The Transmitter Block at Bawdsey is Grade II* listed and one of several structures on the former RAF Bawdsey site that formed the first operational radar station in the world, playing a vital role in the defence of Britain during World War II.
First completed in 1939, the brick-faced block housed electronic equipment that sent the radar signal out through four 100m tall masts, the massive concrete bases for which are still visible. The building fell into disuse in the 1970s and steady deterioration led to it being placed on the ‘Buildings at Risk Register’. Freeland Rees Roberts was appointed in March 2014 as Architects for the restoration and, with assistance from the HLF and Historic England, the building has now been completely restored. Inside a new interactive exhibition tracing the history of radar was opened to the public in September 2017.
Extensive repairs were needed to the surrounding concrete blast walls using advanced techniques that will prevent further corrosion of the reinforcement. After careful patching and cleaning, the whole surface was coated with a clear microporous coating that reveals the colour and board-marked finish of the original concrete. This was followed by reinstatement of the earth revetments on two sides (the other blast walls have been left exposed). The flat concrete roof was completely removed and then replaced with a layer of insulation and a new waterproof membrane. A brick incinerator chimney thought to date from the Cold War was in poor condition and rebuilt in matching materials.
A new accessible lavatory block for visitors was prefabricated, clad in Corten steel and lowered into position between two of the blast walls; the air source heat pump has a similar enclosure. Internal and external decorations have been carefully matched to the original colours, leaving some of the original finishes and fittings visible.
A new exhibition has been installed by PLB telling the fascinating story of radar in all its detail and the building has now been re-opened to the public.
The construction process can be viewed here.
In 2018 the project received a commendation from the RIBA Suffolk Craftsmanship Awards for Restoration.
The project also won the 2019 Civic Trust AABC Conservation Award. Both awards can be viewed here.