CHRIS MALE MRAeS uncovers some forgotten images of RAeS HQ at No.4 Hamilton Place taken in 1960 during major rebuilding work underway both at the Society to construct the lecture theatre and fifth floor and to the southern end of Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner.

We have all done it at one time or another, gone to look for something and returned with something completely different. On a recent visit to a storage cupboard at No.4 to look for a particular photograph of Claude Graham-White in Washington, I found instead two small, unmarked boxes of 35mm slides. My curiosity got the better of me (again) and when I opened them I discovered a long-forgotten window into life at Hamilton Place during 1960 as they recorded the construction of the fifth floor and the Lecture Theatre. Claude Grahame-White forgotten I returned to my desk and immediately began the process of scanning them into the Society’s digital photo library and researching the captions to go with them.

The slides were taken by RAeS staff member Mr A S C Lumsden and were used to illustrate a lecture (The Aeronautical Journal, January 1961, Vol 65, pp 42-47) given by the then RAeS President E S Moult at the official opening of the Lecture Theatre by Lord Brabazon of Tara HonFRAeS on 12 December 1960. There was also a film of the works which has yet to be re-discovered.

A Royal Aeronautical Society staff meeting in what is today the Handley Page Room on the second floor of No.4 Hamilton Place. Clockwise from left: Mr Norman Deaton, Miss Florence Barwood, Dr Anthony J. Barrett, Dr Archie Ballantyne, Frank H. Smith, Mrs Joan Bradbrooke and Miss Sheila Rigby. (NAL/RAeS)

For many years the RAeS had considered the possibility of the Society having its own lecture theatre and a number of properties and schemes were visited but were prohibitively expensive. In the spring of 1957 a scheme to reconstruct Hyde Park Corner was announced which would involve the demolition of a number of neighbouring properties. This created the possibility of the Society obtaining a narrow strip of land from 143 Piccadilly which would permit the building of a lecture theatre on the garden at the rear of No.4 Hamilton Place. As this would also result in a loss of accommodation it was also proposed to add a fifth floor at the same time. Following a successful appeal, work began and the contractors moved in in October 1959.

The entrance to No.4 Hamilton Place c. 1960 showing the now demolished building on the left on the site now occupied by the Intercontinental Hotel. (NAL/RAeS)

Excavation of the garden at No.4 Hamilton Place prior to construction of the lecture theatre, c.November 1959. (NAL/RAeS)

Major excavations in the rear garden led to substantial works in the basement and a controlled earthquake for the staff.

Royal Aeronautical Society staff, probably in 8 or 9 Hamilton Place c.1960. (NAL/RAeS)

Mr Norman Deaton (?) in his office on the third floor of No.4 Hamilton Place c.1960. (NAL/RAeS)

Mrs Joan Bradbrooke, MBE, HonCRAeS, 1908-1971, Editor, RAeS Journal, 1946 to her retirement from the Society in 1968, in her office in 8 Hamilton Place c.1960, where the Publication Department was moved to during the building of the Lecture Theatre. (NAL/RAeS)

The Publications staff were temporarily moved out to the Society’s properties at 8 and 9 Hamilton Place, the telephone exchange was moved into the cupboard in reception and the Society’s Technical Department was moved into the Library (in those days the Library was housed on the first floor in what is now the Argyll Room).

The Foreman, Mr Poole, inspects work during construction of the fifth floor at No.4 Hamilton Place in 1960. (NAL/RAeS)

A plasterer in what was to become the Tech Department on the fifth floor (possibly Hyde Park side) at No.4 Hamilton Place in 1960. (NAL/RAeS)

Mrs Martin with the telephone exchange in the cupboard in reception during the building works at No.4 Hamilton Place c.1960. (NAL/RAeS)

Probably the new caretaker’s flat on the fourth floor at No.4 Hamilton Place c.June 1960. (NAL/RAeS)

Because the works had to be completed before the Hyde Park reconstruction finished, the new fifth floor and alterations to the fourth floor to create a caretaker’s flat (previously in the basement) continued at the same time as work on the Lecture Theatre. The caretaker’s flat was completed on 29 June 1960, the fifth floor on 25 September and the Lecture Theatre on 23 October.

The rear of No.4 Hamilton Place from the park during the final stages of completing the Lecture Theatre c.1960. (NAL/RAeS)

The panelled interior of the new lecture theatre at No.4 Hamilton Place c.1960. (NAL/RAeS)

The Lecture Theatre was equipped to the highest standards of the day, including the provision of a cine projector, public address system, closed-circuit television and translation facilities.

As well as the box of slides, a recording of the opening of the lecture theatre survives, including the moment when Lord Brabazon cut the ribbon.

Chris Male
19 December 2017

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