A new museum which celebrates the history of the former Hornchurch Aerodrome has officially opened its doors after a grand unveiling.
Around 150 invited guests attended the official opening of RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre in Suttons Lane on Sunday September 19.
The centre, formerly Suttons House and part of the former St George’s Hospital site, was donated to Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Trust earlier this year by Bellway Thames Gateway, which is building new homes on the site at St George’s Park.
A ribbon was cut to mark a new beginning at the centre by Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon GCB CBE.
The event included a special flypast by a Spitfire and Hurricane from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Guests were offered a guided tour of the centre, which includes memorabilia from World War I, World War II and the post-war period up until the RAF base’s closure in 1962.
The trust has spent over 18 months refurbishing the building, and now plans to welcome local groups and schools to help them learn more about the history of RAF Hornchurch.
Tony Philpot, chairman of Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Trust, said: “The donation from Bellway has gone a long way into ensuring that the important history of RAF Hornchurch can live on, all in one place.
“It was a brilliant day for us and it was an important day for all the guests, who through one way or another, have a significant connection with Hornchurch Aerodrome.”
Guests who were invited to the unveiling included Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green, whose father was a Spitfire pilot and Commanding Officer of 64 Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch.
Tony added: ““We have been inundated with enquiries from local groups and schools and we are now fully booked up until the end of November. With the Heritage Centre’s close location, focus on the local history and its close alignment with the current syllabus, local schools are keen to take advantage of what the Heritage Centre has to offer.”
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.”
For more information about Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Trust, visit www.rafhornchurch.com