First World War: Drill Halls
Historic England is currently identifying the most significant examples of drill halls with a view to protecting them for the future.
From the middle of the 19th century, Drill Halls were a common sight in every town and city. They were usually purpose-built meeting places where Britain's volunteer forces met to practice military drill. They also served as administrative centres and armouries for the units, and also acted as important social centres for their members. The architectural finish of many Drill Halls reflects the local pride in these forces.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, there are thought to have been around 500-600 drills halls in England, of these around 300 are thought to survive. Some volunteers served on home defence duties in England, but large numbers volunteered for overseas service.
Many drill halls have been lost while others have found new uses as community centres or business premises; their large open halls and smaller ancillary rooms well-suited to a variety of functions. Some today have retained a military function as Reserve Forces Centres. Many of the surviving halls are important, not only architecturally but also for their commemorative associations. Historic England's work will help to identify those examples of greatest interest with a view to protecting the most significant.
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