WORLD WAR I Sedgeford Aerodrome
Our building consisted of two rooms, with a double-width doorway into the northern room: easy access for stretchers perhaps? This room had four round air-vents set in its walls, and a cement skim around the walls that forms a curve from the walls into the floor, which would have allowed for easy washing of the room.
The remains of a louvered wooden frame on the roof clearly shows that there was a vented superstructure in the centre of the roof, a feature seen on other period architecture.
The team noted that all of the windows in the building were at the tops of the walls, thereby allowing light in but not providing a view from the outside. The position of the building in an area that was woodland during World War I means that it occupied a ‘liminal’ space hidden from general view and cut off from the day-today life of the aerodrome.
Although constructed using fairly crude materials (concrete, coarse bricks, flue-type blocks, and slate), the building displays some interesting architectural features – as if some thought had been given to its design, moving it beyond a purely utilitarian character. At each corner there was a brick column to support the walls. These were capped at the top with two layers of clay tile and diagonal bricks, creating a simple decorative effect.
Training accidents were demoralising. The dead were a reminder of the risk to the living. The mortuary – ‘the house of the dead’ – turned that reminder into a permanent part of the built structure of the aerodrome. Better that it not be seen.
An air-raid shelter
Another standing building also posed problems in interpretation. This was a partially buried building that we have generally thought of as an air-raid shelter. It has been fully recorded, and is constructed of house bricks with an internal corrugated-iron ceiling overlaid with a thick slab of concrete. This external covering of concrete was above The air-raid shelter that might once have been an ice-house, and which later became some sort of generalpurpose shed.
The solvent was called ‘dope’ because the fumes made people ‘high’ – and in large doses could be lethal.
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk poured in situ, as evidenced by the trowel-marks on its surface.
A wooden door at the bottom of the steps led into the one-room shelter. Short brick-piers were found spaced along both walls, presumably supports for wooden benches that could have sat around a dozen people. A window, crudely hacked out of the south wall, sits at the external ground level. This seems to have been created at a later date, probably when the shelter was being used as a store.
Above ground, what appears to be a finishing course of brickwork around the stairwell suggests that the brick courses above this were a later addition to the structure. A wooden doorpost at the entrance to the stairwell suggests that an outer door was added at the same time. These later alterations may have been made during the site’s life as a military installation, or they may be associated with its later use as part of a farm.
It is also possible, given its proximity to the mortuary, that the building started life as an icehouse. Bodies were required to be stored at below freezing, so warmperiods may have required extra cooling in the mortuary. The building may later have been converted into an air-raid shelter for use by the crew of the dummy airfield during WWII.
The bricks do not help us. They were made by a Cambridgeshire firm, Central Whittlesea, which was making bricks before WWI and continued to do so under their own brand-name until the post-WWII period. No other dating material was recovered.
September 2014 |