Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Shetland Islands
Planning Authority
Shetland Islands
HU 47513 41483
447513, 1141483


William Arthur Baird Laing, dated 1903. 2-storey and attic, 3-bay Scots Baronial former drill hall. Stugged squared and snecked sandstone walls with concrete covered ashlar dressings. Base course, long and short quoins to windows and corners, projecting cills at windows.

West elevation with central, architraved and corniced 6-panel 2-leaf timber door with 4-pane fanlight; datestone in frame above. Bipartite windows at ground in flanking bays; bipartite window in dormer with stone crowstepped dormerhead breaking eaves to right of centre. Left bay gabled with bipartite window at 1st floor, window at 1st floor to bay to right rising in tower, breaking eaves at southwest corner, corbelled out to crennellated parapet above.

South elevation: asymmetrical 3-bay elevation with hall extending to right. Raised door opening at centre bay at ground, windows in flanking bays with 1st floor window in left bay in corner tower, bipartite dormer window in right bay offset to right, breaking eaves with crowstepped stone dormerhead. Hall elevation extending to right mostly obscured by modern addition.

North elevation: 2-bay end elevation of principal front to right with crowstepped chimney gable with windows flanking centre. Hall extending to left, ground floor obscured by modern lean-to addition.

Modern timber windows with multi-pane uppers and plate glass lower sashes. Purple slate roofs, piended with platform to front block, gabled to hall. Profiled cast-iron gutter and downpipes with decorative hopper and brackets.

The interior was seen in 2008 and has been modernised.

Statement of Special Interest

The Garrison Theatre was designed in 1903 and completed in 1904 by the architect, William Arthur Baird Laing, as a Volunteer Headquarters, Drill Hall and Gymnasium for the 7th Volunteer Battalion Gordon Highlanders. The foundation stone was laid on 22nd July 1903 by Captain Commandant Moffatt and the building was officially opened by the Vice-Admiral Lord Charles Beresford on 17th September 1904.

The drill hall was requisitioned during the Second World War by the Entertainments National Service Association as a theatre for service personnel. Unofficially dubbed with the title Garrison Theatre it was not until 1942 that it was adapted for use as a theatre and was acquired by the Education Committee in 1958. It was refurbished around 1990. Shetland Arts took over the Garrison Theatre in 2006 and it provides a venue for theatre, concerts and other community uses (2010).

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 are 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.

Listed building record updated as part of the Theatres Thematic Study, 2010 and revised as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16.



Canmore: CANMORE ID 217073


Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1928, Published 1929) Zetland, Sheet 0513.13. 25 Inches to the Mile Map. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Clausen, E.J.F. and Manson, T.M.Y. (1979) 150th Anniversary of Lerwick Parish Church. Shetland: Shetland Times. P.9.

Finnie, M. (1990) Shetland, An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Edinburgh: RIAS. p.30.

Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland s Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.

Hudson, N. (1992) Souvenir postcards from Shetland. Lerwick: Shetland Times Ltd. p.20.

Manson, T. (1991) Lerwick During the Last Half Century. Lerwick: Lerwick Community Council. p.88 & 230.

Shetland Islands Council (1980) Isleburgh House, 1945-1980. Lerwick: Shetland Islands Council. p.11.

Shetland Times (1 December 1900) The Volunteer Movement. p.4.

Shetland Times (13 February 1904) 7th V.B. Gordon Highlanders. p.5.

Shetland Times (10 September 1904) Drill Hall and Gymnasium. p.1.

Online Sources

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. William Arthur Baird Laing at

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Printed: 22/06/2018 00:41