Crumbling building where Radar was invented saved from disaster in £130,000 Orford rescue

By Culture24 Staff | 25 November 2010
A photo of a derelict building on grassland
The Suffolk coast almost claimed the home of Radar at Orford Ness© National Trust / Nigel Houghton
The Radar building where British intelligence forces carried out top-secret experiments to provide the first plane detection equipment has been saved from ruin in a £130,000 salvage operation.

Experts from the National Trust carried out emergency repairs on the roof and structure of the building, including “extensive” work on parts of the derelict site dating from World War One, after fears grew that it would be destroyed by ferocious weather battering the Suffolk coast.

“If it had been left unattended, the building may not have lasted another year,” admitted Nigel Houghton, the National Trust Buildings Surveyor who led the project.

“The overall approach was to conserve as much of the existing or original structure and fabric as possible, or replace like for like.

“This project will ensure the building survives for generations of future visitors to the Ness. It will eventually be open to visitors, complete with information about this intriguing site.”

Darren Braine, of Natural England, who supplied £87,000 in funding, said the investment was part of the Environmentally Sensitive Areas scheme, which has enhanced grassland at Orford Ness during the past 20 years.

“The principal aims of this have been to encourage scarce birds to nest and breed and to recreate the local traditional landscape of the Suffolk Coast and its important river valleys,” he explained.

“Being able to support the National Trust with the restoration of this iconic building, which is so important to modern British history and scientific endeavour, has added a new dimension to the reasons Natural England offer our support.”

The Trust traditionally adopts an organic attitude to the Ness, but decided the stature of the building demanded action.

“Our management ethos here on Orford Ness is to let nature take its course – and some of the buildings with it – in a gradual process of ruination,” said Grant Lohoar, the Trust’s Countryside Manager for East Suffolk for the past 16 years.
"This building is incredibly significant though, encapsulating the world-changing military developments which took place here, so the argument to save it was compelling. I’m really pleased this work is underway.”
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