Former War Department munitions depot


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Magazine Farm, Magazine Road, Barlby, Selby, North Yorkshire, YO8 5HE


Ordnance survey map of Former War Department munitions depot
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Statutory Address:
Magazine Farm, Magazine Road, Barlby, Selby, North Yorkshire, YO8 5HE

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

Location Description:
North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
Barlby with Osgodby
National Grid Reference:


Former War Department munitions storage facility, established 1889 and disused in the 1970s.

Reasons for Designation

The former War Department munitions depot, now Munitions Farm, Magazine Road, Barlby, Selby is listed Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a remarkably complete late Victorian munitions depot, a forerunner of the much larger, industrial-scale establishments constructed during the First World War;

Historic interest: * the complex has archaeological potential and interest with the survival of tramways, signage and other features providing an insight into the operation of the site; * the site contributes to a relatively poorly understood aspect of military history: the organisation and supply of munitions and ordnance.


In the Victorian period, the supply of munitions and ordinance to the British Army went through a complex series of administrative changes after the abolition of the Board of Ordnance in 1855, following the Board’s poor performance during the Crimean War. Army reforms instigated by Edward Cardwell, Secretary of State for War 1868-1874, saw a strengthening of the role of the War Office in the supply of munitions; however this does not appear to have prompted any co-ordinated national construction programme of new facilities and the supply of munitions and ordinance remained problematic. This culminated in the Shell Crisis of 1915 when the poor supply of munitions was blamed for the British Army’s failures on the Western Front.

In 1889 the War Department constructed a gunpowder magazine linked by a siding to the Selby to Market Weighton railway line, and then expanded the facility in 1890. Being sited within Balby parish, but close to Selby, the facility has historically been referred to in relation to both places. The first edition 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1889-1890, but probably before the 1890 expansion) depicts the large central magazine building within its walled enclosure incorporating an entrance building linked to an open fronted structure adjacent to the end of the railway siding. This open fronted structure, interpreted as a rail transhipment shed, still survives as a platform and roofless steel framework with brick infill panels. Also depicted is a terrace of three houses and two smaller buildings (interpreted as a guard hut and latrine) all set within a larger enclosure. Of these structures, all except the guard hut and latrine still survive. The map also labels several War Department boundary stones. The houses were occupied by police officers from the Metropolitan Police who were charged with guarding the facility.

The second edition 1:2,500 map surveyed 1905 shows a number of additional buildings along with a tramway network, all within the larger enclosure, this is thought to show the 1890 expansion of the facility, almost certainly seeing the depot develop into more than just a storage facility, and one where shells and cartridges were filled with explosives. New development includes an expansion of the rail transhipment shed southwards along with a pair of rectangular buildings flanking its southern end. These buildings are on the same footprint as the corrugated iron-clad sheds that still survive. These sheds are considered to be essentially the original structures as they are of a type developed by the army in the late C19, being similar to plans of shell filling and cartridge filling buildings published in 'Permanent Fortifications for English Engineers' (1890) by Major JF Lewis, Royal Engineers.

Along the eastern side of the larger enclosure there are nine additional buildings shown, all except the southernmost (reported to have been a timber shed) still survive. Most of these buildings carry painted signage indicating their use as munitions stores (for explosives, filled shells and small arms ammunition, abbreviated to SAA), although most of this signage matches that on a building not shown on maps until 1938 and thus is likely to date to the Second World War.

During the First World War, the chemical works established by Ardol Limited on Balby Road in 1904 became a Trench Warfare Filling Factory, charging chemical shells as well as producing hydrogen and hydrogenated oils for use in munitions. This plant, only located a short distance to the west on the bank of the River Ouse, may have used the magazine as a storage facility.

The third edition 1:2,500 map was revised in 1938. The map sheet showing the eastern edge of the complex was published in 1941 and shows four additional buildings: the northern two buildings that are parallel to the range that forms the eastern side of the complex; and two further buildings that are detached to the east of the main complex separated by embankments. These two outlying buildings no longer survive, but were probably magazines for fuses, these being at higher risk of accidental explosion than unfused ordnance or small arms ammunition. This map also marks War Department boundary stones. The western map sheet was published in 1946 and follows Ordnance Survey practice of that time in omitting any detail of the War Department site, however the 1:10,560 map, based on the same revision but published in 1948, shows the buildings omitted from the 1946 map. However it does not depict the row of new buildings partially shown on the eastern 1:2,500 map sheet published in 1941. This suggests that the northern two buildings of this row were constructed in 1938. The complex was retained by the Ministry of Defence until the 1970s, in later years it is reputed to have been used as a general store for items such as beds and clothing rather than ordnance, although it was still guarded by the Metropolitan Police. It was then sold off and used as farm buildings.


