Former drill hall including sergeant's house, administration and entrance blocks and boundary walling


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Hanover House, Victoria Road, Ulverston, LA12 0BY


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Statutory Address:
Hanover House, Victoria Road, Ulverston, LA12 0BY

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

South Lakeland (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Former drill hall with associated facilities built in the 1860s-70s for the 37th Lancashire Rifle Volunteers. The listing does not include the flat roofed extension, nor the detached garage to the W, both being later additions.

Reasons for Designation

Victoria Road drill hall, Ulverston, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Date: built within ten years of the 1863 Volunteer Act (which gave volunteer units the right to acquire their own premises) the complex is a rare, very early drill hall, possibly one of the first to benefit from some central funding following the 1871 Regulation of the Forces Act; * Design: complete with its own firing range, administration block and sergeant’s accommodation, the drill hall displays an unusually mature design more typical of complexes much later in date; * Completeness: for the retention of its shooting range, sergeant’s house, and administration block in addition to the drill hall itself; * Architectural interest: especially for the impressive, wide span roof structure to the drill hall.


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 administrative 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 administrative 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.

The 37th Lancashire Rifle Volunteer Corps was formed in 1860 under the command of the Marquis of Hartington, with A Company raised at Ulverston and other companies raised at various settlements between Hawkshead and Barrow. These were grouped into the 5th Admin Battalion in April 1861, headquartered at Ulverston. It is likely that the drill hall was constructed around this time, but it was certainly built by 1873 when the hall was used for the Ulverston and District Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition. At the outbreak of the First World War the drill hall was the headquarters and base for A and B companies of the 4th Battalion Royal Lancashire Regiment which was deployed to France in May 1915. It was also the drill station for A Squadron of the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry which had been formed in 1908 with headquarters at Kendal. The drill hall continued in use by the Territorial Army up until the early 1980s, subsequently becoming a social club, with the drill sergeant’s house passing into separate domestic ownership.


Drill hall with associated facilities, originally for the 37th Lancashire Rifle Volunteer Corps, now a social club with separate house, 1860s.

MATERIALS: squared rubble limestone roughly laid to courses; red sandstone dressing; Welsh slate roof.

PLAN: the administration block fronts onto Victoria Road with the former drill sergeant’s house to the S (left). The drill hall extends back from the rear of the administration block, with a secondary entrance block to its S originally opening onto Lightburn Road. In the basement of the drill hall there is an indoor firing range.

EXTERIOR: Victoria Road elevation: 3-bay, 2-storey administration block with a slightly lower, 2-bay, 2-storey house set slightly back to the left. Roofs are shallow pitched and hipped. Both sections have a plinth course and a first floor sill band in red sandstone, the administration block also having timber bracketed eaves supporting the cast iron gutter that is moulded to form a cornice. The central double-doored entrance has a basket arch of red sandstone. Above there is a triple window with red sandstone mullions, lintels and sills, retaining 2-over-2 vertical sashes. The flanking bays have similar 2-light windows at first floor, with arched-headed 2-light windows at ground floor level, these having PVC replacement units*. The house has a slightly off-centre door, and standard window openings for single-light sash windows, all openings having flat, red sandstone lintels and modern PVC units* replacing the joinery. Both the main block and the house have end stacks to the S, the N end stack to the administration block has been lost.

Lightburn Road elevation: the administration block appears as a cross wing at the E end of the drill hall which has blind sides, a rendered and coped W gable and a continuous strip of glazing forming roof lights either side of the ridge set about two thirds up the roof slopes. The ridge retains two squat, drum-shaped, ventilators. Extending S from the drill hall is a single-storey projection with a low-pitched hipped roof. This has a blocked double entrance facing the road, flanked by very small windows. To its W is a flat-roofed extension* that is not included in the listing. The sergeant’s house has a central 2-light ground floor window and two single-light first floor windows to the street frontage, all with PVC units*, windows to the rear of the house also having PVC units*. The rest of the Lightburn Road frontage is marked by a high stone boundary wall with stone coping.

INTERIOR: the drill hall is of five bays with paired principal rafters supported by radial struts extending from nearly semi-circular, paired, arched braces, the struts protruding to form simple pendants. The western two bays have been partitioned off to form a bar servery* and lounge*, both with suspended ceilings*, the rest of the hall remaining open to the roof structure. The floor of the hall is timber and is sprung. The rear wall of the administration block retains evidence suggesting that it was originally partly open to form a viewing gallery. Beneath the hall there is a full basement. This has been partially subdivided to form a number of rooms, but retains a shooting range extending the full length of the basement which has a stone flagged floor at the E end and a concrete floor at the W end (replacing a former earthen floor designed to absorb ricochets). The projection on the south side of the hall, formerly a secondary entrance, has been reconfigured to form toilets*. The interior of the administration block and the sergeant’s house were not inspected.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.


Books and journals
R Westlake, , Tracing the Rifle Volunteers: A Guide for Military and Family Historian, (2010), 143, 148
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.

The listed buildings are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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