RAF Stenigot

At the top of my blog page is a photo of the radar dishes left at RAF Stenigot.

It was one of twenty Chain Home radar stations, stretching from the Isle of Wight to the Orkneys. They were built as part of the air defence network of the United Kingdom, and were critical to the aerial response during the Battle of Britain. Construction of the base actually preceded the commencement of the Second World War in 1938, with the station becoming operational in 1939.  The Chain Home programme was the world’s first operational air defence radar system, and was capable of detecting incoming aircraft flying at 35000ft, from a distance of 180 miles, and thereby helping to direct fighter aircraft to intercept. The system comprised a transmitter block, shielded by blast walls, to broadcast the radar waves from four tall transmitter towers, only one of which now survives.  The returning signals were gathered by a number of wooden receiving towers (none of which now survive), and then passed to the receiver block for analysis. The receiver block was located at the northern end of the station, and was built to a similar design as the transmitter block, also being surrounded by blast walls. Further ancilliary structures, including a standby set-house, underground armoury, petrol store and guard post, were located on the site. The station is believed to have typically employed around 120 people.

Duplicates of the transmitter and receiver blocks were constructed at the station after heavy enemy attacks on the south coast Chain Home stations on the 12th August 1940. These back-up facilities were entirely buried underground, to enable the station to continue in use should enemy bombing damage the original structures. This buried reserve is believed to have been located towards the eastern end of the station, and in fact there is an entrance to an underground chamber on the site).

Further buildings were added to the site in 1942, when a station of the GEE Navigation System was established at the base. This system helped to guide allied bombing missions in raids on the continent up to 1945.

Military use of the site continued during the Cold War, when a relay station of the ACE High tropospheric scatter communications system was installed on the site, and operated for NATO by the Royal Corps of Signals. The facility was built within its own fenced compound inside the former chain home radar station, with construction work being completed in 1960. The relay station consisted of a large, single-storey central electronics building, flanked by two pairs of parabolic dish antennae. Each dish measured 60ft in diameter, and was supported on seven lattice legs made of steel girders, anchored to large concrete blocks. One pair of the dishes pointed north, to pass signals to the next relay station near Alnwick, Northumberland, whilst the other pair pointed south, to pass signals to the relay station near Maidstone, Kent. The station included a number of ancilliary structures, including a generator house, fuel tanks, and a police house and guard dog pens near to the entrance on the sourthern side. The entire site was surrounded by floodlights. The system continued in operation until the early 1990s, when new forms of communication technology rendered ACE High obsolete.

So, if you got this far, you’ll find now a photo of the site as taken some time ago by Andrew Appleton, who sent this photo to a friend of mine – Vicky.

IMG_7215

As you can see – they’ve gone, but I can’t find any information on line as to when.  I did find a video link on uTube dated August this year, so the removal was really recent.  Another landmark bites the dust….. RIP Stenigot……

Update

Construction firm J E Spence and Son have confirmed that the radar dishes were “chopped up” and sent to a scrapyard in October 2018.

Only one radar dish remains at the site after the construction company, working for the landowner, began the process of taking them down on October 16.

A spokesperson for J E Spence and Son said: “I’m guessing they’ll be melted down. They have been chopped up and sent to a scrapyard.”

 

Author: Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3* - D Seddon Photography

I am a retired freelance photographer, based in Louth, Lincolnshire.

4 thoughts on “RAF Stenigot”

  1. Thank you for your blog Diane, as usual you have researched the subject very well. I did not know very much of the history of Stenigot but I do now. It is a shame they have gone, another land mark vanishes.

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  2. I believe it’s what is usually described as “progress” or otherwise done in the interests of “Health & Safety” ….. sadly! When these dishes were first found missing, there was quite an investigation on local radio and the local council became involved, suggesting that it might contravene planning to remove the structures without first seeking approval ~ this might have given an opportunity to retain the dishes as part of local history. When I first heard of the removal, I thought of your web pages and picture. Treasure and record the items and scenery you see before you for tomorrow it may be gone! [The government have just approved the “Viking Link” terminating, far too close for comfort to me, in a hideous multi football pitches sized site ~ another blot on the landscape. Another project to record the before, during, and after works? There is already an access site on the A17 near Swineshead Bridge / Swineshead.

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  3. Very informative post, I photographed the dishes on several occasions. Your detailed explanation of their history tells me far more than I ever knew about the site.

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    1. I drove out that way last week, and the last dish was still there. I don’t know whether they have been refused permission to get rid of it, or just simply not got around to it. I still think it’s a shame they’re gone, but I’m glad I have a record of them.

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