Oakham Drill Hall


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1434379

Date first listed: 14-Jul-2016

Statutory Address: Penn Street, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 6BB


Ordnance survey map of Oakham Drill Hall
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Statutory Address: Penn Street, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 6BB

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

District: Rutland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Oakham

National Grid Reference: SK8600208492


Drill hall with attached Territorial Force administration block and warden’s house, built 1914 to the designs of Captain Baines of Leicester-based architectural firm Langley & Baines.

Reasons for Designation

Oakham drill hall complex, built in 1914, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the main frontage presents an accomplished and largely unaltered example of a drill hall built in the popular Wrenaissance style, featuring neat articulated brickwork and stone dressings carrying fine carved details;

* Architect: as the best preserved drill hall known to be the work of Leicester-based architects Langley & Baines, a firm which had, by 1914, begun to develop a specialism in the design of facilities for the Territorial Force;

* Historical interest: a drill hall complex constructed immediately prior to the outbreak of the First World War following the formation of the Territorial Force in 1907. It is a prominent demonstration of the social and military significance of volunteer units within local communities;

* Level of intactness: the original plan-form and function of the building remains legible; the complex retaining its distinct operational, administrative and social spaces with associated original fittings.


Drill halls originated as a building type following the formation of the Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1859. Also known as ‘drill sheds’, and commonly identified on modern Ordnance Survey maps as ‘TA Centres’, they can be defined as dedicated training facilities for the army’s volunteer units. The history of drill halls dates back to the mid-C19 when the authorities made a concerted effort to create a reserve of men with military training, arranged along the lines of the regular army. When voluntary service, as opposed to enlisting into a paid semi-professional militia, was opened up to the general population in 1859, it proved very popular. By the end of 1860 more than 120,000 had signed up. This vast new force needed accommodation, and existing local barracks and depots were unable to take the strain. Most units were, at first, private organisations with no access to central funds. Although many of the early volunteer groups adapted existing buildings such as village halls, a purpose-built drill hall was considered the most desirable option.

Drill halls for the volunteer forces slowly began to emerge as a distinct building type and, although no two drill halls are identical, they do all share three essential elements. These combined to form a characteristic layout whereby the offices, armoury and stores were accommodated in an administrative block fronting the street, with a large hall positioned at right-angles behind (often with an indoor target range to one side and viewing balconies at either end). The third element, accommodation for the caretaker or drill instructor, could be included within the administration block or placed separately to the rear of the hall. Whilst there are countless variations upon the basic layout, the most common is the side-by-side arrangement, with the hall running along the street beside the administration block. The need for large unencumbered internal spaces stimulated the early use of steel roofs and experiments with laminated timber trusses (in the C19) and lamella trusses (in the 1930s), a German system of latticed steel or more usually timber roofing. In addition to their standard functions, drill halls acted as focal points for events within the wider community. Many were designed with this in mind and boasted of their suitability to host concerts, dances and meals. The units were a source of local civic pride and the architecture of their drill halls often reflected that.

Whilst many drill halls are simple, undistinguished, utilitarian structures with little or no embellishment, their architectural treatment can be divided broadly into four periods: 1859-1880, 1880-1914, 1914-1945 and 1945 to the present. The very earliest drill halls, those of 1859-1880, were often private concerns. A lack of central regulation tended to result in small buildings which were somewhat eclectic in design and style. Many of these were substantially altered or demolished as they became increasingly unfit for purpose. As such, relatively few survive.

Oakham drill hall was built in 1914 and therefore at the end of the period beginning in 1880 which saw the increasing influence of the War Office and a move towards regulation and uniformity. In the late C19 drill halls became larger, showing a preference for designs inspired by medieval castles or forts, although the domestic Tudor revival style also became popular around 1900. The very last drill halls to be built before the outbreak of war display a wide variety of styles, including the continued use of both medieval and Tudor designs, as well as the more fashionable Neo-Georgian, Queen Anne, Neo-Baroque styles and, as seen at Oakham, a formal ‘Wrenaissance’ style. The buildings became more uniform in size and in provision of facilities – if not in design and style – following the creation of the Territorial Force in 1907. This marked the commencement of a significant programme of building which continued until the outbreak of war in 1914. In common with other drill halls of this period, Oakham is characterised by a simple, two-storey administration block in front of the hall which is set perpendicular to the main frontage. The increasing specialisation of the drill hall at this time is reflected here, with the site plan including a warden’s house, a hall designed with special fittings to give it capacity to be used as a rifle range, a separate meeting room, storage areas, a first-floor officer’s mess and several offices.

The Penn Street drill hall was built in 1914 for the Oakham Detachment of the A Squadron of the Leicestershire (Prince Albert’s Own) Yeomanry (B Company). The design for the drill hall was produced by Captain Baines of Langley & Baines of Leicester, an architectural firm which developed a specialism for drill halls, as demonstrated by other similar buildings at Melton Mowbray, Shepshed and Mountsorrel, all designed for the Territorial Force prior to the First World War.