Former War Department magazine, 1889, expanded 1890 with some further additions built 1938 or shortly after.

MATERIALS: the buildings are mainly constructed of good quality brickwork, mainly laid in Flemish bond, with sandstone used for copings and some lintels. Roofing is generally corrugated sheeting replacing the original slate.

OVERALL LAYOUT: the original gunpowder magazine is set centrally within a walled enclosure. The building shown on the modern map attached to the north is thought to have been an agricultural building that has since been removed. Immediately to the south of the gunpowder magazine, forming part of the enclosure, is a guard block with a surviving part of the rail transhipment shed extending southwards. To the south there are two buildings clad in corrugated iron sheeting. Forming the eastern side of the complex is a run of six, north-south orientated brick-built buildings along with a smaller outbuilding, with the remains of a tramway running along their western side. These are believed to date to 1890, some with surviving signage indicating their former use as explosive and small arms ammunition stores. Immediately to the west there are three further store buildings thought to have been built about 1938. The north-eastern corner of the complex is formed by an east-west orientated building also believed to date to 1890. Signage shows a previous use as a set of filled shell stores. The eastern extension to this building, and the larger building to the north are both modern agricultural buildings*. The north-western corner of the complex is formed by a terrace of three houses built 1889.

GUNPOWDER STORE: built 1889.

PLAN: consists of three tall store rooms accessed from a broad corridor along the west side, this corridor having pedestrian entrances at the north and south ends, and a broad loading door central to the west side. Extending around the north, east and south sides of the block of three store rooms is a narrow corridor accessed from the north end of the broad corridor and from an entrance lobby that projects south from the south east corner.

EXTERIOR: the three stores form a single, tall block that is brick-built of pier and panel construction featuring dentils to the tops of the panels, the block being of four panels east to west, six panels north to south. Each store room has its own hipped roof and a brick-built ventilator at the east end. The encircling corridor is of similar construction, but of single storey height, raised on a plinth and with a flat roof. The west side has a large loading entrance with an internal sliding door, the entrance being flanked by sash windows with stone lintels and sills. The narrower corridors to the other three sides are lit along the corridors by sash windows sited at the corners of the building.

INTERIOR: each store room has a central entrance from the broad western corridor flanked by sash windows with external shutters. Two of the store rooms retain original double doors with signage reading 1060 BARRELS along with a metal flap covered peep-hole. The store rooms have lath and plaster ceilings and unplastered walls retaining evidence for staging and other features.


PLAN: the wall forms a rectangular enclosure with the guard block being central to the south side, the transhipment shed extending southwards from the enclosure.

DETAILS: the wall is brick-built, about 3m tall with internal buttresses and rounded, blue-brick coping. A section of the south side, westwards from the guard block, has been demolished.

The guard block is single storey, brick-built with brick-arched openings and a flat roof. At its east end is a single room with a doorway and sash window in the north wall and a second window to the east wall. To the east there is a single cell fully opened to the north with an arched opening wide enough for a cart or tramway truck, with a smaller blocked opening through the south wall linking to the platform of the transhipment shed, this being wide enough for a tramway truck with minimum clearance. The next cell is narrower, being a pedestrian entrance to the enclosure with doorways through the north and south walls. The westernmost bay of the building has been mostly demolished along with a section of the attached boundary wall.

The transhipment shed survives as a section of platform with four bays of a now roofless, light-weight steel frame structure incorporating brick panels to form the eastern wall. This corresponds with the structure shown on the first edition 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map.

CORRUGATED IRON SHEDS: built before 1905.

PLAN: the western shed is divided unequally into two rooms internally, the eastern shed is undivided. Both have their entrances on their north side.

DETAILS: both sheds have corrugated side and gable walls with metal framed windows and segmentally curved corrugated iron roofs supported on light-weight steel trusses. The western shed has an internal brick skin and dividing wall, the eastern shed has some surviving internal timber plank cladding. The buildings also include some late-C20 livestock pens*.

STORES: built before 1905.

