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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:

Date of Construction:
1960 - 1979

Address :
Aircraft Hangar Shackleton Barracks Ballykelly Limavady Co Londonderry


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
11/10/2000 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use
Aircraft hangar

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
C6350 2388

Owner Category

Central Govt

Exterior Description And Setting

The hangar is situated to the east of the runways and close to the Spallan Road on flat terrain. The external walls consist of 1.5 metre high skirting wall in brickwork on 3 sides with continuous strip glazing to 2.400 high and thereafter profiled aluminium panels. The south elevation is broken up with 3 large areas of aluminium curtain walling with bands of continuous glazing and blue coloured infill panels. The roof and its deep fascias are clad in profiled aluminium. The cladding is supported on a steel framed cantilevered structure. The external dimensions of this hangar are 220.7 x 48.3 m. It comprises eight cantilevered steel frames, each with a clear span of 39.2 m from the front of the doors to the main upright. They are of identical fabrication and are designed both to prevent collapse under their own weight and also to counteract the uplifting force of the wind on the roof. The main upright comprises a 660 mm square welded steel box to which a triangulated truss is bolted on the top front, and a braced anchor leg at the back. The main components of the trusses and anchor leg are of I-profile rolled steel of dimensions 610 x 305 mm. The secondary framing comprise braced lengths of L-profile steel. The main frames are set at 27.4 m centres, with triangulated steel lattices running between them to carry the roof. The latter slopes down slightly towards the rear to facilitate rain run off. Three catwalks are set within the cantilever frames and run the entire length of the building. The anchor legs are secured to piles driven into the ground some 7.3 m beyond the south wall. These piles began to move shortly after the building was completed, probably as a result of a change in the local water table. The cantilever would have greatly magnified this movement, and so dead weights were added to the tops of the piles in the form of mass-concrete blocks of cruciform plan, each measuring 10.5 x 4.3 x 1.2 m overall. The roof is of felt on cork on an aluminium decking, and the sides of troughed aluminium sheeting resting on brick walls 660mm wide by 1.5 m high. Along the entire length of the north wall of the building are seven banks of horizontally-moving steel-clad doors (varying from 20.7 to 28.3 m in width). They are stepped back on either side of the central door to allow for unimpeded movement to the side, thereby not only enabling the entire length of the hangar to be opened (in a fire emergency for example), but also individual bays without the need to open them all. No longer operational, they were formerly activated by manual winches (and brute force!) on metal rails. Because the interior had to be usable 24 hours a day, artificial rather than natural illumination was paramount. However, there are windows along the rear pitch of the roof and in bays on the south wall. Besides ‘picket gates’ in the front doors, there are also access doors along the the south wall. Underground heating pipes – probably low pressure water – run around the internal perimeter of the hangar, and also underneath the floor. The heating steam is generated in a small boiler house of brick construction a short distance beyond the middle of the south wall.


Ministry of Public Buildings and Works

Historical Information

Ballykelly airfield originated as an RAF base during the Second World War. This hangar was designed by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW) and erected in the mid 1960s to house Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the site then being part of the RAF’s Coastal Command. Shackletons were the mainstay of Coastal Command at that time and operated out of Ballykelly, Lossiemouth, Invernesshire and St. Magwan, Cornwall. The hangar seems to have become operational in 1966. Its function was not to store aircraft but rather to provide shelter, heat and light for their inspection, servicing and repair. In terms of modern aircraft, it would be capable of housing four Hercules transport aircraft simultaneously. With the development of longer-range Nimrods the base became obsolete as the new aircraft could cover the area required from Lossiemouth and St.Magwan.The hangar was subsequently used for aircraft maintenance and is now used by the Army as a vehicle store and service depot.The innovative cantilever design was to provide a large uninterrupted space into which aircraft could taxi under their own power.(The traditional RAF hanger required large aircraft to be manhandled in,usually with front and rear undercarriages mounted on bogies and rails.)To facilitate this further the original design for Ballykelly had the large doors sliding up into the roof. This proved too difficult and sliding doors were installed. The design at Ballykelly may have been based on a similar hanger .at Orly,(1959)to which it is of similar size and construction.Similar, though smaller hangers were built at RAF Brize Norton,Oxon.(1968) and RAF St. Magwan,(1968).There had been an intention to build one at RAF Lossiemouth but the idea was dropped on grounds of cost. For its construction the civil contractor was Kennedy's of Coleraine with Brims of Newcastle upon Tyne carrying out the erection of the hanger.The steelwork design and fabrication was by Teeside Bridge and Engineering. References 1. R. P. Haines, A. Chance and H. Bruce (1968), ‘The Brize Norton Hangar’, in Structural Engineer, 46, p.50. 2. Personal Comments from Dr M. Gould. 3. J. Kennedy. (sen.) Coleraine.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

E. Spatial Organisation F. Structural System G. Innovatory Qualities I. Quality and survival of Interior

Historic Interest

W. Northern Ireland/International Interest


A steel framed and metal clad structure of anchor balanced cantilever design giving a wide span uninterrupted space with openings sealed off by huge sliding doors, resulting in a vast interior volume with only one line of structure supporting great trussed cantilevers. Unique in the context of Northern Ireland and rare in the wider UK context.

General Comments

Date of Survey

15 June 1997