Discover Alconbury Weald’s fascinating past at this year’s Heritage Open Day
Alconbury Weald has a unique history covering thousands of years, from Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement, through Roman occupation and Medieval times to its more recent military past. As part of this year’s National Trust Heritage Open Days, master developer Urban&Civic will be hosting a vintage Summer Saturday with tours, talks and entertainment to help bring the past to life.
Taking place on Saturday 9 September 2023, residents and visitors will be able to soak up the atmosphere on Watch Office Green and enjoy live music from The Umbrella Band playing classics from the 1940s, military vehicles from the Second World War period and vintage lawn games. Refreshments will be available from food trucks and Bohemia café/bistro, which is based in the World War II listed Watch Office: the first permanent control tower at the airbase, acting as a central operation building for the whole airfield.
Alongside the music and family entertainment, Oxford Archaeology will be exhibiting evidence of activity from the later Roman period, discovered during its more recent archaeological investigations on site. Finds include coins, metalwork, a tiny bead made from a fossil thought to have been used in a necklace or bracelet, and pottery in good condition, suggesting it had not moved far from where it was used.
Tours around the Avionics Building – the unique Cold-War-era military bunker, which was designed to survive chemical and biological attack - will also be taking place throughout the day. Built to process intelligence data collected by the TR1 reconnaissance aircraft, the Grade II building was completed in 1989 and is one of the UK’s most sophisticated buildings of its kind.
The Airfield Research Group (ARG), a national aviation heritage charity, based at Alconbury Weald, will also be sharing fascinating stories spanning Alconbury Weald’s time as an RAF airbase and artefacts from some of its historic military buildings during a series of in-depth talks: a must for anyone interested in modern military history.
Many of the site’s historic features and footprints have been designed into the future designs for Alconbury Weald, which will also have a specific Cold War heritage area, to remember the unique role the base played in Cold War intelligence. Rebecca Britton, Regional Director for Alconbury Weald, said: “The military legacy we inherited at Alconbury Weald is helping shape the design of the development, incorporating runways and taxiways into linear park areas and keeping key views and features, as well as the listed buildings.
“All of these will come together in future Heritage Trails connected both to the Cold War Heritage Area (coming forward in Phase 3), and also the rich medieval history of Prestley Wood and stories we are only just uncovering from the archaeological finds of people living and working here through the centuries.
“In the meantime, the Heritage Open Days give us a chance to open up some of these hidden treasures and provide residents, local communities and visitors from further afield with an opportunity to discover more about Alconbury Weald’s past and enjoy the activities, performances and presentations taking place throughout the day.”
All activities during the Heritage Open Day are free, but the Avionics Building tours and ARG talks need to be booked in advance via EventBrite
The popular Avionics Building tours are now fully booked, however, there are some spaces left for the ARG talks.