Historic Battle of Britain airfield wins National Lottery funding

A project to conserve the heritage associated with Kenley Airfield - the UK’s best surviving World War II Battle of Britain fighter airfield - has secured £881,000 funding from the National Lottery via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

During the Second World War, RAF Kenley Airfield was one of three main fighter stations responsible for the air defence of London.

It became globally famous because of its crucial role in defending against the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.

The airfield suffered its worst damage in an attack on 18 August 1940 when 3 hangars and 12 aircraft, including 10 Hurricanes, were destroyed and the runways badly cratered. Nine personnel lost their lives and a further 10 were wounded.

However the standing structural remains of the WW2 airfield represent a unique survival from the era. This includes eight fighter blast pens, a rifle range, a fuel dump and a multitude of other elements such as paths, aircraft standings and building foundations.

Much of the former Battle of Britain airfield is now owned and managed by the City of London Corporation as part of the historic Kenley Common; the central part is still an active RAF base owned by the Ministry of Defence.

The Kenley Revival Project will empower people to take ownership of RAF Kenley’s heritage by providing exciting and accessible opportunities for them to engage with its history, through initiatives like community archaeology, art projects, photography competitions, and inspiring events like Sky Heroes Day with historic aircraft fly-pasts.

The project - a partnership between the City of London Corporation, Kenley Airfield Friends Group and Historic England - will also deliver a formal learning programme to involve schools and create an online resource of memories, documents, photographs, and a catalogue of artefacts.

Gordon Haines, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest & Commons Committee, said:

“As the nation commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Kenley Revival Project offers a unique and inspiring way to engage people with a period of our history when the country’s future hung in the balance.

There are still some members of the community who remember Kenley Airfield during the war, and can recount memories of the Battle of Britain. Without the sustained defence of southern England, the history of Britain might have been very different.

“Our appreciation of heritage grows stronger as other links with that crucial period of history begin to fade. We want to connect the generations to record the story of RAF Kenley before the memories are lost forever.”

Stuart Hobley, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in London, said:

“Kenley Common is an incredible example of outer London’s heritage; an important local story of ordinary lives making an extraordinary contribution for the whole country. Thanks to National Lottery players we were able to invest into the Kenley Revival project as the whole nation commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The project will bring local people together and inspire them to take an active role in the site’s future and encourage visitors from further afield to come and learn about Kenley’s pivotal role in the Second World War.”

Alan Morgan, Chairman of the Kenley Airfield Friends Group, said:

“This award is testament to the hard work and dedication of the local community and our long held vision of securing the nationally significant heritage associated with Kenley Airfield. The Kenley Revival Project will create opportunities for people to get involved and learn about the importance of Kenley Airfield, the Battle of Britain and the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives in defence of our country during this conflict.”

Jane Sidell, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Historic England said:

“The Heritage Lottery Fund grant is fantastic news, not just for the thousands of people that visit Kenley but for the site itself. Historic England is really excited to be working on developing new approaches to conservation of twentieth century military archaeology. It’s only recently that we've begun to fully appreciate the importance of these sites in our national story. Without projects like this, the fragile site will crumble to dust leaving us without physical reminders of the dramatic and tragic events of the war years. By conserving the site, we help to commemorate the lives lost in the defence of the country.”


Notes to editors

More information on Kenley Common and City Commons