The Village

Map showing the location of cranwell

Cranwell village is sited on the western side of a gentle hill which ensures that there is little evidence of its existence to passing motorists on the A15 which is approximately 800 metres east of the village. Cranwell, with its population of approximately 3,000 inhabitants, centres around the remains of the village cross. The Cross is a 14th Century Market Cross from which important matters of public moments were announced.

Photograph showing the village cross, cranwell


The original base and the undisturbed ground beneath it are listed as a National Monument. The Church and the village Cross are the only visible signs of the early village. The Church originated in the 10th century, or thereabouts, in a settlement possibly dating from the time of King Alfred (849-899), it consists of only a nave and chancel with, above the former, a rather odd little bellcote much of the masonry is Norman, some even dates from Saxon times and fittings include 17th century bench-ends and a Perpendicular screen.

Photograph of cranwell church

Several of the older buildings in the village have a balanced appearance which is pleasing to the eye, a fine example of this is the old school building which is built of stone and slate with finely detailed windows. The village does not have a public house but it does have a Post Office located in the centre of the village, a licensed Social Club and a Village Hall which is used regularly for social functions. Next to the Social Club Cranwell has a playing field which covers 1.3 hectares it includes sports pitches, two tennis courts and a bowling green.

Photograph of the old school, cranwell


There are also numerous trees in the village, especially near the church and alongside the main road, the more significant trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders and these trees add considerably to Cranwell’s character. The main road through the village, the B1429, is the main link between the A15, the A17, Royal Air Force College Cranwell and the village and carries considerable traffic. To the south of the village, just off the A17, is the Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre a very popular attraction.

Photograph of an aerial view of the royal air force college, cranwell

One mile west of the village stands the Royal Air Force College, a dignified brick building dating from 1933 and built in a neo-Georgian style complete with pillared portico and dome on the central block. The entire group, with quadrangles and wings, is not unlike some vast country mansion. Part of one of the wings was converted into a chapel. The College and airfield contribute to the economy of the District. Royal Air Force College Cranwell is presently home to the famous Red Arrows Aerobatic Team and the sudden sight of bright scarlet-painted aircraft beautifully maneuvering around the sky above Cranwell village is a common and very enjoyable sight.

Cranwell’s association with aviation began during the First World War, The Admiralty needed to establish a series of air stations around the south and east coasts to supplement the coastguard system and to alert our shore defences against sea and air invasion. In 1915 the Royal Naval Air Service sought to establish a single unit at which officers and ratings could be trained to fly aeroplanes, observer kite balloons and airships. Tradition has it that a young Naval pilot was briefed to fly around until he found a piece of land that was both large enough and flat enough for the purpose. It is said that he flew over Cranwell and though it quite admirable. True or not, by November 1915 the Admiralty had requisitioned some 2,500 acres of farmland, mainly from the Earl of Bristol’s estate. In the following month construction of a hutted camp and aircraft hangars began. The Royal Naval Air Service Central Training Establishment Cranwell was commissioned on 1 April 1916. With the amalgamation of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps on 1 April 1918, ownership of Cranwell was placed in the hands of the Royal Air Force. After the First World War, the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard, was determined to consolidate the Royal Air Force’s position as a single, independent Service. One of his priorities for the future was the establishment of a cadet college to provide basic and flying training for the future leaders of the Royal Air Force. He chose Cranwell as the location because, as he told his biographer, “Marooned in the wilderness, cut off from pastimes they could not organise for themselves, the cadets would find life cheaper, healthier and more wholesome.” The Royal Air Force College, which was the first Military Air Academy in the world, was opened on 5 February 1920.