STOW Maries Great War Aerodrome, described by as the best in the world of its kind, has been awarded £4.3 million in grant funding.

The First World War airfield, in Hackmans Lane, Purleigh, was established in 1916 and has been granted money from the National Lottery to restore a number of buildings on the site, which will be made into visitor attractions.

Twenty four structures survive, relatively unaltered since the aerodrome was taken on of service in 1919.

Since 2015 one-by-one the buildings have started to be restored.

Now a major conservation project, backed by £4.3 million from the National Lottery, is aiming to establish Stow Maries as a major UK visitor attraction.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “Stow Maries is a remarkable place, providing a unique insight into First World War aviation.

“The fact that the aerodrome was largely forgotten for so many decades only adds to its mystique and appeal, but also means that surviving structures are in such well-preserved, original condition.

“This support from the National Lottery will help Stow Maries become the major visitor attraction it deserves to be.”

The site, which played a pivotal part in defending London and the British mainland from German Zeppelins and Gotha bombers in the First World War, attracts more than 12,000 visitors each year, and this funding will be the largest injection of cash to date.

The money will be used to restore five buildings and bring them back to use, four of which are on the Heritage at Risk register.

It will help to create a purpose built welcome centre, with café and shop. The officer’s accommodation block will be fully restored and house a new permanent exhibition, exploring what life was like to lie as a Royal Flying Corps officer.

Two more accommodation buildings will be restored to house temporary exhibitions, an historic toilet block will be upgraded along with paths, power supplies and drainage.

Community archaeology projects will be hosted at the aerodrome, and volunteers and apprentices will be trained.

Ian Flint, CEO of Stow Maries, said: “This successful application will help to ensure that Stow Maries has the opportunity to develop into an even more professional visitor attraction and further energise progress on our project.

“This will help us keep Stow Maries where it deserves to be – on the regional, national and international Heritage stage as a premier location for early military aviation history and the Great War in the air.”

The Aerodrome will receive an initial grant of £300,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will allow them to progress their plans, and eventually unlock the full £4.3 million.