An Officers' Mess of 1936-41 date, by William A, Ross, Chief Architect to the War Office, for the Royal Artillery.
Reasons for Designation
The Royal Artillery Officers’ Mess (LA0320) at Larkhill, Wiltshire, built in 1936-41, to the design of William A. Ross, Chief Architect to the War Office, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest:it represents the pinnacle of the monumental neo-Baroque style as used for an Army officers’ mess and is the showpiece to the Royal Artillery’s presence on the Salisbury Plain training area. It is carefully designed and well-executed in quality materials;
* Historic interest: an exemplary officers' mess, erected prior to and during the Second World War, which shows the Army's traditional approach to design as well as its desire to give an expression of its might in its architecture at a time of the country’s greatest need;
* Degree of survival: despite extensive refurbishment, the high quality fittings and character of the principal mess rooms and foyer remain intact.
* Military interest: as part of the important Army complex at Larkhill, showing the distinctive provision of quarters for officers, and for its group value with the nearby Garrison Church of St Alban (listed Grade II), also by W.A. Ross, both being the public faces of the camp.
Following the purchase of Salisbury Plain by the War Office as a training area in 1898, Larkhill was one of three sites established for tented summer camps close to an artillery practice in the area. During the First World War Larkhill Camp was greatly enlarged, with the need to accommodate and train many thousands of new recruits, and a large number of wooden huts were constructed. In 1915 the School of Instruction for the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery were established at Larkhill and in 1919 it became the Larkhill School of Artillery, and finally the Royal School of Artillery in 1970.
During the interwar period the camp was reduced in size and some buildings replaced with permanent structures. Some of the major inter-war additions included two new officers’ messes, one to the south the Packway Mess (LA0238), built in 1938, and to the north the Royal Artillery Mess (LA0320), built 1936-41. The Royal Artillery Mess was designed as the Larkhill School of Artillery Officers’ Mess and Quarters by William A. Ross. It has been subject to some alteration in the late C20/ early C21, during which time fireplaces were removed and bricked up in the bedrooms (1960s) and most of the windows have been replaced with modern sash units. The dining room ceiling was restored in 2015. In the early C21, following the closure of Woolwich Barracks, chandeliers, paintings and other furnishings, along with guns and carriages, have been brought to Larkhill. The guns form a collection of international importance and a number of them stand on the lawns in front of the Officers’ Mess. Larkhill has been subject to almost continuous adaptation to changing needs and in the C21 is undergoing further development to accommodate the withdrawal of British troops from Germany.
An officers’ mess and quarters of 1936-41, by William A. Ross ARIBA, Chief Architect to the War Office.
MATERIALS: built of red brick laid in stretcher bond, over a steel frame with ferro-concrete details, and with tile roofs. There are ashlar dressings to the facades and timber sash windows to the principal rooms. Other windows are uPVC*.
PLAN: loosely an E plan with additional smaller wings projecting from the ends of the main block into the service yard, and a kitchen block attached to the north of the central mess hall wing. Further quarter blocks are connected to the east (L plan) and west (C plan) via curved covered corridors. The main south-facing façade has a portico opening into a central entrance hall flanked by large reception rooms, and stairs to the rear leading to the mess hall. This central block is of three storeys and flanked by two-storey side wings that are slightly set back. There are stairs at each end with bed-sitting rooms above. Extending to the rear of these side wings there are cross wings with bed sitting rooms to both floors. The additional quarter blocks contain bed-sitting rooms with various auxiliary rooms.
EXTERIOR: in the neo-baroque style, a central block of thirteen bays, with set-back eight-bay end sections. A projecting stone entrance portico has four pairs of Doric columns with entablature and parapet with balustrade above. The back wall has Doric pilasters beside a two-leaf main door and two six-over-six sashes. At the first-floor balcony is a central door and windows to both sides, set within an ashlar case with Ionic pilasters. Above the door is a scrolled pediment with ball finial, and an oval opening above. At ground floor there are five tall, round-arched, sash windows to both sides interspersed with three six-over-six sashes and, at the end, a door with rusticated case, open pediment and multi-paned fanlight. Each door has a keystone inscribed GR VI 1941 with the emblem of the Crown. An ashlar band forms the arches, heads and keystones of the openings. At first and second floor levels are paired openings with modern six-over-six sashes with stone cills. The hipped pantile roof has curled oversailing eaves and four ridge stacks. The side wings have rubbed brick flat arches to the ground floor openings, and the end bay has an ashlar architrave with consoles and pediment. The curved connecting corridors are single storey with a central door with consoles and pediment and two windows to each side, articulated by brick pilasters. The attached quarter blocks have a similar architectural treatment to the side wings, although the central two-leaf door has a scrolled pediment with a shield in relief inscribed GR VI 1941, and a crown in relief above. The rear and side elevations of the blocks and wings have regular fenestration with brick heads to the ground floor openings. Across the buildings is an ashlar plinth and down pipes punctuate elevations between some of the bays. The rear of the central block is of two storeys with a flat roof. The wing that attaches to the mess hall is single storey and further single-storey brick structures are arranged within the service yard.
The officers’ mess hall to the rear (north) has tall openings to each side elevation, under flat rubbed brick arches with keystones. Three openings have multi-paned glazing and four are sealed in brick. The roof is hipped. The north service wing has a six-bay, two-storey central block with round-arched openings to the ground floor and sashes above, and brick end stacks in the hipped roof. To each side is a seven-bay, single-storey block with attic dormers and ridge stacks.
INTERIOR: The interior fixtures and fittings survive largely intact. The vestibule has a part-glazed oak revolving door and set in the left wall is a bronze bas-relief by Reginald J Day of 1938 depicting artillery cavalry with guns. The imposing entrance hall has parquet flooring, paired reeded pilasters with gilt capitals featuring acanthus leaves and a deep cornice and mouldings to the ceiling. The door architraves, reception desk and oak wainscoting to the rear staircase are of oak. The staircase leads to the officers’ mess hall doors, which are decoratively panelled oak. The stairs are lit by a large lantern set in a deeply coved ceiling. To both sides of the doors are glazed cabinets* containing regimental silver* and Corinthian columns supporting a deep cornice. The mess hall has a barrel vault ceiling with ribs and a suspended central section with painted detailing, air vents and a central chandelier* (four other chandeliers* hang from the ribs). The ribs connect with a deep cornice with paired gilded capitals on reeded pilasters. The sealed window openings are covered by large portraits, mainly of C19 and C20 British monarchs*. At the north end is a round-arched minstrel gallery above two-leaf doors to both sides. In front of the gallery is a statue to Armed Science.*
The principal rooms to both sides of the lobby have glazed oak doors and window seats with heating vents. There is a dado with a moulded rail and a simple ceiling cornice. There are chimneypieces at the end of each room in various vernacular styles. The room to the east has folding partition doors by a central fireplace. Other rooms and corridors have simple cornices, door architraves and other joinery.
* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the fittings, fixtures (and portable objects such as guns with carriages) installed after 2006, and modern fixtures, fittings and structures are not of special architectural or historic interest.