Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

East and west guardhouses and gatepiers at the main entrance to former munitions factory, excluding the toilet block extension on the west elevation of the west guardhouse, Eastriggs LB52612

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Local Authority
Dumfries And Galloway
Planning Authority
Dumfries And Galloway
NY 24875 65420
324875, 565420


Built in 1916 by the Ministry of Munitions and with mid to late-20th century additions and alterations, the former main entrance to the Eastriggs site of His Majesty's Explosives Factory (HMEF) Gretna comprises two guardhouses and two associated gatepiers. These structures are located at the end of a minor (and latterly private road), approximately 560 metres southeast from the junction of Melbourne Avenue, The Crescent and The Ridge in the village of Eastriggs.

The two guardhouses are detached, multi-phase, single-storey buildings, roughly L-shaped on plan and constructed in red brick with raised brickwork quoins and cills.

The principal (north) elevation of the east guardhouse is roughly five bays wide with a small, flat-roofed, rectangular-plan entrance extension attached to its west elevation. There is a timber veranda running along its west elevation forming a covered walkway. The west guardhouse is four bays wide and has a similar timber veranda along its east elevation. The veranda columns sit on low, squared concrete plinths.

The window and door openings are mostly boarded up. Some of the window openings have 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case frames (visible from inside). The roofs of each guardhouse are piended and swept and are covered in slates. The east guardhouse has a central chimneystack along the roof ridge and there are a mixture of metal and plastic rainwater goods throughout. The flat-roofed verandas are covered in felt.

The interior of the guardhouses largely dates from the mid to late-20th century. The internal walls are of painted and exposed brick. There are no historic fixtures or fittings, such as original doors or lights. The fireplaces have been blocked up and a number of rooms have been reconfigured and some window and doors openings changed. There is a later toilet block extension on the west elevation of the west guardhouse (this is excluded from the listing).

The tall, square-plan gatepiers are chamfered and constructed in brick with a decorative concrete band a little above the centre point of each. The tops of the gatepiers are corniced and are surmounted by squared concrete slabs. The remains of 20th century electric lamp fittings are set into each concrete top. Each gatepier is connected to a guardhouse by a squared brickwork entranceway with concrete band decoration, forming a pedestrian walkway on each side.

Historical development

The Eastriggs site (commonly known as Eastriggs, Dornock or Site III) was part of the industrial munitions production complex known as His Majesty's Explosives Factory (HMEF) Gretna. The factory was developed in direct response to a single issue - an insufficient supply of small and large calibre munitions during the First World War (commonly known as the '1915 shell crisis'), which was widely publicised in the press. Trench warfare was an essentially static form of warfare and used large numbers of shells and explosives to control the lines held. As a result, stocks of shells were soon depleted. This created a need for large-scale supplies of key constituents, such as the propellant, Cordite RDB (Research Department formula B), which was a key constituent of shell production. The Ministry of Munitions was formed in 1915 to oversee and coordinate the production and distribution of munitions for the war effort.

The purpose-built complex at HMEF Gretna spanned an area of around 12km from Mossband near Longtown in the east to Dornock/Eastriggs in the west. Its function was to exploit innovations in industrial chemistry and large-scale manufacturing to produce cordite propellent during the First World War. The construction of the Eastriggs site began in 1915 and formed the westernmost part of HMEF Gretna, covering approximately 1000 hectares, 5km by 2km. Constructed by around 10,000 mostly Irish workers, the first factory workers arrived at HM Factory Gretna in March 1916 (The Devil's Porridge Museum). The Eastriggs site was the start of the production process. It was here that raw and constituent materials were deposited by rail and processed into chemicals (such as acids), explosive constituents (nitro-glycerine and nitro-cellulose or 'gun cotton'), before being turned into the finished explosive, cordite RDB. These constituents were stored onsite before being transported by rail, eastwards, for finishing and storage at Gretna and Longtown.

Building plans, dated April 1916, show the guardhouses at the Eastriggs entrance were constructed as police offices (The National Archives, Supp 10/28, drawing no. 3921). The east guardhouse housed 7 rooms, including a search room, waiting room, Commandant's room, clerk and assistant rooms, detention room and matron's room. The west guardhouse was smaller and housed five similar rooms, including a cell, with the provision for later extension westwards if required. The east and west guardhouses had a veranda on their west and east elevations respectively, forming two covered pedestrian walkways. The east guardhouse entrance was designated for women, the west one was for men.

A historic photograph (taken around 1916-1918) shows the guardhouses flanking the main road into the factory site with two brick and timber-constructed, rectangular-plan buildings (the parcels and checks offices) to the southwest (The National Archives, Mun 5/297/pt.3). These contemporary buildings were demolished sometime between 1924 and 1940 (they are not shown on a 1940 aerial photograph but are shown on a 1924 sales map). This photograph shows dirt tracks connecting the entrance buildings and large metal gates between the gatepiers and guardhouses.

