The building was designed by the architect Laurie Bisset in 1892 and is a symmetrical 9-bay, single storey, approximately T-shaped in plan drill hall with a 2-storey tower. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following is excluded from the listing: the former offices (now a house) to the east, the timber lean-to shed and brick free-standing building at the rear.
The hall is designed in a picturesque, rustic style and is constructed of vertically boarded timber. The large tower projects from the front of the building and has a pagoda roof with an open upper level. There are lean-to aisles, originally an open veranda, to the north and west sides of the building while at the rear the open veranda remains in situ. There are decorative iron finials on the apex of the tower and on the small dormers, with small pane glazing in timber windows and a roof of corrugated iron.
The 2-storey stone structure at the rear, which served as the armoury on the ground floor and drill instructor's house above, may date from the 1850s. It is approximately square in plan, built of pink snecked, squared rubble with droved ashlar dressings. It has 4-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows with a grey slate roof and coped ashlar chimney stacks.
The interior was seen in 2015 and largely retains its late 19th century scheme. There is timber boarding throughout the building and a trussed timber roof in the hall, with double doors in the northeast gable and a raised dais, at the opposite end. There is a timber viewing balcony on the north side overlooking the hall. The tower has a small internal staircase and a room on the first floor. The interior of the former armoury also has timber boarding and evidence of timber fittings for guns. A first floor room has a timber and cast iron chimneypiece.
Statement of Special Interest
The Drill Hall in Golspie, designed in 1892 by the Duke of Sutherland's architect Laurie Bisset, is an outstanding example of a drill hall. Its style is unusually picturesque, including a rarely found pagoda roof on the tower, and is reminiscent of industrial architecture rather than defensive or domestic architecture. Apart from the enclosing of the verandas in the early 20th century and the removal of the exterior rustic stair in the 1970s, it has not been significantly altered since the late 19th century, with the interior retaining many important early details. It has a significant and prominent presence on the main road leading north out of Golspie.
In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following is excluded from the listing: the former offices (now a house) to the east, the timber lean-to shed and brick free-standing building at the rear.
The drill hall in Golspie was the second hall to be built on this site. Newspaper reports in September 1892 state a new hall was commissioned by the 3rd Duke of Sutherland and opened on 2 September of that year. However the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed in 1873 and published in 1878), shows a structure in the same position as the current hall. The main part of this earlier building was of wood, as indicated by the Ordnance Survey map, while the small wing at the rear was of stone, and the 1892 building retained this pattern.
The Volunteers in Sutherland were organised in June 1859, with the 3rd Duke of Sutherland gazetted as the Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Administrative Battalion of Sutherlandshire Rifle Volunteers in March 1864. The hall that the Golspie volunteers used from sometime around the mid-1860s was the 'pavilion' erected opposite Golspie Inn, which had been built about 1852 for the annual Industrial Exhibition which promoted local manufacturers. At that time it was described as a 'large and commodious wooden structure' measuring 120 feet by 30 feet. During the 1860s there are various references to the hall as the 'Exhibition Hall', although it is clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1873 as the 'Volunteers' Drill Hall'. This indicates that the hall was multi-functional, in keeping with many drill halls before the turn of the century.
The decision to build a new hall will have been made by the 3rd Duke and the contracts for this were advertised on 18 March 1892 and it was opened on 2 September. However, as the Duke died in September 1892, it is possible that his son, Cromartie Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, later 4th Duke, was actually the main driver behind the construction of the new hall, as he was the commanding officer of the Sutherland Rifles from 1882 until his father's death. The second hall had different dimensions from the earlier exhibition hall – 92 feet by 35 feet – and was the base for two volunteer local companies.
The architect responsible for the design was Laurie Bisset, the architect for the Duke of Sutherland. He moved to Golspie in the 1880s as an assistant to William Fowler, the Duke of Sutherland's architect at that time. Only a small number of buildings by Bisset are currently known and it is therefore difficult to establish if he had a personal 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 was 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 Regulations 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 A, statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016 as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16. Previously listed as 'Golspie, Old Bank Street, T.A. Hall'.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 97355
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1873, published 1879). Sutherland Sheet CV.11. 1st Edition. 25 inches to the mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1904, published 1906). Sutherland 105.11 (includes: Golspie). 2nd Edition. 25 inches to the mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey
Beaton, E (1995) Sutherland. Edinburgh: RIAS. pp.45-6, 56.
Gifford, J. (1992) Buildings of Scotland: Highland and Islands. London: Penguin Books. p.581.
Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland's Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.
Inverness Courier (4 October 1850) p.3.
Inverness Courier (7 October 1852) p.3.
Inverness Courier (27 September 1855) p.5.
Inverness Courier (17 March 1864) p.5.
Inverness Courier (18 March 1892) p.1.
Inverness Courier (30 August 1892) p.6.
John O' Groats Journal (24 March 1864) p.2.
Wells Journal (6 October 1866) p.2.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Laurie Bisset at
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=100190 [accessed 17/02/2016].
Information courtesy of owner (2016).
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Printed: 20/04/2019 01:22