Crewe Drill Hall
Heritage Category: Listed Building
List Entry Number: 1437709
Date first listed: 14-Oct-2016
Statutory Address: Myrtle Street, Crewe, Cheshire, CW2 7HY
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Statutory Address: Myrtle Street, Crewe, Cheshire, CW2 7HY
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference: SJ7038455196
A former army reserve centre built in 1937 in a Moderne style, of brown brick with moulded brick and concrete decoration.
Reasons for Designation
Crewe Drill Hall, a former army reserve centre built in 1937 with pronounced Moderne styling, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design quality: as a well-detailed example of the Moderne style with notable features, in particular the entrance portals, and a relatively unusual application of the style to a purpose-built drill hall; * Degree of survival: due to the near-complete retention of its original external appearance including subsidiary features, and good survival of internal arrangements and details.
Drill halls originated as a building type following the formation of 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. In the mid-C19 the Government made a concerted effort to create a reserve of men with military training, arranged along the lines of the regular army. Voluntary service (as opposed to enlisting into a paid semi-professional militia) was opened up to the general population in 1859, and 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.
These slowly began to emerge as a distinct building type and, although no two drill halls are identical, they generally comprise two or more of three basic 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, might be included within the administrative block or placed adjacent. 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. 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.
Drill halls’ architectural treatment can be divided broadly into four periods: 1859-1880, 1880-1914, 1914-1945 and 1945 to the present. Crewe’s drill hall was built in 1937 and therefore falls into the 1914-1945 period, during which more than 200 new drill halls were built, mainly in the suburbs of England’s major towns and cities. These buildings were designed with vehicles and improved technology in mind, resulting in larger buildings for use by fewer, smaller, but more specialist units. Most inter-war drill halls date to the 1930s, a decade marked by a rise in international military activity. Whilst mediaeval and Tudor influences lingered, the dominant architectural style of this period was neo-Georgian. While there are other examples with some Moderne features, Crewe is unusual in having such a clear Moderne influence.
The drill hall plot is marked without buildings on the 1938 1:10,560 Ordnance Survey, and on the 1960 1:1,250 map the buildings are shown with their current footprint. The TA centre was closed in 2016.
A drill hall of 1937, architect unknown.
MATERIALS: brown brick with concrete dressings and grey slate roofs.
PLAN: a two-storey administrative and domestic range at the W facing Derrington Avenue, with the hall to the E fronting Myrtle Street, and a separate garage to the E accessed from Myrtle Street, and a single-storey rifle range abutting the hall to the S.
EXTERIOR: the drill hall is surrounded by terraced housing, most of which was there prior to the drill hall being built.
The two-storey administration block faces W and is symmetrical, with a hipped roof with sprocketed overhanging eaves, and two ridge stacks. The brick is in English bond, with projecting, darker horizontal bands across the windows. The elevation steps forward below a soldier-course band beneath the first floor sills, and another topping the low plinth, this band having a moulded upper margin. The elevation also has two shallow steps at either end. The windows are steel-framed with horizontal glazing bars, and grouped between long sills and lintels (except at the first floor where the windows sit directly under the eaves). The sills and lintels are concrete, with horizontal grooves and rounded ends to the lintels in a streamlined, Moderne manner. In the centre are three-light windows to each floor, the ground-floor window being set into a shallow bay that rises to the first-floor sill, with brick cavetto margins. This bay contains a foundation stone, which is inscribed: ‘THIS STONE WAS LAID/ BY HIS WORSHIP/ THE MAYOR OF CREWE/ ALDERMAN F BOTT FP MBE/ ON THE TWENTY THIRD DAY OF JULY IN/ THE YEAR OF GRADE 1937’
To either side are groups of four windows per floor, the ground-floor ones being slightly wider, but each comprising two, wider outer windows and two, slimmer inner ones, with concrete jambs and brick mullions between; at ground floor the central mullion has an angled central rib.
At the right, the return elevation has the same detailing under a slightly lower roof, stepping forward with slim margins to either side, and with four windows under the eaves (each with a separate sill), a timber door to the accommodation grouped with a window under a projecting grooved lintel, and another window to the right. To the right of these the ground floor projects slightly with another window, and above the soldier course is a later parapet* in a similar brick, screening the flat roof of this rear outshut.
The left-hand return elevation has similar details, with a slightly set-forward central portion, and one window per floor. This is abutted by the drill hall’s principal elevation. This is flanked by matching entrance portals, with a small flat-roofed outshut to the left of the left-hand entrance. The projecting entrance portals (that to the right fronting a small lobby) resemble the lens of a plate camera, stepping forward in progressively smaller planes and culminating in muscular, stepped and concave brick architraves to the panelled, original timber double doors. Each is surmounted by a stepped and banded curved brick fin with a concrete capping. The left return of the lobby has a window with the same head and sill details as the administration block, as does the frontage of the outshut at the left. The doors are reached by splayed flights of six steps with metal balustrades. The elevation has the same stepped plinth as the administration block, and between the lobbies has two projecting three-course bands of darker brick, and a soldier course below the eaves. The main roof is of natural slate, hipped into the rear roof of the administration block and gabled at the E end, with continuous rooflights below the ridge on each pitch.
The E elevation of the hall also projects in the centre with slim margins and has the same plinth, and eaves soldier-course, and three windows with the same concrete sills and grooved lintels. The S elevation of the hall is partly obscured by the rear outshut of the domestic accommodation, and by a rifle range which projects eastwards behind the garage. The range has parapets and a shallow central gable, and buttresses along the S side; its roof is covered with profiled metal sheeting*.
The garage is also in English bond, in common bricks to the side and rear elevations, with gables to the roof which is of corrugated cement sheeting*. The front elevation is in the same brick as the hall, with a stepped surround to the wide vehicle entrance, and folding metal doors*.
INTERIOR: the hall is reached from the lobbies by original glazed panel doors with brass handles, recessed in a multi-stepping surround. It retains its original parquet flooring and is open to the steel, Belgian-truss roof with curved ties, which is timber-lined. The trusses rest on pilaster buttresses, with recessed surrounds to radiator niches, now with modern radiators*. The balcony at the W end has a later glazed timber screen*, and a two-storey block* has been inserted at the E end. The kitchen hatch*, kitchen fittings* and sanitary fittings* are all replacements.
The administration block is reached by central double doors beneath the balcony, set in the same surround as the lobby doors. These give access onto a corridor running across the building, with original skirtings, architraves, doors and dado rail, and is also parquet-floored. The mess room retains a brick fireplace in a canted alcove and has a timber bar frontage, but its door* is a replacement. Historic office features include cupboard doors and a tiled fireplace (with a modern electric radiator*). Upstairs the offices and accommodation also retain historic features including doors and architraves, cornicing, skirting and a window from the flat overlooking the former balcony. Sanitary and kitchen fittings* in the flat are replacements.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: concrete bollards linked by metal chains surround the forecourt, which retains a timber flagstaff. Railings* protect the ginnel between the garage and the hall, and the forecourt is paved in concrete flags*.
*Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the aforementioned items are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Carmichael, K, 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 buildings (save those coloured blue on the map, the concrete bollards linked by metal chains surrounding the forecourt, the timber flagstaff and the concrete entrance steps with metal balustrades) are not to be treated as part of the listed buildings for the purposes of the Act.
End of official listing