Historic bomber base brought back into public use in Doncaster

Bawtry Hall
Bawtry Hall

It has been one of Doncaster's most famous buildings - and it is set to be brought back to life.

Bawtry Hall has its own place in history as a former base of the RAF's Bomber Command during World War Two.

Marketing manager Katey Dent in the former RAF operations room

Marketing manager Katey Dent in the former RAF operations room

It even contains the room from which the air force's bosses co-ordinated the famous 'Black Buck' bombing mission on the Port Stanley Airfield in the 1980s Falklands War, which saw a Vulcan bomber fly thousands of miles from Britain to the South Atlantic.

The hall, which is now owned by the same company as the nearby Crown Hotel, is now seeing work underway which will transform the most glamorous parts of the building into a wedding venue.

And the plans would also see the former wartime operations room restored, and made available for public access for the first time in decades.

Craig Dowie, one of the directors of the recently formed Crown Hotel and Bawtry Hall Ltd, took the Free Press on a tour of the site, to show how work to transform the building moving forwards.

The gardens at Bawtry Hall

The gardens at Bawtry Hall

The grade two listed building was bought by his business partner Jason Cooper after it been used for many years as a Christian convention centre.

Since then, a number of businesses are already using parts of the hall as offices, while some parts of the sprawling Georgian country house are already been rented as flats.

The gardens have already been transformed back to their best, with flower beds and a lush lawn.

Now builders have moved into the main part of the hall, which fronts onto South Parade, one of the main roads through Bawtry.

Bawtry Hall

Bawtry Hall

At present, they are carrying out work to refurbish the rooms near the grand entrance, part of a building thought to date back to the 1980s.

Mr Dowie said: "The front was all overgrown when we started work. Now we have a big water feature and space for photographs to be take. It has been restored to who it would have looked in the 1940s."

The wooden gates which currently separate the building from the main road will be replaced. The driveway running from the gate to the entrance will then be lined with LED lights to illuminate it.

Mr Dowie believes this were VIPs such as wartime leader Winston Churchill would have arrived in the 1940.

He said: "It is a listed building and we're taking it back to its original features."

The former RAF operations room contains a board carrying details of aircraft squadrons and operations. At present, it is largely obscured by chairs, piled up high in the room.

Mr Dowie said: "This is going to be renovated and preserved. We would like to have been in and to hold talks and its links with the Vulcan. and the Falklands, with Doncaster already home to a Vulcan bomber at the airport.

"Bomber command is phase three of the plans. We are initially dong the wedding venue plans, which are phase two."

"We have offices based here too, along with 20 apartments. We are just really pleased that it is being brought back to life after all this time."

HISTORY

Bawtry Hall was originally built by Mr Pemberton Milne, a wealthy wool merchant, as a country home, in the 18th Century and extended during the 19th and 20th Centuries to form the present buildings.

The Georgian property was built on the site of a former Manor House on the outskirts of the town in 1779 for a leading West Yorkshire politician, and was bought in 1905 by a Major George Herbert Peake.

The Peakes became well known local figures, with the Major notable for flying his bi-plane from a field along the road to Blyth.

It remained in private ownership until 1939 when it was taken over by the Government. Taken over by the RAF in 1941, it was used by them as the Headquarters of the No 1 (Bomber) Group.

Further additions were made to the Hall by the RAF for use as an Operations Centre and Meteorological Office.

The Operations Centre was used for planning and carrying out many raids by Bomber Command during World War II. It co-ordinated raids involving Lancaster and Wellington bombers.

It was also used as an important RAF Operations Centre for the Falklands War.

After it was disposed of by the RAF in the 1980s, it was taken over by Action Partners Corporation, a Registered Charity who exist to advance the Christian faith. They used it as a conference and training venue, selling it in 2014.