Erected at the start of World War Two as office and sleeping accommodation for the Hearts of Oak Benefit Society whose headquarters were evacuated to the Castle from London in 1939, the hutments formed part of the estate acquired by the Admiralty when it was purchased as the new home for the Royal Observatory in 1947. They were subsequently converted for Observatory use until such time as more permanent buildings could be erected elsewhere on the estate. The first of the wartime buildings to be demolished was the hut in the courtyard, which was removed in 1952/3. Apart from a number of air raid shelters, the rest were cleared in early 1958, after the completion of the West Building and the Equatorial Group. The last of the air raid shelters were removed in 1977/8.
With one exception, the links below are arranged in pairs showing the Castle as seen from roughly the same angle on each of the two dates. They are ordered in a clockwise direction, starting with views from the east and ending with views from the west. In the 1948 images, some of the workmen stationed at Herstmonceux to convert the hutments for Observatory use can be seen.
The first image provides the best view of the hutment in the Castle courtyard that was used as a dining room. The air raid shelter was located to the west of the western end of the moat. The various views suggest it had five entrances as well as several escape hatches, two of which can be clearly seen in the last image, where one is open.
The images can be viewed on either the Historic England or the Britain from Above website. The images can be viewed at high resolution on both sites, but to do so on the Britain from Above website you need to log in. The Britain from Above site also allows logged in users to leave comments. Some of these are incorrect and as such caution is required when reading them.
Historic England ref.
Britain from Above ref.
|1948, Apr 13||EAW014362||EAW014362||Negative (damaged)
|1946, Jul 03||EAW001455||EAW001455|
|1948, Apr 13||EAW014359||EAW014359|
|1946, Jul 03||EAW001454||EAW001454|
|1948, Apr 13||EAW014361||EAW014361|
|1948, Apr 13||EAW014360||EAW014360|
|1946, Jul 03||EAW001453||EAW001453|
* Where no source is indicated, it is assumed that the digital image has been created from the original negative.
© 2014 – 2023 Graham Dolan
Except where indicated, all text and images are the copyright of Graham Dolan