This single storey and rectangular-plan, purpose-built former volunteer drill hall building dates to around 1870 with later alterations, including cinema additions dating from 1936.
The symmetrical, three-bay and gabled principal elevation to Church Street is constructed in ashlar sandstone with a channelled base course and a round-arched and keystoned doorpiece to the centre. Above is a large, partly-boarded circular window with a keystone hoodmould. There is a small rectangular window with a moulded surround at the gablehead. The gable head is bracketted with a corniced chimney stack at the apex. The outer bays have tall round-arched windows with chamfered reveals, and bracketted and moulded entablatures with panelled frieze. The roof is slated with ashlar coped skews and there are timber doors.
Internally, there is some surviving 1930s cinema decoration, including pilasters with gilt Corinthian capitals, foliate cornicing and a coombed ceiling. There is a balcony at the western end with diamond moulding detail and a coffered ceiling underneath. There are some Art-Deco ceiling lights and wall sconces throughout.
Statement of Special Interest
This building has a complex history and is quite a remarkable survivor even in its current heavily modified form. The principal elevation (on Church Street) remains largely as it was built, and its tripartite design indicates it was purpose-built as a volunteer drill hall. The central gable oculi and the flanking, round-arched windows are typical architectural design features of drills halls which were planned to allow lots of light into the drill space.
The requirements for drill halls were basic – a large covered space to train and drill as well as a place for the secure storage of weapons. The vast majority of drill halls were modest structures designed to be well-lit, spacious and unimpeded by pillars or internal walls. While the building at 51 Queen Street has been modified since its construction, its overall design informs its former use as a drill hall and, importantly, the rectangular-plan footprint of the drill hall survives, as well as its rubble-built walls and the architecturally distinctive principal elevation.
Most drill halls were built with plain interiors and those that remained in use have often lost some internal fabric. The Dundee Courier (18 March 1935) notes a plan by Dundee architects, Maclaren, Soutar and Salmond, to convert the drill hall into a 2000 seat cinema. Following its conversion to a cinema in 1936, decorative plasterwork was added to the interior of 51 Queen Street and fixtures and fittings relating to its use as a drill hall were removed. The hall was adapted by the Arbroath Cinema Company as 'The Regal' with capacity for 712 patrons. This involved the creation of an entrance foyer (demolished in the 1990s) to the south of the building facing Queen Street. The main hall was altered to create a balcony and proscenium (which has since been removed) and the circular window was replaced by concentric wooden slats.
The Cinema Theatre Association website indicates that some of the interior decorative scheme, including wall sconces and ceiling lights, was salvaged from Kaiser Wilhelm II's yacht, The Homeric, which served as a cruise ship after the First World War. The former Rex Cinema in Argyle Street, Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire (LB50140) also used fixtures and fittings from The Homeric in its interior decoration.
The building was used as a bingo hall between 1978 and 1991 and as a car showroom since 1994. There has been incremental alteration to the building since the 1990s, most recently by the addition of large openings in the south elevation in around 2008 (Dundee City Council, reference 08/00098/LBC and 08/00096/FUL) and the removal of former cinema additions attached to and west of the drill hall in 2007 and 2017 (07/00452/LBC and 17/00280/FULL). Change is not uncommon in buildings that have remained in use over time, particularly one that has changed from a drill hall to a cinema to a car showroom. Importantly, the building at 51 Queen Street retains its late-19th century footprint and much of its exterior fabric, particularly to its principal elevation.
The building appears in the Dundee Valuation Roll for 1875-76 as 'Hall at Seafield' for the First Forfarshire Artillery Volunteers, who formed in 1860. The hall is referred to as the 'Broughty Ferry Volunteer Drill Hall' in local newspaper articles between 1877, when an application for a theatre licence was granted (Dundee Evening Telegraph, 24 October 1877), and 1914 during which time it played host to concerts, plays, lectures, public meetings and flower shows while continuing in use as a drill hall for the Third (Broughty Ferry) Forfarshire Artillery Volunteers.
Around 340 purpose-built drill halls were built in Scotland of which around half are thought to survive today, although few remain in military use. Drill halls are part of our social and military history, telling us much about the development of warfare and the history of defending our country. Unusually for a nationwide building programme, designs were not standardised and local architects were often employed, using a variety of styles.
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.
The surviving fabric of the cinema interior decoration is a tangible reminder of the building's later conversion. It survives as a good representative example of a late-19th century, purpose-built, former volunteer drill hall with the remnants of a 1930s cinema interior of which that which survives is of good quality.
Listed building record (non-statutory information) revised as part of Cinemas Thematic Study 2007-08 and as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16.
Category of listing changed from B to C and listed building record revised in 2022.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 234404
Ordnance Survey (revised 1901, published 1902) Forfarshire LIV.8. 25 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (revised 1921, published 1922) Forfarshire LIV.8. 25 inches to the mile. Later Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (revised 1938, published 1941) Forfarshire LIV.8. 25 inches to the mile. Later Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Dundee Public Library. A History of the Volunteer Movement. Lamb Collection, Reference: 130(C).
Dundee Archive and Record Centre. Valuation Roll (1875-76).
Dundee Courier (18 March 1935) Super-Cinema for Broughty, p.3.
Dundee Directory (1936, 1960).
Dundee Evening Telegraph (24 October 1877) Theatre Licence for Broughty Ferry, p.3.
Dundee Evening Telegraph (16 March 1977) Centenary Souvenir.
Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland's Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.
Cinema Treasures. Regal, Broughty Ferry at http://cinematreasures.org/photos/48790 [accessed 26/05/2016].
Cinema Theatre Association. Broughty Ferry at http://www.scottishcinemas.org.uk/scotland/broughtyferry.html [accessed 26/05/2016].
Dundee City Council Planning Portal, at https://idoxwam.dundeecity.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/ [accessed 21/03/2022].
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Printed: 05/12/2023 05:00