Trust celebrating Hornchurch history opens new permanent heritage centre

Deputy Lieutenant of Havering, Nick Bracken OBE with local police cadets.

Deputy lieutenant of Havering, Nick Bracken, with local police cadets. - 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. 

Cutting of ribbon

Air chief marshal Sir Michael Graydon cut the ribbon to officially mark the opening - Credit: Helen Harris

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. 

RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre

From left to right: RNA standard bearer for Romford & Hornchurch Michael Gosling, Mick Webb, Jeff Skillman, MP Iain Duncan Smith, air chief marshal Sir Michael Graydon with RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre chairman and volunteers. - Credit: Helen Harris

At the opening ceremony, Bellway representative Jamie McCarthur handed the keys for Suttons House to the trust's chairman, Tony Philpot.

flypast

There was a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Spitfire Mk IIa P7350 and Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865. - Credit: Helen Harris

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. 

RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre

From left to right: HAHT treasurer Jeff Skillman, RNA standard bearer Michael Gosling, Mick Webb, Helen Harris and Keith Chettleburgh. - Credit: Helen Harris


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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. 

The Ted Exall education suite unveiled by Maxine Elliott.

The Ted Exall education suite unveiled by Maxine Elliott. - Credit: Helen Harris

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. 

The RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre

From left to right: Helen Harris, Royal Naval Association (RNA) standard bearer for Romford and Hornchurch, Michael Gosling, Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, Cllr Judith Holt, Keith Chettleburgh, and RNA's Mick Webb. - Credit: Helen Harris

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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."

Bus

Two buses from the Ensign Bus vintage fleet adorned the front of the heritage centre. - Credit: Helen Harris

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.

RAF

The local Residents' Association councillors with Joanne Gower and Tony Philpot. - Credit: Helen Harris

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.”

RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre

Air chief marshal Sir Michael Graydon inspecting air cadets and police cadets prior to opening of the heritage centre. - Credit: Helen Harris

Jeeps

A couple of Willys jeeps also adorned the front of the heritage centre. - Credit: Helen Harris


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