Shortly after the completion of the complex (probably in the 1930s), an extension was made to the warden’s house, apparently after a fire damaged its west side. In the 1960s, a phase of works was carried out, this including the construction of a corridor to adjoin the warden’s house and the mono-pitched former meeting room to the west of the drill hall. At around the same time a lean-to kitchen area was built against the west side of the meeting area, this having been recently demolished (2000). As part of a phase of work to convert the site to provide facilities for the Air Cadets in 2000 the warden’s house was refitted to provide additional office, storage and meeting space and new uPVC windows were inserted to the rear portion of the building. The plot of land belonging to the drill hall has been expanded and subsequently curtailed over the past century; an Ordnance Survey (OS) map published in 1930 shows the drill hall broadly with its present plot, but by 1970 this had been expanded, with land to the south-west connecting with a driveway to Brooke Road added to the site. This land was previously occupied by three temporary structures erected at around this time for the use of the Air Cadets (as noted on an OS map of 1978). In recent years, the additional parcel of land to the south-west was sold to Tesco, who own the land adjacent to the west.

The drill hall complex is presently used by the Rutland Squadron of the Air Cadets and the Oakham Detachment of the Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland Army Cadet Force (ACF), this being one of 46 detachments of cadets spread around the counties which remain active in 2016.


Drill hall with attached administration block and warden’s house, built 1914 to the designs of Captain Baines of Leicester firm Langley & Baines.

MATERIALS: principally built of red brick with stone dressings, timber sash windows to the front with mainly uPVC types to the rear, a slate plain-tile roof to the administration block, rear block and warden’s house, with a corrugated steel replacement roof with acrylic glass rooflights for the hall. Internally, the original steel truss roof structure features in the hall and rear meeting room.

PLAN: seven-bay rectangular block containing offices and a mess/clubroom above, with an attached long rectangular block comprising the drill hall, mono-pitched meeting hall (south side) and warden’s house (north side) set behind. This rear section is broadly rectangular in plan, though the warden’s house projects slightly to the west. The drill hall section of the building runs perpendicular to the administration block which fronts onto Penn Street.

EXTERIOR: the frontage facing onto Penn Street is designed in a formal Wrenaissance style, the central bay with an open pediment projecting slightly beyond the flanking symmetrical bays, the roof here subtly sweeping down to overhanging eaves. The façade features neatly articulated brick details including alternating bands of purple and red brick beneath the ground-floor sill level, rusticated quoins to the corners, a horizontal raised band between the two storeys and a projecting central door surround with brick and narrow tile bands along with tiled voussoirs above all of the original sash windows (6/9 sashes to the ground floor and 6/6 types above). Crowning the central entrance is a stone segmental arch with a carved keystone detail carrying a neo-Baroque shield motif which prominently features a Rutland horseshoe emblem. The shoulders of the door surround are embellished with carved acanthus leaf and scroll details. A set of original fielded panel double-doors are set back within the projecting entrance, this with a multi-paned fanlight set above. An original brick chimney survives on the south side of this frontage, but on the north side another has been removed.

The side elevations of the administration block are plain brick ranges, with the raised horizontal brick band continuing around the building and brick quoins to the corners of both sides. On the south side there is a set of three windows set under arched, tiled voussoirs at ground floor level, one original 4/4 sash and two replacement uPVC types, with a further original 6/6 sash window to the first floor. The north side features two replacement windows, the upper part of the original opening on the west side having been blocked, as is also the case with the one window on the ground-floor of the west elevation (south side). On the north side of this west elevation two original windows at first-floor level have been blocked. Set against the back of the north side of the administration block (adjoining the drill hall to the rear) is a lean-to storage area. This appears to be an original feature, as it is keyed in with the brickwork here; the quoins of the north-west corner ending in line with this feature.

The drill hall portion of the building to the rear of the administration block is more utilitarian in character than the Penn Street frontage, with a plain brick and rendered single-storey range interspersed with steel posts stretching back and meeting the warden’s house. The drill hall is of broadly the same design on the south and north sides, save for a small, square external storage unit* in the middle of the south side, added c1980 (excluded from this listing) and a central set of original wooden double-doors (with an inset wicket door) flanked by brick piers on the north side. Both sides of the hall feature a set of original wooden-framed, multi-paned windows to the Penn Street (east) end. A set of replacement acrylic glass rooflights on either side of the rear block’s roof pitch serve to light the drill hall, these distributed evenly across the corrugated steel roof. The hall adjoins the two-storey warden’s house (on the north-west side of the hall), which has a hipped, plain-tile, slate roof and a chimney on the south side. An extension has been added to the west side of the house, this from map evidence having been carried out after 1930, though probably not long after; presumably prior to the Second World War on the basis of the closely matched materials and design. The later phase of work here was apparently undertaken following fire damage to this part of the building, this being consistent with the partial replacement of the six upper courses of brickwork on the north-west corner of the original part of the house.

