Site History

Welcome to UCL’s Adastral Park Post Graduate Campus, which  is situated in the grounds of the BT Exact Research Centre, Martlesham Heath, Suffolk. The Research Centre is within easy reach of Ipswich with good connections to and from London and Cambridge.

The Research Centre and much of its surroundings are based on the old RAF Research Establishment as the following extract from the recent History of Martlesham taken from the Martlesham Community Web Portal indicates.

For centuries the open range of Martlesham Heath was a sparsely populated area on the outskirts of the old village, with a few dwellings clinging to the edges. The heath was a wilderness of heather, gorse and bracken, burnt by the summer sun and ringed by stunted pine trees that had been shaped by the bitter winter winds. Now, as then, in what remains of the old heath, gorse fires signal the end of summer, the blackened stems and earth giving way to fresh green spring shoots and the tall mauve flowers of fireweed.

This was the heath until 1915. The First World War meant that there was a need for aerodromes and Martlesham Heath became the Testing Station for the Royal Flying Corps. By the end of the war, Martlesham Heath had become the foremost research establishment for the RFC, the RNAS and the newly-formed Royal Air Force.

Between the wars, the increase in civil aviation gave rise to new aircraft types, all of which were tested at Martlesham Heath. Now known as the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE), RAF Martlesham Heath’s reputation as a world leader in aircraft technology grew during this time. Most of the leaders in aircraft design of the time served here at some time. In the later thirties, the gathering war clouds brought increased activity to Martlesham with new aircraft types on the runways but, in August 1939, the A&AEE moved lock, stock and barrel to Boscombe Down.

The Second World War saw RAF Martlesham Heath playing host to many of the famous Battle of Britain fighter squadrons and pilots. Later in the war, the US Army Airforce took over with their fighter bombers that took the war to the continent.

The end of the war saw the beginning of the end for RAF Martlesham Heath. The A&AEE did not return and, although there was some research into blind landing and bombing techniques, the station was eventually closed.

After a while, a new chapter was started in the heath’s history – an exciting and award-winning project to design and build an entire new village and business park. A new dual carriageway replaced the old A12 and Martlesham Heath was born. With BT’s Research Laboratories on one side, the Suffolk Constabulary headquarters on the other and a new public house named for Douglas Bader, one of the wartime heroes who served at RAF Martlesham Heath, the first houses on the Heath were occupied by the mid-1970’s.

The twenty years or so since then has seen great changes to the village. The individual hamlets, a feature of the original award-winning design, are now mature developments. The village boasts a new school and a fine church – St Michael and All Angels, built with money raised by the villagers themselves. The business area is now a thriving complex with a very wide variety of local and national firms of all sizes and types. Martlesham has also been part of a novel public transport initiative – Superoute 66, featuring a unique guided trackway, follows a circular route between Ipswich and Martlesham. The land on the western edge of the village, the buffer between Martlesham and Kesgrave, is a nationally important wildlife area – one of the few remaining heathland areas where the Silver Studded Blue butterfly can breed successfully.

Acknowledgement :

This page draws heavily an article written by Gordon Kinsey for the original Martlesham Directory. His knowledge of the area and his words are gratefully acknowledged.

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