Former St Mary's drill hall


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
St. Marys Sports Hall, St. Marys Road, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 0BL


Ordnance survey map of Former St Mary's drill hall
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Statutory Address:
St. Marys Sports Hall, St. Marys Road, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 0BL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Southampton (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Drill hall, built in 1889 by the architect W H Mitchell for the 1st Hampshire Artillery Volunteers. A rifle range was added in 1905. The drill hall was remodelled as a sports hall in the 1970s.

Reasons for Designation

The former St Mary’s Drill Hall, St Mary’s Road, Southampton, built in 1889 to the designs of W H Mitchell for the 1st Hampshire Artillery Volunteers, with a rifle range added in 1905, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: as a good and particularly large example of a drill hall in the castellated Tudor Revival style, typical of this period of their development, by a noted local architect; * Historical interest: as a reminder of the social and military history of the volunteer units and their impact on the urban streetscape; * Intactness: largely unaltered externally, the interior, despite some sympathetic alterations when converted to alternative use, retains its character.


Drill halls came into existence as a result of the creation of large numbers of volunteer rifle and artillery units in 1859 due to fear of war with France. The volunteer units were designed to provide a reserve of men with military training, but outside the organisation of the regular army or the militia and yeomanry. By the end of 1860 more than 120,000 men had signed up and facilities were required for their drilling and training. Initially purely voluntary private organisations, the provision of purpose-built facilities was limited to units benefiting from wealthy patronage. Under the Volunteer Act of 1863 volunteer units were granted the right to acquire their own premises and from 1871, under the Regulation of the Forces Act, grants were provided for the acquisition of land for the construction of drill halls. This and subsequent acts increasingly aligned the volunteers with the regular forces, ultimately resulting in the amalgamation of the volunteer units as the Territorial Force under the Haldane Reforms of 1908.

The drill hall at St Mary’s was built in 1889 to designs by the local architect, W H Mitchell of 8 Portland Street, Southampton for the 1st Hampshire Artillery Volunteers, formed on 25 April 1860. Colonel Edward Bance, who had joined the unit as a gunner in 1863 and eventually served three terms as Mayor of Southampton in 1890, 1904 and 1911, was instrumental in the construction of the drill hall which was formally opened on 21 March 1890 by the Secretary of State for War, Edward Stanhope. In 1905 a rifle range was added in an extension along the south side of the building to designs by the architects James Lemon and John Henry Blizard of The Avenue, Southampton. The building was converted into a sports hall in 1974 and it was refurbished in 2007.

W H Mitchell (1859-1904) was a noted local architect who built a number of prestigious buildings in Southampton including the Gothic style Royal Southampton Yacht Club House (1886; demolished). Three of his buildings are listed, the Montagu Arms hotel in Beaulieu, Hampshire (1888) and the two St Marys Extra Cemetery chapels, Southampton (1879), all at Grade II.


Drill hall, built in 1889, by the architect W H Mitchell for the 1st Hampshire Artillery Volunteers. A rifle range was added in 1905. The drill hall was remodelled as a sports hall in the 1970s.

MATERIALS: in red brick laid in Flemish bond with stone dressings and slate roofs (replaced with modern artificial slates), apart from the drill hall which has a replacement sheet metal roof. Fenestration generally has uPVC replacement glazing.

PLAN: there is a two-storey administration range, with a three-storey central tower, fronting onto St Mary’s Road. Behind this is the single-storey drill hall with an internal gallery which was later extended when the building was converted to a sports centre. A later two-storey rifle range (now partitioned) runs along the south side of the hall, adjoining the neighbouring building. To the rear of the drill hall are various single-storey, flat-roofed, ancillary blocks.

DESCRIPTION: built in a Tudor revival style, the principal (west) elevation of the two-storey administration range is of six bays with the rifle range adding three additional bays at the southern end. Fenestration comprises tall narrow windows, grouped in threes, with continuous heads and sills, those on the ground floor and upper storey of the tower with square heads and those on the first floor with pointed heads. The entrance is marked by a slightly projecting three-storey castellated tower. The main door has a stone surround with a four-centred arch with the date ‘1889’ in relief in the spandrels. An octagonal stair turret on the south-west corner of the tower rises from the level of the corbelled eaves and projects beyond the crenellated parapet. The pitched roof line is enlivened by a pair of pitched dormers with barge-boards, a decorative chimney stack at the north end and a fenestrated gable and another stack to the south. The gable has a ball finial and a round plaque bearing the Arms of the City of Southampton. There is a foundation stone set into the southern end of the plinth with the date ‘1889’. The rifle range elevation is in a similar style, but symmetrical, with large square windows. A narrow, slightly projecting, central bay contains an entrance with a plain stone head and an arched first floor window. Above the window is a date stone with arched coping, set between brick piers and bearing the date ‘1905’ and a lozenge, again bearing the city's Arms. The range has a hipped roof with replacement slates, behind a corbelled parapet. Cast-iron rainwater goods have a hopper with a sunburst design.

The north elevation along Clovelly Road consists of the gable end of the administration range (blind apart from a - probably later - window in the apex) and the side elevation of the drill hall. This is single-storey, of ten bays, divided by brick pilasters, and appears to have also been blind originally but has had a number of windows and a cargo door with metal roller-doors inserted at a later date.

INTERIOR: the large drill hall, measuring approximately 46m long by 23m wide, originally had an L-shaped gallery at the western end adjoining the administration range. On the south side of the hall the gallery, with open timber balustrading to both ground and upper level, extended as far as a canted, two-storey, internal timber bay, now lost. The gallery has been retained but has now been extended along the south side of the hall (it continues at the east end of the hall adjoining the inserted squash courts* which are not of special interest). The western end of the gallery has been retained along with the timber supports and brackets and the timber staircases either side of the main entrance but the open balustrade of the gallery and the stick balusters of the stairs (except on the top landings) have been replaced with timber panels. The fenestration and doorways (originally consisting of arched and mullion and transom openings) which open out onto the hall from the administration range and the western end of the rifle range have been subject to considerable alteration, but some original joinery survives. On the southern wall of the hall was a small timber balcony reached by a flight of steps presumably for the drill instructor, again now removed. The roof structure of metal trusses appears to be original with some modern strengthening. Stone plaques on the west wall, either side of the stairs, record respectively the founding of the1st Hampshire Artillery Volunteers and the opening of the building in 1890 and the foundation of the building on 17 August 1889 and the architect, W H Mitchell and builder, Jonas Nichols. Another stone plaque mounted on corbels on the south wall has a depiction of a cannon and records the opening of the extension on 29 April 1905 with the names of the architects, Lemon and Blizard, and the builder, W Jupe.

The ground and first floors of the administration range have been modernised and subdivided with later C20 partitions*; the closed-string stairs, with turned balusters and newel posts and handrails are the principal survival of the original fittings. The original layout of the second floor (probably originally accommodation for a caretaker) survives along with the original doors.

The rifle range has been subdivided by later partitioning* for offices and stores on both floors but the original arms store on the ground floor remains.

*Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the later C20 squash courts in the hall and all later C20 partitioning in the administration and rifle ranges are not of special architectural or historical interest.


The Drill Hall Project, accessed 5 November 2015 from
Katie Carmichael, Drill Halls: A National Overview (Historic England, Research Report Series no. 6-2015)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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