Photo gallery: Couple preserves paintings at former American war officers’ quarters in Norfolk

Barrie and Leslie Adams live at The Quarters in Cranworth, where they have preserved the drawings by American servicemen on the walls. Picture: Ian Burt Barrie and Leslie Adams live at The Quarters in Cranworth, where they have preserved the drawings by American servicemen on the walls. Picture: Ian Burt

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
4:33 PM

A couple is helping to preserve memories of the friendly invasion of American military into Norfolk at their rural home.

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Barrie and Lesley Adams have transformed what used to be a United States Army Air Force (USAAF) combat wing into three family homes for themselves, their daughter and Mrs Adams’s sister.

Tucked away just outside of Cranworth, near Dereham, the buildings were used as officers’ quarters during the Second World War and would see senior servicemen plan their operations and watch the aircraft taking off and coming into land at Shipdham Airfield.

In their leisure-time, the officers would relax and eat in their mess – and to amuse them, a set of murals were painted on the walls.

The drawings include ones of pin-up girls, a milk bar scene with customers enjoying banana splits and malted milkshakes and American film star Gene Tierney.

The paintings, which were created using oil paints from Jarrold, remain on the walls today and have been preserved by Mr and Mrs Adams.

They have had hundreds of people come and see the pictures, including people who have travelled from America, and the couple have said they will keep access to the paintings open for members of the public to see. At the moment, the largest image, which measures 10ft by 5ft 6ins, is preserved in the couple’s house 
while a further seven are in a separate, currently under renovation, building towards the back of their land.

Mrs Adams, 58, who runs a care home in Dereham, said: “People who are interested know they are here and they know all about them.

“People drive through the gate and ask where the pictures are. We had a coach-load come one day from RAF Marham.

“It’s lovely to see that people like it – we are quite proud of it and English Heritage said it was a well preserved one.

“I think a lot of them have been done away with by people who have bought properties and don’t want them so have painted over them which we think is a shame.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s there for everybody to come and see and people have a right to see it.”

The paintings are considered to be archaeological sites and have garnered interest from the Eighth in the East project which is protecting US air base artwork.

There is also a fireplace which was built specifically for General Leon Johnson to celebrate a successful raid in Romania and the buildings are considered to be some of the most haunted in the county.

The couple spent two-and-a-half years renovating the buildings which had become dilapidated and used for pigs.

They have lived on the site for four years.

They are now in the middle of renovating the buildings at the back of their house, which feature a water tower, and are preserving the images there.

Are you helping to preserve a piece of Norfolk’s heritage? Email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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