The Story of Biggin Hill: a plotlands development and post-war exurb in Greater London

RAF Biggin Hill

By 1914 most of the Aperfield estate had been sold of and developed, but the Cudham Lodge estate to the north was still traditionally farmed. Owned by the Stanhope family of Chevening and occupied by John Westacott, a farmer, the First World War caused a sudden change in its fortunes.

By 1916, it was becoming clear that radio communications could play an important role in modern warfare and the Royal Flying Corp were on the lookout for a site for testing. The site needed to be high, fog free and flat. Cudham Lodge was all of these and contained a huge undivided field, ideal for aircraft.

By 1917 the wireless testers had arrived and had requisitioned Koonowla, a local house previously used as a children’s hospital, as their headquarters.

Soon the station had another use. The Germans had begun to send planes across the channel to bomb south London so to defend the area, aircraft based north of the river at Hornchurch were sent south to Biggin Hill. When the Royal Air Force was formed in 1918, the large field at Cudham Lodge had been transformed into RAF Biggin Hill.

Over the next 20 years the airfield developed into one of the country’s foremost air bases, playing a crucial role in defending the capital during the Battle of Britain in 1940. This had an inevitable effect on the village. The little plotlands settlement had now expanded to create the necessary infrastructure for the base and by the end of the Second World War was famous throughout the country. Many of the administrative, engineering and technical staff at the base came from the village.

In 1958 the station ceased to be an active base and became primarily a civil airfield, taken over by Bromley Council in 1973, the RAF finally moving out in 1992. A new passenger terminal now allows large passenger charter planes to land and it has been renamed London Biggin Hill Airport.