Tangmere Village History Project

Welcome to the Tangmere History website.

In 2015 Tangmere Local History Group were lucky enough to obtain a grant from the Heritage Lottery fund in order to create this website.

The village of Tangmere, in West Sussex, has a long history. It has a 12th Century church and several listed houses in its conservation area. The village is well known outside the local area due to its association with the RAF who had an airfield in the village from the 1920s to 1970s,which was of immense importance particularly during the second world war. The influence of the airfield is still felt in the village in the naming of many roads and the presence of the popular Military Aviation Museum amongst other things.

Tangmere Local History Group was formed in 2000 and now arranges talks and visits for local residents on subjects of interest about the surrounding area.

The group has a small archive of photographs, maps and documents relating to the village which deserves to be more widely shared. Other local people also have interesting memories and memorabilia to share and we hope to capture many of these on this website. Tangmere is due to expand rapidly over the next few years so we hope to save these memories before the village expands so that residents present and future and others with an interest in the village can enjoy them.

If you have any documents or memories which you would like to see included on this website please contact us at barbara@tangmere-history.org.uk.

Wartime Memories

One of the joys of this project has been talking to people who remember what life was like in the village during the second world war. At our first Open Day we met John Chappell who lived in what is now Chestnut Walk as a child. It was fascinating to hear his stories of life with the airmen about the village and he brought his childhood sketchbook to share with us and we reproduce some of his pictures here.

Phyl Norrell lived near what is now the roundabout on the A27 and has also told us tales of what it was like in what was then a very rural village. Some of Phyl’s memories will be added to the website as audio files shortly.










































Buildings We Have Lost

Tangmere Hotel
Tangmere Hotel
Three hangars on the airfield
Three hangars on the airfield
The hangars being removed
The hangars being removed
RAF Tangmere Main Gate - Hunters Gate is now on this site
RAF Tangmere Main Gate – Hunters Gate is now on this site
RAF Tangmere control tower
RAF Tangmere control tower – not gone, but not in a good state.
Inside the control tower
Inside the control tower
RAF theatre and gym
RAF theatre and gym, Chichester Drive on the left.
The old nursing home
The old nursing home – Duxford Close is now on this site.

When The Church Was Struck By Lightning

Damaged Spire Closeup
On Wednesday 15th October, 2003 at around midday, the church spire was struck by a lightning bolt. The lightning destroyed the tiles on the spire, passed into the church and a fireball exploded, which could be heard for some distance around.

Four fire engines attended the scene and discovered that all but one of the ancient windows had been blown out. They quickly dealt with a small fire in the spire and a number of hotspots within the roof space.

The church rector, Canon Colin Fowler, said that “it was not the fire that caused the damage, it was the explosion in the church itself that blew out the stained glass windows. Fortunately nobody was in the church, as they definitely would not have survived.”

The one remaining window was laid out on the grass outside – but the next morning it had been stolen.

Church Interior

Damaged Spire

Project Open Days

Some pictures taken during the project open day held in February 2016 in the Village Centre and at other village events.

Project Open Day
Project Open Day
Project Open Day
Project Open Day
Barbara Maw and Richard Roberts
Barbara Maw and Richard Roberts
Barbara & Jerry Maw
Barbara & Jerry Maw
Chris & Alison Coote
Chris & Alison Coote
Project Open Day
Project Open Day

Road Names in Tangmere

Holders of the Victoria Cross
Bishops Road: Air Marshal William Avery “Billy” Bishop VC
Campbell Road: Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell VC
Cheshire Crescent: Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire VC
Edwards Avenue: Wing Commander Hughie Idwal Edwards VC
Garland Square: Flying Officer Donald Edward Garland VC
Gibson Road: Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC
Jerrard Road: Flight Lieutenant Alan Jerrard VC
Malcolm Road: Wing Commander Hugh Gordon Malcolm VC
Mannock Road: Major Edward Corringham “Mick” Mannock VC
Middleton Gardens: Pilot Officer Rawdon Hume Middleton VC
Nettleton Avenue: Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton VC
Nicolson Close: Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson VC

Blenheim Park: Bristol Blenheim, light bomber aircraft
Canberra Place: English Electric Canberra bomber
Fulmar Way: Fairey Fulmar, fighter aircraft
Gamecock Terrace: Gloster Gamecock
Hampden Place: Handley Page Hampden
Hawker Close: Hawker Hurricane
Lysander Way: Westland Lysander
Merlin Close: Rolls Royce Merlin
Spitfire Court: Spitfire
Sunderland Close: Short Sunderland – flying boat
Wellington Place: Vickers Wellington, long-range bomber
Wyvern Close: Westland Wyvern

Caedwalla Drive: King of Wessex in AD680, who gave 1200 acres of land at Tangmere to the church of St. Andrew at Pagham.
Neville Duke Way: Squadron Leader Neville Frederick Duke DSO, OBE, DFC**, AFC, FRAeS
Bayley Road: John Bayley was a farmer and landowner in Tangmere

Origins of Tangmere

Tangmere dates back to at least AD680, when Caedwalla, King of Wessex, is recorded as giving 10 hides of land (about 1200 acres) at Tangmere to the church of St. Andrew at Pagham. The Domesday Book (1086) records that Tangmere had a population of around 120, with the stone church of St Andrew built after the Norman conquest. Originally built of timber, the Saxon church was replaced in 1100 by a stone and timber building. In 1341 Edward II granted Tangmere the right to hold an annual fair on St. Andrew’s Day.

The manor of Tangmere was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury until 1542, when Henry VIII seized it for the crown. It was later granted by Elizabeth I to Sir Richard Sackville (a cousin of Anne Boleyn). In 1579 the manor became part of the Halnaker estate which was later acquired by the 3rd Duke of Richmond. Goodwood maintained ownership of Tangmere land until the 1930s.

The village name originates from “tang” meaning a fork and “mere” meaning a pond. The pond was situated at the junction of Tangmere Road and Chestnut Walk, and was filled in some years ago.

Tangmere Airfield was established in 1917 by the RAF, but construction had only just been completed by the end of the war in 1918. In 1939 the airfield was enlarged to defend the south coast against attack by the Luftwaffe, with Tangmere’s only hotel and some houses being demolished in the process. The RAF commandeered the majority of houses in the centre of the village, with only six to eight families being allowed to stay. Throughout the war, the station was also a secret base for the Special Operations Executive, who flew agents in and out of occupied France to strengthen the Resistance. The SOE used Tangmere Cottage, opposite the main entrance to the base. 

After the war, the RAF High Speed Flight was based at Tangmere.  In September 1953, Squadron Leader Neville Duke flew a Hawker Hunter at 727 miles per hour flying from the airfield over a course off Rustington. In June 1958, Fighter Command left Tangmere, but the airfield remained operational until 16th October 1970.
Following the closure of the RAF station, some of the land around the runways was returned to farming. Tangmere Airfield Nurseries have built huge glasshouses for the cultivation of peppers.
Until 1983, 37 acres of barracks, admin blocks and repair workshops remained derelict until bought by Seawards Properties Ltd. Housing soon spread around the airfield, and much RAF building was demolished and officers’ houses retained as homes.
The Parish Council was established in 1966, since when the village has slowly resumed its development as a rural community rather than a military one. The population in the 2011 census was 2625.