The building was designed by Andrew Maitland and Sons in 1887 with a small extension added to the east before 1938. It is a single storey, rectangular plan, neo-Baroque former drill hall with a 3-bay principal elevation and 6-bay side elevations. 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 flat-roofed and rendered extensions to the southeast and southwest elevations.
Victroia Hall is built of pink stugged sandstone with yellow polished ashlar dressings. There are distinctive, Gibbsian style surrounds to the windows. The principal (northwest) elevation is flanked by tall, square buttresses with banded rustication and topped with ball finials and there is a pair of entrance doors recessed in round arches. Above the entrances is a wheel window with a clock at the centre. In the gablehead is a plaque in a trefoil niche inscribed 'The Victoria Hall 1887'. To the left and slightly set back is a pitched roof extension in a similar style to the hall with a round arched entrance and finialled buttress.
There is fixed-pane glazing in timber windows on the principal elevation and 4-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows on the side elevations. The roof is piended with grey slate.
The interior was not seen in 2015. Photographs taken in May 2015 show some elements of the late 19th century interior scheme still survive, such as timber panelling on the lower part of the walls of the hall. At the south end of the hall is a raised platform.
Statement of Special Interest
Victoria Hall was designed in 1887 by the prolific Tain practice Andrew Maitland and Sons and is a good example of a small hall built in the middle of the most intense period of drill hall building activity (1880 to 1910). It has good neo-Baroque style detailing, for example the Gibbsian surrounds of the windows and the rusticated banded buttresses and is an early use of the style which became more popular in the late 1890s. The exterior has not been significantly altered since it was built in 1887. It has a prominent presence in the High Street of Cromarty, in the centre of the Cromarty Conservation Area. 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 flat-roofed and rendered extensions to the southeast and southwest elevations.
The inscription on the apex of the front gable records the date of the building as 1887, although the building was planned somewhat before this as an article in Scottish Highlander from 7 August 1885 records that a concert in aid of the new drill hall was held in the Masonic Hall in 1885. A report of the opening appeared in May 1887 and by October of that year the hall was in use not only as a drill hall but also as a meeting place for more general purposes in the town (Scottish Highlander, 6 October 1887). It was named the Victoria Hall because it was opened in the year of
Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
The lean-to extension on the northeast elevation seems to have been built between 1904 and 1938, as it is not shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1904) but is shown on the 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1938 and published in 1949). An attempt has been made in the design details of this addition to match the original building, with the round arched entrance and finialled buttress on this part.
The Cromarty Artillery volunteers had been formed into a corps in June 1860. On the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1871) no drill hall is apparent but the 'Volunteers' Battery and powder magazine' are marked on the coast just east of the town. It is likely that the volunteers used the Freemasons' Hall in the town until such time as their hall was built.
At present only two drill halls are known to have been designed by the Maitland practice: this one in Cromarty and the other in Bonar Bridge. The Gair Memorial Hall, also in Bonar Bridge and designed by the Maitlands also employs modest neo-Baroque detailing in the broken pediments over the dormers and a Flemish gablet over the central bay. The style may have been considered by the Maitlands as appropriate for public hall commissions.
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 Volunteers Corps in defended coastal towns) 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.
Listed in 2016 as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 105837
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1871, published 1880) Ross and Cromarty Sheet LXVII.9 (Cromarty). 1st Edition. 25 inches to the mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1904, published 1906) Ross-shire 067.09 (includes: Cromarty). 2nd Edition. 25 inches to the mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1938, published 1949) Ross and Cromarty Sheet LXVII (includes: Cromarty; Nigg). 3rd Edition. 6 inches to the mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Beaton, E (1992) Ross and Cromarty. Edinburgh: RIAS. p.77.
Gifford, J. (1992) Buildings of Scotland: Highland and Islands. London: Penguin Books. p.400.
Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland's Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.
Scottish Highlander (7 August 1885) p.10.
Scottish Highlander (6 October 1887) p.6.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Andrew Maitland & Sons at http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=100379 [accessed 26/02/2016].
Grierson, J. M. (1909) Record of the Scottish Volunteer Force 1859-1908 at https://archive.org/details/recordsofscottis00grierich [accessed 26/02/2016].
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Printed: 01/06/2023 17:46