About Astra Antiques Centre.
Astra Antiques Centre started its life in 1990 here at Old RAF Hemswell – Lincolnshire. It changed hands in 2004 and under its current leadership with a lot of investment, time and effort is now a thriving Centre on what is the largest hub for Antiques in Europe.
Over the last few years, Astra has been striving to be one of the top independent Centres in Europe, only with a difference. It’s not just about brown Furniture and Victorian smalls, Astra houses a wide range of items, catering to not only every category, but to every possible customer. This selection and balance of items has given Astra a world-wide customer base and connections making it a must stop for trade buyers, interior designers and props shops alike. Although Astra Antiques started in 1990 on the site of Old RAF Hemswell, the true History of the Building comes from its Royal Airforce roots.
Hemswell might be known World Wide as a thriving Antiques Destination, but its beginnings started with “The Great War” - World War 1. Hemswell was to be converted into an Airfield, but the first of which wasn’t opened until a year before the War was over. Of course that doesn’t mean the site wasn’t in use. From 1916 the land was being used as a Night Flying landing ground leading up to the Airfields completion. Thankfully the War was over in 1918, one year later from the first Airfield being opened at RFCS Harpswell, by June of 1919 the site had been disbanded and the ground converted back to Farmland.
During the 1930’s the RAF was rapidly expanding. Given Hemswell’s usefulness in position and land, an RAF Station was built there as part of a number of new permanent bases for the Royal Air Force. The RAF Bomber Command was founded in 1936 and what was the RFCS Harpswell – Night Flying Ground was taken over by the RAF Bomber Command during a compulsory act of repurchasing land. The construction of a new Bomber Airfield began in 1935 and opened on New Year’s Eve 1936. This newly built Bomber Airfield would be named and henceforth be known as – RAF Hemswell. On April 25th 1945 Hemswell would run its last hostile operation on the SS Barracks at Berchtesgaden. From 29th of April onwards the final War operations would be taking part in Operation Manna, dropping food to the Dutch prior to the final surrender on VE Day, May 8th 1945.
While Hemswell didn’t really play any key role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the “Cold War” between the United States and the USSR - as an ally of the United States and Hemswell’s capable facilities as an RAF Base - in October of 1958 – RAF Hemswell was home to the PGM-17 Thor. Thor was an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) developed by the United States and used by the United States Air Force in testing environments and established within various bases as an operational unit by the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom. Thor was a symbol of “peace” the infamous “Nuclear Deterrent.” The Cuban Missile Crisis began in 1962 – but thankfully was resolved within 13 days without a full blown Nuclear War. The RAF Thor Squadron disbanded at RAF Hemswell in 1963 and the Nuclear Threat decreased.
Hemswell would then be home to a Gliding School Air Training Corps with Winch Launched Gliders from 1965 to 1974. And in 1967 – RAF Hemswell was disestablished and closed. Old RAF Hemswell was also a temporary Resettlement Camp when it received Ugandan-Asian Refugees who had been expelled from Uganda by President Idi Amin and then it was later redeveloped into a private trading business estate.
The residential area with former estates of Officers and Married Quarters became what is now the Civil Parish and Village of Hemswell Cliff. The Wartime station Headquarters building is now Gibson House – offering numerous office Space for companies and businesses and remains at the front of Old RAF Hemswell. The name “Astra” Antiques was taken from the on-site Cinema which was originally located to the right of where our Centre is now during its World War 2 operations. The original Astra Cinema Sign is still a part of the building – and can even be seen on your trip to our Centre!
Astra Antiques houses over 170+ Dealers and strives to have the best mixture and balance of Antiques in the country at the best Trade Prices around. We are an Antiques Centre embracing the 21st Century – with one foot proudly placed in the past