PLAN: a row of seven buildings of varying sizes with north-south ridgelines, west facing entrances and undivided interiors. A 20 inch gauge tramway runs along the west side.

DETAILS: all are substantial, brick-built of pier and panel construction with stone coped gables and metal-framed windows. Roof structures are supported by light-weight steel trusses supporting timber purlins, the roof covering being under-boarded. Various buildings have late-C20 additions*, mainly using breeze blocks. Building 1 (numbered from the north) is seven bays long with three double-doored entrances on the west side with corresponding windows on the east side, the openings being segmental brick arches. Painted signage over entrances is faded but probably reads ‘SAA STORE’, SAA being the abbreviation for small arms ammunition.

Building 2 is a very small brick built shed with a single door and no window, linked to building 1 with a late C20 breezeblock extension*.

Building 3 is similar to building 1 but has clearer painted signage reading ‘SAA STORE No 14’, ‘…15’ and ‘…16’ over the entrances.

Building 4 is of eight bays and is slightly more elaborate in its detailing, the tops of the panels being dentilated, openings having stone lintels. The building has two rather than three entrances but also has two windows to the west wall in addition to the two windows in the east wall opposite the doorways. Painted signage over the entrances reads ‘EXPLOSIVES STORE’.

Building 5 is slightly lower in height but detailed similar to Building 1. It is of five bays with a single entrance to the centre which has lost its lintel. Rising from the south gable is a brick built ventilator. The link to Building 6 is a late-C20 extension*.

Building 6 is the same design as Building 4, also carrying signage identifying it as an explosives store.

Building 7 is the same design as Building 5, but has a window to the left of the door and an arched doorway (partially blocked) in the southern gable.

STORES: built about 1938.

PLAN: a row of three buildings of differing designs, but with north-south ridgelines and undivided interiors.

DETAILS: the northernmost building (east of Building 3 above) is detailed similarly to Buildings 4 and 6 but with its entrances on the east side, the southern entrance having an external sliding door, the northern entrance including the signage ‘SAA STORE No 36’. It also has a segmentally arched window placed centrally to each gable.

The middle building (east of Building 5) is of light-weight steel-frame construction with brick infill panels that are pebble-dashed. It is of seven bays with a blocked central entrance and two timber-framed windows to the east side. It is linked to the southernmost building by a late-C20 brick extension* and has a low breeze block addition* to the side.

The southernmost building is of seven bays. It is of plain brick construction (not pier and panel) with a roof with projecting verges, the roof structure having timber trusses and no boarding. It has an entrance central to the south gable with an attic level window above and a second entrance central to the west side. The east and west sides each have three windows.

FILLED SHELL STORES: built before 1905.

PLAN: single building with an east-west ridgeline and an undivided interior.

DETAILS: this is detailed in a similar way to Building 4, but is larger, being longer and slightly wider. It is 11 bays long, the bays being slightly irregular. There are three wide entrances and two windows on the south side with two blocked windows on the north side. The gables have small attic level slit windows, the west gable having a large inserted entrance.

HOUSES: built 1889.

PLAN: terrace of three houses facing south, a mirrored pair to the west (with their entrances together), the eastern house having its entrance at the east end of the façade. Each house is two rooms deep, with a third sited in the rear projection, the stairs rising from the entrance.

EXTERIOR: the terrace is brick-built, incorporating blue engineering brick courses at cill and lintel level and a dentilled eaves course. The pebble-dashed render* covering much of the terrace is C20. Lintels are flat arches of rubbed bricks, cills are stone and project. Gables are raised and stone coped supported with kneelers. Chimneys are brick with dentilled cornices. Each house has paired windows to ground and first floors, with a third window to the first floor set above the door. Windows are four-over-four pane sashes. Outbuildings to the rear have been demolished.

INTERIOR: this was not fully inspected, being derelict at the time of survey with some sections of collapsed structural timberwork. However some original features such as built-in cupboards do survive.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Further sections of the depot’s tramway are expected to survive as buried features, along with other structures. Some of the original War Department boundary stones are also reported to survive. These features have not been mapped. * Pursuant to s1 (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, however any works which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority to determine.


Books and journals
Major J F Lewis, (Royal Engineers), Permanent Fortifications for English Engineers, (1890), Plate XXXI
Local history research by Alan Baird, accessed 9 August 2018 from
Newspaper report in the Yorkshire Evening Press 11 Sept 1893 p3


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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