Trust celebrating Hornchurch history opens new permanent heritage centre
- Credit: Helen Harris
A new permanent centre to celebrate Hornchurch’s aerodrome history was officially opened on Battle of Britain Sunday.
RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre's opening ceremony on September 19 saw air chief marshal Sir Michael Graydon cut the ribbon and make a speech.
The new centre was gifted to the Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Trust (HAHT) by Bellway Homes, which is building on the surrounding lane, as a premises to house its displays.
At the opening ceremony, Bellway representative Jamie McCarthur handed the keys for Suttons House to the trust's chairman, Tony Philpot.
There was a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Spitfire Mk IIa P7350 and Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865.
The trust’s president and Chingford and Woodford Green MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith; Sir Peter Marshall, who served as a navigator in the RAF from 1943 to 46; and the trust's vice president Brendan Finucane all attended.
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A number of others also joined in the celebration, including Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez, the mayor of Havering Cllr John Mylod, deputy lieutenant for Havering Nick Bracken and ward councillors.
Stephen, Maxine and Grant - children of the late Ted Exall, who founded the RAF Hornchurch Association before it became HAHT - attended with their families and opened the education suite named in Ted's honour.
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HAHT chairman Tony said: "I was personally so very proud to have the family of the late Ted Exall here today. This day was about Ted and his dream of seeing a place where RAF Hornchurch could be remembered.
"All the years that he put into the venture of getting a permanent home has finally come to fruition."
Two buses from the Ensign Bus vintage fleet and a couple of Willys jeeps adorned the front of the new heritage centre, courtesy of director of Ensign Buses, Steve Newman.
Tony added: "Many relatives of famous names who had once graced this airfield were in attendance, along with some veterans who had been based at the airfield."
Tom Sherriff, managing director of Bellway Thames Gateway, said: "We are proud to have played a key role in helping the group retain and showcase a selection of special memories of RAF Hornchurch, after a 30-year search for a permanent home for their artefacts and photographs.
“We wish the trust the best of luck in their journey to inform and educate our local community about the wartime history of Hornchurch.”