Record Details

NHER Number:12413
Type of record:Monument
Name:Airship and military base, Pulham Piggery

Summary

The site was the scene of various experiments with airships, as well as being the base for pioneer long-distance flights. After World War One captured Zeppelins were stored here, and tanks were used to open the hangar doors. In the late 1920s one hangar was moved to Cardington, Bedfordshire, where it remains, the whereabouts of the other are uncertain. The site was used as storage in World War Two with no landing strip, although it was heavily bombed. The site also had a railway connection which remained until around 1960, as well as a narrow gauge railway inside the base, which closed in 1958.

Images

  • A 'Pulham Pig', an airship, at her mooring mast at Pulham airfield.  © Eastern Daily Press
  • Pulham Airship Station, c.1916.  © Norfolk County Council

Documents/files/web pages

Location

Grid Reference:TM 1950 8389
Map Sheet:TM18SE
Parish:DICKLEBURGH AND RUSHALL, SOUTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK
PULHAM ST MARY, SOUTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK

Full description

Opened 1916.
Scene of various experiments with airships, base for pioneer long-distance flights etc. After World War One captured Zeppelins were stored here, tanks were used to open the hanger doors. Late 1920s. One hanger was moved to Cardington, Bedfordshire where it remains. Another is said to be on the Saddlebow Estate, King's Lynn, but this is probably not correct.
Used as storage in World War Two with no landing strip. Heavily bombed. Had railway connection which remained until around 1960. Narrow gauge railway inside base as well, closed 1958. Remains of several smaller buildings and cropmarks of hangers visible 1981.
Relics in RAF Museum, Hendon and RNAS Museum, Yeovilton
For full details see (S1).
E. Rose (NAU), 10 August 1981.

Newspaper cuttings (S2) and (S3) in file, plus further details
Large rolled plan of layout in 1919.
Slide copy made of 1916 aerial photograph
Report on suitability of field for Handley Pages 1918 in file.
See NIAS survey on fiche.

6 August 1993. NLA Air photography.
Site of Pulham airship station visible as remains of smaller buildings and rough ground. Cropmarks or aircraft hanger not clear.
H. Clare (NLA), 5 February 2001.

This site has a special place in aviation history as it was the base for Britain's first airworthy rigid airship and was the location of the world's first permanent airship mooring mast. The site was also instrumental in setting up air traffic control in the UK, using Marconi radio beacon equipment, with one beacon located at this site and another at Croydon. Pulham was the chief research establishment for airships until the move to Cardington.
This was a full RAF site including parade ground, officers' mess and accommodation for men and officers. During and after World War Two the base was used as a storage depot for crashed aircraft from Eastern England, and the RAF had a test firing range here.
Information from (S4).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 31 October 2007.

(S4) in file summarises the importance of the site and adds that one of the hangars went to Karachi (destroyed 1980); one of the two first Marconi air traffic control beacons was here, and also a Chainholme radar station from 1939.
E. Rose (NLA), 25 July 2007.

October 2012. Field visit.
Areas of hard standing for hangars, tracks and a number of buildings survive. The buildings include one labelled as the 'Silicol plant' on (S6) and shown in a photograph included in (S7).
The extent of the site has been increased to cover the entire area of the military site shown on 1946 aerial photographs. The former mapped area is shown on a map included in the secondary file.
D. Robertson (HES), 15 October 2012.

Monument Types

  • STRUCTURE (Undated)
  • AIRSHIP MOORING MAST (World War One to World War Two - 1914 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BROADCASTING TRANSMITTER (World War One to World War Two - 1914 AD to 1945 AD)
  • RADAR BEACON (World War One to World War Two - 1914 AD to 1945 AD)
  • AIRFIELD (World War One to Modern - 1916 AD to 2050 AD)
  • AIRSHIP HANGAR (World War One to World War Two - 1916 AD to 1945 AD?)
  • OFFICERS MESS (World War One to World War Two - 1916 AD? to 1945 AD?)
  • RAILWAY (World War One to Cold War - 1916 AD to 1960 AD?)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TM1983 A-C.
---Aerial Photograph: TM 1983/G-L.
---Website: John Halliday. 2000. http://www.gurney.co.uk/halliday/beckvale/psmair.htm. Pulham and its Airships.
---Monograph: Kinsey, G.. 1988. Pulham Pigs: the history of an Airship station..
---Archive: Norfolk Monuments Management Project File.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Slide: TM1984 A.
---Website: English Heritage. 1926. Airship Sheds at RNAS Pulham, Pulham St Mary, August 1926..
<S1>Serial: Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum. 1981. Airfields of Norfolk and Suffolk.. Vol III.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1982. Airship limps home to Pulham. 22 April.
<S3>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1990. Farmer wrecked historic wall.. 9 May.
<S4>Unpublished document: King, G.. 2007. Notes on the History of the Pulham Air Station - a one-page potted history..
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2012. Images of a time when 'pigs' really could fly. 7 April.
<S6>Rolled Plan: Large Plan Exists.
<S7>Publication: M. Osborne and Graham Kerr, G.. 2008. 20th Century Defences in Britain: Norfolk. Pages 74 and 105.

Related records - none

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