Radar block campaign backed by visitors

MORE than 200 people flocked to see a slice of Suffolk's modern history at the weekend – with visitors overwhelmingly backing moves to see the building restored.

By John Howard

MORE than 200 people flocked to see a slice of Suffolk's modern history at the weekend - with visitors overwhelmingly backing moves to see the building restored.

The stone structure at Bawdsey, on the Suffolk coast, is one of the most significant buildings in the country - representing the only remains of Britain's, and possibly the world's, first operational radar station.

The transmitter block was based at the bottom of a radar mast in the grounds of Bawdsey Manor and was to become critical to Britain's victory in the Second World War.

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The East Anglian Daily Times and BBC Radio Suffolk are supporting a bid to restore T-Block, as it is known, to its former glory.

It is being featured as part of the BBC's Restoration series, which looks at 21 buildings in seven regions of the UK that are desperately in need of rejuvenation. The public votes for the winner, which receives major funding for work.

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The structure in Bawdsey was open to the public on Saturday and the overwhelming opinion among visitors was that it should be saved as part of the county's heritage and become part of a tourist trail.

Malcolm Knapp, from Rendlesham, was among those visiting the site with his children.

Mr Knapp said: "It's really good to see it opened up. It's always fascinating hearing people's local stories and it's nice to be able to visualise the place now.

"It's so important to the history of the country, these places can so easily disappear forever. I back this campaign to save it, absolutely.''

His daughter Ella, 11, added: "I think history, in itself, is really interesting. I love seeing and exploring deserted buildings.''

Maurice Deeks, from Ipswich, was visiting the site with his family and said: "It was secret, people worked here, but never talked about it. I would like to see it restored.''

Michelle Strouger, from Aldeburgh, added: "I think it's fantastic and I would love to see it restored to its former glory. For years I have wondered what was here.''

The Victorian mansion was bought by the Government in 1936 and became home to a group of scientists who were trying to develop radio direction-finding technology into a device that could detect enemy aircraft from a great distance.

It was here that they invented radar and Bawdsey became the first of a chain of radar stations that surrounded the east of England.

The last four radar masts were dismantled in 2000 and the unsightly concrete block is now all that remains of the historical site.

n The building which wins BBC2's Restoration will receive a £2.5 million Heritage Lottery boost, it was announced yesterday .

Restoration, now in its second series, will see 21 sites from around the UK put to the vote over seven programmes. An overall winner will be chosen in the live final at Hampton Court Palace in mid-August.

Liz Forgan, chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "The first series showed how passionate people are about their heritage. I can think of no better way of using heritage lottery money."

Nikki Cheetham, managing director of Endemol UK Productions, which makes the show, added: "This grant means that money raised from the viewers' votes will go a long way towards transforming one of these important buildings.'

The Heritage Lottery Fund pledged £3 million to last year's first Restoration series, which went towards saving Victoria Baths in Manchester.

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