Funding secured to bring the history of Langham Dome to life
- Credit: IAN BURT
Many people will have driven past this mysterious dark sphere near the north Norfolk coast with little or no knowledge of the crucial role it played in defeating the Nazis.
But now the building's fascinating history as a training base for anti-aircraft gunners during the second world war is to be brought to life.
More than £650,000 has been secured to transform the Langham Dome at Langham, near Wells, into a educational centre for the public.
Information to explain its history and its significance will be displayed, using modern projection and sound equipment.
There will also be displays about second world war aircrews, aircraft and squadrons that served at the former RAF base at Langham.
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A programme and volunteer co-ordinator will help recruit local volunteers and organise a range of activities.
These will include regular open days and work with local schools.
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The work is possible after a grants of more than £446,000, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and £199,000 from English Heritage, have been secured.
Smaller sums from a range of local charities will also be used to help with the work.
Patrick Allen, chairman of the Friends of Langham Dome, a group of volunteers formed three years ago, said: 'This is great news. A great deal of work has gone into getting to this stage.
'We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as English Heritage and the other contributors, who have now shown faith in what we believe we can deliver.'
Langham Dome, a black, 40ft diameter concrete structure, sits on land that used to be part of RAF Langham.
Built in 1942 it was used to train anti-aircraft gunners using what was, at the time, state-of–the-art film technology to simulate approaching aircraft.
The dome was owned by Bernard Matthews Ltd who donated it to the North Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust together with about one-third of an acre of land.
Around 40 such domes were built around Britain but the one at Langham is one of only six known to survive – and the only one that is accessible to the public.
Already in a deteriorating condition, the structure – which has been listed as a scheduled ancient monument – will now be saved and restored by the North Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, working with the Friends of Langham Dome.
When in use for training, pictures of moving aircraft were projected onto the dome's interior with a beam of light projected from a mocked up anti-aircraft gun enabling the trainer to assess whether gunners hit their targets.
Innovative engineering techniques were used in its construction, but it has suffered from water damage and some earlier inadequate repairs.
The building will now be properly restored and equipped with reproduction technical equipment to show how it was used originally.
Mr Allen said: 'Langham was at the forefront of both defence and attack during world war two.
'Many of those that served here, came from across the globe.
'Sadly many never returned home, having made the ultimate sacrifice.
'The dome will now be a fitting memorial to the people who served in it.
'It will tell their story and educate future generations of what happened at Langham.'
Mr Allen said some people who served in the dome during the second world war have been contacted and have shown interest in getting involved in the project.
He said it was hoped that the work will be completed by next Easter.
For more information about how to volunteer in the project, visit www.friendsoflanghamdome.org