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  RAF Nocton Hall / No 1 RAF Hospital Nocton Hall

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Updated: 20 Jul 12

1917 - 1919: Convalescent home for American officers

Opened: 1940

Re-designated: 1943 United States Army Seventh General Hospital

Re-designated: 1945 RAF Nocton Hall

Closed: 31 Mar 1983

Leased to USAF: 1984 - 1995

Formally closed 23 Jun 1995, handed back by US Forces Sep 1995

Units based here:

United States Army Seventh General Hospital

There has been a Hall in Nocton for hundreds of years and each incarnation has had a particular affinity with flames. The current Nocton Hall was rebuilt in 1841 for the first Earl of Ripon.

Word War I

By the Great War it had passed into the Hodgson family, and after the United States' entry into the War in 1917 the family moved into Embsay House in the village, in order that the Hall could be turned into a convalescent home for American officers wounded in the War. The last of these officers left in 1919. Towards the end of 1919 the now vacant Hall and its estate were sold to William H. Dennis who having little affection for domestic life in the village, did not reside there.

The Gathering Storm - Selected for Hospital Use by the Air Ministry

Having lain vacant since the departure of the American military in 1919, Nocton Hall became attractive during the gathering storm in the late 1930s. It was soon clear that the rapid increase in RAF stations being created across Lincolnshire would exhaust the only RAF Hospital in the county at Cranwell. The Air Ministry acted and acquired the Hall and 200 acres of parkland in 1940 and built an RAF Hospital. However, even before it had opened it was deemed to be too small and another RAF Hospital was established at Rauceby.

War Time Use by the US Army

Nocton Hall did not go to waste and was instead leased to the US Army - again! - to be used as an Army "clearing station". A complex of buildings was added to the east of the Hall and was formally re-designated the United States Army Seventh General Hospital. It served in this role until 1943.

Post-War No 1 RAF Hospital Nocton Hall

At the end of the War in 1945 the RAF selected Nocton Hall to be their permanent general hospital for the county of Lincolnshire, No 1 RAF Hospital Nocton Hall. This required additional building works which started in 1946, as the war-time construction was not of sufficient standard for the peacetime hospital. Four wards were added, admitting the first patient on 1 Nov 1947. The Hall was at least initially used to billet female RAF medical staff, with married quarters built nearby. Female nursing officers were accommodated in the Hall until at least the 1960s.

Construction and expansion continued apace with the following facilities added:

by 1954: ENT, surgical, opthalmic and dental
May 1957: Maternity Wing
1966: Twin operating theatres, neuro-psychiatric centre.
Jul 1969: Self-contained maternity division.

1983 - Closure of the RAF Hospital

The decision was taken on 31 Mar 1983 to close RAF Nocton Hall which had developed into a 740 bed hospital, used by civilians and forces personnel, and one of the country’s undisputed RAF Hospitals.

A Mr Torrie Richardson bought Nocton Hall, the surrounding wood, woodland, grassland and cottages, but not the still-occupied hospital site. The profits from selling the cottages for redevelopment left him with the capital to develop Nocton Hall as a Residential Home which was a significant local employer.

1984 - US Armed Forces Once Again

The Nocton Hall hospital site was leased separately in 1984 to the US Armed Forces for a third time, as a United States Air Force wartime contingency hospital.

1991 Gulf War

During the Gulf War in 1991/92 that contingency was activated with approximately 1300 US medical staff being sent to staff it, as the 310th Contingency Hospital from Travis Air Force Base in Northern California. Many were billeted at RAF Scampton, Digby, Waddington and Cranwell. They traveled by double decked red buses to and from work at hospital and the only injuries to hospital staff during the war were from a bus accident on the ice. Approximately 650 that came from David Grant Medical Center at Travis AFB in Fairfield CA. Almost unbelievably, only 35 casualties were treated at Nocton during the conflict. Once the ground operations had completed, and the patients and staff dispersed, only 13 American personnel remained at the site to keep the hospital serviceable.

Final RAF Use

There followed a short period serving as an RAF forward outpatient department, from 1992 until 1993. This formally closed in 1994, with one contributor to the site, Steve Pickett, PMRAFNS, being present at the closing ceremony. Then the RAF Hospital site was again handed back to the state on 30 Sep 1995 to stand empty once more.

Hall and Hospital Reunited in Ownership - And Decay

The Hall itself was sold by the receivers to Leda Properties of Abingdon in the mid-1990s. Mr Gary Richardson - son of the original operator - was forced to closed the Residential Home after financial difficulties. Leda Properties also acquired the RAF Hospital site from the MOD, it having been identified for disposal by the Defence Estates.

The site remained undeveloped for years, with predictable random looting and targeted removal if items like bannisters and fireplaces. Shortly before midnight on Sat 24 Oct 04 the Hall was set ablaze by arsonists. At its height, about 70 firefighters attended the blaze which started just before midnight. After several hours it was brought under control, but the roof collapsed and the building was severely damaged. Only a shell was to remain.

A second fire in 2005 caused further damage and the building's fabric continued to decay.

The Victorian Society chose to list Nocton Hall in Oct 2009 in its top 10 endangered buildings list for England and Wales. Due to continued inactivity by the developers, English Heritage have also placed it on the UK 'Buildings At Risk' register and are seeking with North Kesteven District Council to secure and preserve what is left of the old Hall and restore its gardens.

There are two pages which, together, provide detailed history of the Hall and its owners on the MACLA website > http://www.macla.co.uk/newsmag/2009/06/the-history-of-raf-nocton-hall.html and the Nocton Blog

Station Commanders of RAF (H) Nocton Hall

1947: Group Captain C. C. J. Nicolls
1947 - 1949: Group Captain L. C. Palmer-Jones
1949: Group Captain D. A. Wilson
1949 - 1952: Group Captain L. M. Corbel CBE
1952 - 1953: Group Captain P. A. Cooper
1953 - 1955: Group Captain S. R. C. Nelson QBE
1955 - 1959: Group Captain H. C. S. Pimblett CBE
1959 - 1961: Group Captain E. S. Sidey
1961 - 1964: Group Captain W. B. Thornburn
1964 - 1966: Group Captain J. M. Urquhart
1966 - 1969: Group Captain E. S. Odbert MBE
1969 - 1973: Group Captain T. A. Evershed
1973 - 1976: Group Captain I. H. Mercer
1976 - 1979: Group Captain M. H. Rogers
1979 - 1981: Group Captain I. G. Currie
1981 - 1983: Group Captain D. R. Crockatt

Nocton.org

Streetnames:
Rostrop Road

Nocton Blogspot

Community led action for Nocton

All Saints Church, Nocton

> Church Blog

Three videos taken around the hospital site in 2009

History of the Hall's owners

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
(Tourism)

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