Capacity Crowd at Kings Hill’s Historic Control Tower
More than 200 people visited Kings Hill’s historic Art Deco Control Tower over the weekend as part of the national Heritage Open Days programme.
Organised locally by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, Heritage Open Days celebrates England's architecture and culture by offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or charge for admission.
Recently restored and refurbished by Kings Hill developer Liberty Property Trust UK, the listed Control Tower was originally part of RAF West Malling, playing an important part in World War II. It is the best example of this type of control tower after RAF Swanton Morley in Norfolk and was the most advanced Air Ministry design of the inter-war period, with a meteorological section incorporated into the design behind the control room.
Andrew Blevins, Liberty’s managing director, said: “We wanted to take part in Heritage Open Days to allow as many visitors as possible to explore the newly refurbished building. People were encouraged to climb to the top of the tower using the original handrail and to take in the views from the first floor through the carefully restored Crittall windows and from the second floor balcony.
“Although not all of the visitors were from Kings Hill itself, many people enjoyed viewing their home from the Control Tower and on an early map of the airfield. The general consensus was that the building has been well restored to its former glory and residents were pleased to be able to find out more about the history of where they live.”
Visitor Graham Jackson, whose father Dennis was the training officer of 618 Gliding School, based at RAF West Malling, and later Wing Commander of Kent Wing ATC, learnt to fly at the airfield. Like many other graduates of the school he later became a British military pilot. Now living in Oman, Graham was keen to take the rare opportunity to see inside the Control Tower and was pleased to meet other people who had been based at the airfield. Also in attendance was 80-year-old Air Chief Marshal Sir Anthony Skingsley, a former senior RAF commander.
Centered around the iconic Art Deco Control Tower are the recently unveiled heritage artworks which include 12 brass reliefs, 11 of which feature planes that were stationed at Kings Hill during World War II. After viewing the Control Tower, children of all ages enjoyed taking brass rubbings, allowing them to engage with the history that makes Kings Hill unique.
Visitors also enjoyed viewing the new contemporary Cultural Centre which is situated on the ground floor of the Control Tower. Currently housing an exhibition detailing how the artworks were created, it is designed as space to be shared with the community that could have a range of uses including community exhibition space, a professionally curated gallery and a location for workshops, local artisans, schools and arts and craft classes.