The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Photo © Elain Harwood

100 Buildings 100 Years

1917: Cardington Number 1 Shed, Bedfordshire

Status: Listed Grade II*
Condition: Good condition
Architect: Engineers: A. J. Main and Co. of Glasgow
Location: Former RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire

No.1 Shed is a vast steel structure built on farmland used by the Royal Flying Corps. It was used to construct airships, but the first – the R31 – was commissioned only five days before the armistice.

In 1926-8 the shed was extended to 812 feet and joined by a second hangar, re-erected from Pulham, Norfolk, and similarly extended. The flat surrounding countryside only enhanced their dramatic scale seen from afar. A programme of civil airships commissioned by Ramsay MacDonald ended when the R101 crashed in October 1930, but the buildings survived as bases for barrage balloons in the Second World War.

The RAF sold the site in 1999-2000. Housing was built on the surrounding site, but the hangars have been restored and No.1 shed is again being used to construct airships, this time filled with helium. It is Europe’s only airship hangar from World War I to survive in situ.

by Elain Harwood

Listing description


Search 100 Buildings 100 Years

Look for buildings by entering the name of a building or architect or browsing the drop down list. Each entry gives the architect and location, and the icons show listing status. Where available, we have linked to detailed online information about the building, such as the Historic England listing description.

  • Search

  • Or