The building was constructed about 1895-1897 and is a 1 and 2-storey, 5-bay, L-plan former drill hall, armoury and drill instructor's house in a Tudor cottage style, now used as a house. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the two rear extensions toward the southwest.
Amoury House is built of blue squared rubble with snecked ashlar dressings and the building has timber bracketed eaves with exposed rafter ends. The projecting outer bays are gabled, that to the left is a single storey former hall with a mullioned tripartite window with Tudor hoodmould which rises over a carved inscription (now partly eroded) '5 VBRH 1895'. The former hall is entered through a projecting porch which has a shouldered doorcase and twin-leaf timber door. The entrance to the house is to the right of the porch and has a rectangular fanlight and single timber door.
In the house and armoury section on the right there is mainly 3- and 4-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows. In the hall section to the left there is multi-pane glazing in the upper part with 3-pane glazing below in timber sash and case windows. The roof is grey slates and there are corniced chimney stacks, some with yellow clay cans.
The interior which was seen in 2015 has a good surviving late 19th century scheme. The former hall has timber boarding to dado height, a timber panelled entrance door in a moulded architrave, a late 19th century chimneypiece, plain cornice and central ventilator. Within what was the drill instructor's house there is a row of bells and chimneypiece in the kitchen and timber panelled doors.
Statement of Special Interest
The Armoury House is a good example of a small late 19th century picturesque Tudor cottage style drill hall with armoury and drill instructor's house. The principal elevation appearance remains largely unchanged since it was built, and many interior details have been retained. It has distinctive bargeboarded gables with exposed rafter ends and mullioned windows with a Tudor style hoodmould. It has significant presence in the streetscape in a central position in Birnam where a number of buildings are designed using a similar picturesque architectural style. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the two rear extensions toward the southwest.
The drill hall was built about 1895-7 and is shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1898, published 1900), marked as a 'drill hall'. However newspaper sources seem to imply that it was actually built in two phases in 1894-5 and 1897-8. The first phase was the construction of the 'armoury and dwelling house for the drill instructor' which was mentioned in October 1894 when a feu had been secured and the building 'so long talked about' was 'in a fair way of becoming an accomplished fact'. In December 1895 there is clear evidence that the armoury and house had been erected but there is no mention of the hall at this date. The hall may have been completed the following year or in early 1897 as in August 1897 a grand bazaar was held in aid of the 'building fund of the Birnam volunteers' in the drill hall itself. The date stone inscribed with 1895 which is on the wall of the hall may have been carved later but showing the date of completion of the first part. The differences in the windows between the two sections would seem to support that the building was constructed in two phases.
As indicated in the inscription the hall was built for the 5th Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Highlanders (later the Black Watch). The Birnam hall is a very small example compared to many. In 1899 the volunteers met for their annual drill at the Birnam Institute in preference to their own hall in Perth Road, presumably because it was not large enough.
It is possible that Andrew Grainger Heiton (1864-1927) was responsible for the design of the building. He was the nephew of the prominent Perth architect Andrew Heiton Junior, who, with his father, was responsible for the design of Birnam station. As a young man Andrew Grainger Heiton was a keen sportsman and an enthusiastic volunteer. Andrew Grainger Heiton attended a dinner on 21 December 1896 in honour of the veteran commanding officer of the 5th Battalion of Perthshire volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Menzies. Heiton served with the Black Watch during the First World War, the Highland Regiment having become the Black Watch at this date. A comparison of domestic work by Heiton in the 1890s shows some similarities to the Birnam hall - for example the much larger Dungarthill of about 1890 with its extensive use of timbering in the gables. However no documentary evidence has been found to support the attribution of Heiton to the Birnam drill hall. The hall might simply have been the work of a local builder or joiner following the local building style.
In the late 1850s there was concern in the British Government about the Army's ability to defend both the home nation as well as the Empire. Britain's military defences were stretched and resources to defend Britain needed to be found. One solution was to create 'Volunteer Forces', a reserve of men who volunteered for part-time military training similar to that of the regular army and who could therefore help to defend Britain if the need arose.
In 1859 the Rifle Volunteer Corps (and Artillery Corps in defended coastal areas) were formed and the Volunteer Act of 1863 provided more regulation on how the volunteer forces were run and it set out the standards for drills and a requirement for annual inspections. Most purpose-built drill halls constructed at this time were paid for by a major local landowner, the subscriptions of volunteers, local fundraising efforts or a combination of all three. The Regulation of the Forces Act 1871 (known as the Cardwell Reforms after the Secretary of State for War, Edward Cardwell) gave forces the legal right to acquire land to build a drill hall and more purpose-built drill halls began to be constructed after this date. The largest period of drill hall construction, aided by government grants, took place between 1880 and 1910. The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (known as the Haldane Reforms after the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane) came into force in 1908 and the various Volunteer Units were consolidated to form the Territorial Force. The construction of drill halls largely ceased during the First World War and in 1920 the Territorial Force became the Territorial Army.
In the 20th century changes in warfare and weaponry made many of the earlier drill halls redundant and subject to demolition or change to a new use. Around 344 drill halls are believed to have been built in Scotland of which 182 are thought to survive today, although few remain in their original use. Drill halls are an important part of our social and military history. They tell us much about the development of warfare and the history of defending our country. They also, unusually for a nationwide building programme, were not standardised and were often designed by local architects in a variety of styles and they also have a part to play in the history of our communities.
The requirements for drill halls were basic – a large covered open space to train and drill as well as a place for the secure storage of weapons. The vast majority of drill halls were modest utilitarian structures. Most drill halls conformed to the pattern of an administrative block containing offices and the armoury to store weapons along with a caretaker or drill instructors accommodation, usually facing the street. To the rear would be the drill hall itself. Occasionally more extensive accommodation was required, such as for battalion headquarters where interior rifle ranges, libraries, billiards rooms, lecture theatres and bars could all be included.
Category changed from B to C, statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016 as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16. Previously listed as 'Drill Hall (Armoury House), Perth Road, Birnam'.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 226772.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1898, published 1900) Perth and Clackmannanshire 062.09 (includes: Little Dunkeld). 25 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey
Dundee Courier (20 June 1894) p.5.
Dundee Courier (23 June 1894) p.6.
Dundee Courier (4 July 1894) p.3.
Dundee Courier (29 October 1894) p.3.
Dundee Courier (12 December 1895) p.5.
Dundee Courier (2 December 1896) p.5.
Dundee Courier (14 August 1897) p.8.
Dundee Courier (11 May 1898) p.7.
Dundee Courier (30 January 1899) p.6.
Dundee Evening Telegraph (12 July 1894) p.2.
Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland's Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.
Osborne, M. (2006) Always ready: Drill Halls of Britain's Volunteer Force. Partizan Press. p.268.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Andrew Grainger Heiton at
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=201032 [accessed 30/04/2016].
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Printed: 23/04/2019 06:57