Record Details

NHER Number:2697
Type of record:Monument
Name:North Pickenham airfield


The airfield opened in May 1944, and the USAAF were stationed here throughout the last years of the war. The last group of B-24 Liberators to serve in Norfolk were stationed here. The airfield was converted to a storage airfield in 1945 and there is now a small commemorative stone on the airfield to the memory of those who served here during World War Two. Converted to a Thor missile site 1958 - 1963. Closed in 1965.
In 2014 a geophysical survey of a proposed development site identified what appear to be the in situ remains of structures associated with one of the airfield’s Thor missile pads. The various anomalies detected correspond with the known positions of long-range theodolite fixtures, blast walls, a fuel tanks and the building that would have housed the missile itself.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 848 066
Map Sheet:TF80NW

Full description

North Pickenham airfield, ex USAAF. Thor missile pads between runways.
Many relics kept at the Blue Lion Inn in North Pickenham (1994).
NAU air photography shows a large circular feature at TF 842 066 infilled bomb crater? However, circular feature at TF 842 069 on NAU air photographs is clearly some sort of defensive structure, possibly connected with post-war missile use.
E. Rose (NLA) 5 September 1995.

Opened May 1944 for 492 bomb group. Later replaced by 491st. Last Liberator base in Norfolk. Airfield closed 1945. See (S1) in file.

For further information on the operational history of the airfield and photographs, see (S2).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 13 January 2010.

Thor missiles installed in 1959 as E flight of 77 (Strategic missile) Squadron, based at RAF Feltwell. Closed in October 1963. The airfield was used briefly to test experimental aircraft 1964 - 1964. (S3)
K. Hamilton (HES) 9 November 2012

In December 1958, the first major action involving civil disobedience organised by the National Council for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons Tests' Emergency Committee for Direct Action against Nuclear War took place here in response to the deployment of Thor missiles. Forty-five demonstrators were arrested for blocking the entrance to the site and thirty of them spent Christmas in jail (S4).
D. Gurney (HES), 21 February 2013.

December 2014. Geophysical Survey.
Magnetometer survey of proposed development area on land formerly part of North Pickenham Airfield.
The area examined lies close to the former locations of two missile launch pads that were in use when the airfield operated Thor intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) during the Cold War. The locations of the launch pads and their associated structures are clearly marked on a 1970 Ordnance Survey map of the airfield.
The survey identified large areas of magnetic disturbance, the bulk of which appears to correspond with the known position of structures associated with one of the Thor missile pads. The disturbance was probable cause by a range of materials including foundations, bricks, reinforced concrete and tarmac. Several anomalies of extremely high magnitude are likely to have been caused by the in situ remains of particular structures, including long-range theodolite fixtures, the panelised building that would have housed the missile, an L-shaped blast wall and a fuel tank and its associated fuel pipes. A further band of magnetic disturbance corresponds with the position of a former access track that is also marked on the 1970 map. Linear anomalies are likely to locate buried pipes and/or cables.
The survey also identified a linear anomaly that corresponds with a former field boundary that is shown on the late 19th-century 1st Edition O.S map.
See report (S5) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 12 October 2016.

March 2017. Trial Trenching.
Evaluation of proposed development site in north-west corner of airfield, adjacent to junction between Procession Lane and North Pickenham Road.
This work revealed no evidence for any surviving remains associated with the use of North Pickenham Airfield during either World War II or the subsequent Cold War era. A brass bullet case and a small number of modern items were the only finds recovered. There was evidence for two phases of past landscaping that probably coincided with the original construction of the airfield and its subsequent decommissioning.
See report (S6) and NHER 62518 for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 31 January 2018.

Monument Types

  • BOMB CRATER? (World War Two - 1944 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY AIRFIELD (World War Two - 1944 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY BUILDING (World War Two - 1944 AD to 1945 AD)
  • AMMUNITION STORE (Cold War - 1945 AD to 1992 AD)
  • BLAST WALL (Cold War - 1945 AD to 1992 AD)
  • FUEL TANK (Cold War - 1945 AD to 1992 AD)
  • THOR MISSILE LAUNCH SITE (Cold War - 1945 AD to 1992 AD)
  • THOR MISSILE SITE (Mid 20th Century - 1958 AD to 1963 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status


Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TF8406 A,B,C-F; TF8506 A-J; TF8507 A-E; TF 8406 G-H.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A.. 1998. TF8407/F,G.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF 8506K - P.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Publication: Bowyer, M.J.F.. 1979. Action Stations 1: Wartime Military Airfields of East Anglia 1935-1945.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1998. Bombers remembered for their bravery. 13 October.
<S2>Monograph: McKenzie, R.. 2004. Ghost Fields of Norfolk. pp 74-77.
<S4>Publication: Rigby, A.. 1988. A Life in Peace: A Biography of Wilfred Wellock.
<S5>Unpublished Contractor Report: Harrison, D. 2015. Land at North Pickenham Airfield, Norfolk. Geophysical Survey. Archaeological Services WYAS. 2701.
<S6>Unpublished Contractor Report: Govier, E. and Ames, J. 2015. North Pickenham Anaerobic Digester, Swaffham, Norfolk, PE37 *LL. Archaeological Evaluation. NPS Archaeology. 2015/1388.

Related records - none

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