Designed by John Bennie Wilson and dated 1884 with later additions dated 1904 by the same architect and internal alterations in 2001, the building is a L-plan, 2-storey and attic sandstone former drill hall, built as the Headquarters for the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. The building is designed in a Collegiate Tudor style and is located on a street corner. The whole building is built in coursed sandstone rubble with a first floor string course and an eaves course. The main elevation has near symmetrical wallhead gables with 5-light oriel windows at the first floor and a 3-stage castellated entrance tower with an arched former entrance with a carved crest to the right. There is a 2-storey conical roofed circular tower in the left corner with a cruciform arrow slit detail. The windows are a mix of single, triple and paired transom and mullioned types. The west (side) elevation is 5 bays with a gable and chimney stack to the right. The rear elevation has an irregular window pattern and is rendered.
There are modern entrance doors and timber sash and case and fixed casement windows. The roofs are slate with stone skews and gable chimney stacks and there is a decorative ridge ventilator.
The interior of the building was not seen in 2015 and has been converted into multiple residential apartments.
Statement of Special Interest
The Coplaw Street former drill hall is a good example of a turn of the century former battalion headquarters in a Collegiate Tudor style. Although the building has been altered by the loss of part of the 1884 section of the building the surviving part is well-detailed with decorative oriel windows, the castellated entrance bay and the circular corner tower with arrowslit. The building continues to evidence its former military use by the stone crest above the former entrance.
The Coplaw Street drill hall was built in 1884 by John Bennie Wilson and it was extended west by 1903, again by Wilson (Dictionary of Scottish Architects). It is first shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1893) and its extended form is shown on the 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1909-10). Most of the earlier part of the building has been demolished leaving only the four rightmost bays facing Coplaw Street including the entrance tower (the 3 bays to the left, which include the rounded corner tower and the range that extends back from the road line is the later addition). The 1913 Ordnance Survey map shows the building in its largest form which also includes a long building on an angle to the northwest corner of the site which may have been a rifle range, based upon its plan form and scale.
At the time the Drill Hall was built the area was known as Coplawhill, named after the house that sat in the middle of open ground opposite the drill hall. There is now a school on the site of the former house. The Post Office records of the time show that this house was occupied by a family named "Bennie" from 1858 up until 1884. This is not a common name, so there is a possibility that the family were connected to the architect and may have provided the land for the drill hall in around 1884.
The building was designed as the headquarters for the 3rd Battalion and as such is relatively elaborate for a drill hall building. The majority of the original phase of the building has been demolished, however the remaining part retains the principal entrance tower section and some good quality detailing. Plans held at Glasgow City Archives indicate that the building was converted to a leisure centre around 1984, and was in this use when the building was listed in 1992. The building was converted to apartments in 2001.
The Great War Forum notes that builders discovered a time capsule hidden behind a brass plaque in the building when it was being converted to flats in the late 20th century. The plaque and glass jar capsule were hidden in the entrance way in 1884 to mark the laying of the foundation stone for the drill hall of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in Coplaw Street.
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 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.
Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016 as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16. Previously listed as '35 Coplaw Street, Leisure Centre'.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 172565
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1910 published 1914) Lanarkshire VI.SW (includes: Glasgow; Govan). 2nd Edition. Six inches to the mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey
Glasgow City Archives. Dean of Guild Plans Coplaw Street. Drill Hall extension - 1/5667 (29 April 1897 and 1/9949 (12 November 1903).
Glasgow City Council Building Control. Plans 35 Coplaw Street. Lanton Leisure Ltd 1984/1867, 1985/198, 1985/1190 and GDC12/3/1/88/367
The Architect (5 April 1884).
Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland's Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, John Bennie Wilson at
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=201479 [accessed 21/03/2016]
Historic Scotland/Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (2013) World War One Audit Project at https://canmore.org.uk/event/965858 [accessed 21/03/2016].
The Great War Forum: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=225628 [accessed 31/03/2016].
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Printed: 05/03/2021 14:21