ammunition was stored near her office but she remained at her post during a heavy raid encouraging others nearby. As soon as the bombs stopped falling and long before ‘all clear’ was sounded she was out marking bomb craters with red flags to help returning pilots land their aircraft safely.
With the lack of a museum in Biggin Hill ‘The Old Priory Museum’ must be the best place to display this medal along with the small collection of other objects relating to this famous RAF station. The museum is free and open Monday to Friday from 1pm to 5pm and from 10am to 5pm on Sunday.
If you wish to go to an air museum try THE Imperial War Museum Duxford
Well, that’s it for now. If you have anything to say about any of the above, please send us an email. Who knows, we may even get a letters page working on the site!
Craig and Roy