Feature ~ Foxton Moor Ba't'at!

Gartree Prison can be seen from the main road between Market Harborough, Leicester Road and Lubenham and stands in an area of the Parish of Lubenham which was known for its hunting and became a Second World War airfield.

The plateau site was ideal for an airfield and when one country lane was closed (and turned into a runway) work began on the airfield proper quite late in the war - 1942 - before being opened in May 1943.

This airfield in the Parish of Lubenham was used as a training base for bomber pilots and those on further courses. Aircraft became a familiar sight in the skies and a bombing range at Mowsley was used.

The airfield was known as RAF 14 OTU (Operational Training Unit) and when the war ended the RAF left but the site was looked after by the RAF Police and AMWD (Air Ministry Works Department) until 1948. Then it was taken over by the War Department (now known as the MoD - Ministry of Defence) and Home Office. In August 1948 it began operation, by the RAOC (Royal Army Ordinance Corps) and known as 66 VRD RAOC, after a few months becoming 72 BVD RAOC. Vehicles were received and stored on the runway. his operation finally closed in February 1960.

In 1948 the RAF quarters on the lefthand side of Foxton Road were renovated and used by displaced persons who had fled from eastern Europe before they were finally rehoused in the surrounding area.

In 1963 work began on the airfield to build a prison, which was completed three years later despite strong local opposition. The Home Office did not listen to the views of local villagers, in that the new high security jail was named Gartree - after the old ecclesiastical district - rather than Lubenham, in whose parish it is situated. Despite fears that the prison would devalue property, the biggest problem was flooding caused when contractors laying a water pipe damaged a culvert in Middle Street, Foxton, and houses there were quickly awash.

Bill Farnsworth
June 2002


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