On the south side of the hall’s western end a mono-pitched meeting hall block extends for approximately 10 metres, this continuing the roof line of the southern section of the hall and also featuring a replacement corrugated steel roof. The western gable end of this block has a rectangular section of replaced brick, this marking the position of a former lean-to kitchen block which was constructed c1960 and was subsequently demolished and replaced with a raised platform area* in 2000 (excluded from this listing). On the south side of the block there is a set of three replacement windows (west side) and to the east there are three blocked windows (this section corresponding with the storage and boiler room area set within the drill hall). Up until c1960 there was an open passageway between the southern mono-pitched block and the warden’s house, though this was filled-in with a flat-roofed extension as part of work conducted in the 1960s (shown as complete in the OS map of 1970). This later corridor is not of special interest and is excluded from this List entry. Except where specifically detailed, all windows in this rear portion of the building are replacement uPVC types.

INTERIOR: The administration block has a vestibule entrance with flagstone floor which leads to a pair of office rooms to the south and north sides, both with moulded cornices and picture rails. The office room to the right of the vestibule (north) retains an original (blocked) fireplace with moulded surround and a small, original built-in cupboard. The south office retains another blocked fireplace with original moulded surround, and a small toilet with an entrance/storage area with a pair of original fielded panelled doors with brass furnishings and moulded doorframes. Set behind the office rooms are male and female toilets (north and south respectively), both completely modernised. On the left side, behind the office room (south), is a straight-flight staircase with wrought-iron balustrade, this leading to the officers’ mess/clubroom, which is open-plan with a screened-off kitchen/servery area, which has modern fittings though is in its original position (as indicated by the original picture rail here; this being retained throughout the room). This area also retains its pair of blocked fireplaces with their original moulded surrounds to the north and south sides, these matching the examples found in the office rooms below.

The drill hall itself is accessed centrally from the vestibule entrance, the original slatted wooden double doors here flanked by wrought-iron railings either side of the steps leading down to the hall. The drill hall is open to the roof, this retaining its original steel truss structure and its tongue-and-groove ceiling panelling. Further tongue-and-groove wall panelling is fitted in the hall to dado level and original floorboards and cast-iron radiators are retained throughout. Two modern stud wall offices/learning rooms have been added at the south side of the hall and to the south-west side of the hall is an original storage area (possibly initially serving as an armoury), which probably also contained the boiler room to the west side, from the evidence of the large chimney seen externally. This storage/boiler room area extends approximately one-third of the way along the hall on the south side, leaving the north side open its entire length, approximately 35 metres. The length of this part of the hall was required in the design to allow the hall to double as a rifle range. This secondary function of the drill hall is testified to by the surviving target winch mechanism, this consisting of a wheel winch, wall brackets and runner wheels along all of the steel trusses on the north side of the hall; this was designed to allow the positions of rope-suspended targets to be adjusted from the firing end of the range (east side). To the west of the hall, the warden’s house retains three distinct rooms on the ground floor (two storage areas and a central meeting space), along with an entrance area and, set against the north wall, an original timber newel staircase. Three further rooms (originally bedrooms) are situated on the first floor. With the exception of the staircase, it appears that no other original interior features are retained in the former warden’s house, this in line with the house’s conversion from residential use in the 1960s as part of the same phase of work which included the building of the covered corridor which adjoins the house with the drill hall and block to the south.

To the south of the warden’s house is a large meeting room with an inserted central sliding screen, this room occupying the mono-pitched block which projects to the west of the drill hall. This probably originally served as a meeting hall, which was, as it remains, designed to be distinct from the drill hall. More recently the room has been used as a dining area, this purpose served by the construction of a small lean-to kitchen against the west gable end which was subsequently demolished in 2000, though the blocked doorway in the west wall demonstrates where this would have been. The room now has a suspended false-ceiling; this obscuring the pitch of the roof, though part of the steel truss structure can be noted at eaves level on the south wall. Connecting the meeting room and the warden’s house is the 1960s flat-roofed corridor*, this built between the external walls of the structures to the north and south (excluded from this listing). Two blocked windows and one inserted entrance to the north (former warden’s house) can be noted here, these presumably forming part of the same phase of work. At the east end of the corridor there are a set of steps up to a replacement door which connects with the drill hall.

* In accordance with section 1.5A of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990, certain later additions to the Oakham drill hall complex are excluded from this listing. The excluded elements are the inserted corridor between the rear meeting room and the former warden’s house, the raised concrete platform, steps and railings to the west of the rear meeting room, and also the external boiler store attached to the south side of the hall.


Books and journals
'59th Annual Report' in The  Leicestershire Architectural and Archaeological Society, , Vol. 59, (1913), 51
Grantham Journal, 30 October 1915, p 2
Katie Carmichael, Drill Halls: A National Overview (Historic England, Research Report Series no. 6-2015)

End of official listing