After the First World War ended, the high level of output was no longer required and the number of workers employed at Eastriggs was significantly reduced (The Scotsman, 1919). In 1921 the Ministry of Munitions proposed the closure of the Eastriggs factory (Dundee Evening Telegraph, 1921). The entire HM Factory Gretna, including the townships at Gretna and Eastriggs and the Longtown (Mossband) and Eastriggs (Dornock) factory areas, was put up for sale by auction at the County Hall in Carlisle in July 1924. The auction catalogue outlines around 600 lots, including stone, brick and steel-constructed factory buildings as well as public buildings and around 300 houses (Cumbria Archive Centre (Carlisle), DX/170/38). Smaller auctions of dismantled steelwork, iron and timber are recorded in the same year in Hamilton (The Scotsman; Motherwell Times). Attempts to sell or re-purpose the factory largely failed, and the site lay dormant for a number of years.

By 1936, the factory ground at Eastriggs was described as "a mass of dismantled and broken-down buildings" (Dundee Evening Telegraph). By the late 1930s, part of the Eastriggs site was acquisitioned and utilised under the national defence programme (The Scotsman, 1938). The site was reused and adapted for large-scale munitions storage during the Second World War and into the 21st century as ESD Eastriggs (Explosive Storage Depot Eastriggs). The Longtown site also became a storage depot in 1938 and continues in use as such today (2022).

Aerial and oblique photographs (taken in 1940, 1963 and 1975) clearly show the L-shaped footprint of both guardhouses with the addition of some extensions over time, particularly to the western elevation of the west guardhouse. The buildings have continued to be used for their intended purpose as a security point and guardhouse complex. A photograph taken in 1996 shows the guardhouses and gatepiers in much the same configuration except for the addition of a flat-roofed, MoD police station extension to the north elevation of the east guardhouse (Canmore).

ESD Eastriggs closed as an ammunition depot in about 2010.

Statement of Special Interest

The east and west guardhouses and associated gatepiers meet the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

  • They mark the former main entrance to the former Eastriggs munitions complex which was the westernmost extent of His Majesty's Explosives Factory, Gretna, and are a tangible reminder of one of the largest factories of its type ever built.
  • The guardhouses and gatepiers, built in 1916, are contemporary with the First World War use of the site and were likely constructed shortly after the first workers arrived at the munitions factory in March 1916.
  • The L-shaped footprints of the guardhouses and the layout of the gatepiers and their respective pedestrian entrances are largely retained as they existed when HM Factory Gretna closed following the First World War.
  • The survival of these entrance structures represents the functioning of the whole site throughout the last century, particularly the highly classified and restricted nature of operations during two world wars and late 20th and early-21st century explosives storage.
  • There is a strong social historical association with the former workers at this site and its relationship to wartime industry which is of national importance.

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 toilet block extension on the west elevation of the west guardhouse.

Architectural interest:


Built as the main entrance to the Eastriggs/Dornock site at His Majesty's Explosives Factory (HMEF) Gretna, the two guardhouses and associated gatepiers are a unique survival at a nationally significant First World War former munitions site.

The guardhouses are of a simple design, prioritising function over form, however both have some limited external decorative detailing, including raised brickwork quoins and cills, and verandas over the side elevations which form the former pedestrian walkways. Some contemporary houses that were built for workers along The Rand in Eastriggs village have similar raised brick quoins, further highlighting the stylistic connections between the former factory and the township. The original L-plan footprints of the guardhouses are largely retained and are of a similar size to one another. They are shown with roughly mirrored footprints on a sales map of 1924 and these largely survive today (2022).

Comparisons between the building plans of 1916, a map of the factory dating from around 1916 and the sales map of 1924 show that the west guardhouse was enlarged from a rectangular-plan building to an L-shaped one to mirror the east guardhouse relatively soon after its construction. A future extension to the west elevation of the west guardhouse was provided for in the 1916 building plans, that these works proceeded indicates the requirements of the west guardhouse evolved once the site was fully operational (Supp 10/28, Supp 10/39 and DX 170/38). The level of alteration and reconfiguration of the west guardhouse, particularly to its west elevation, is unclear, however its roof plan indicates that changes to the building in the later 20th century were largely sympathetic to the overall plan form of the two guardhouses.

Buildings of this type were constructed according to a relatively standard design, although minor variations were common, based upon the specific location of the building and availability of materials. The brick and slate construction of the guardhouses and gatepiers is typical for the building type. The inclusion of a veranda is also a standard design feature, regularly used by the military in its buildings throughout the United Kingdom. These guardhouses were designed to be of a temporary nature and the use of concrete and brick is indicative of that, however the good quality brick and long-term usage and repair have aided their survival. While the exterior form of the two guardhouses have been augmented since that shown on the 1916 plans and historic photographs, the lack of significant later external alteration, such as by the addition of render or drastic alteration of plan form, further adds to their interest for listing.

The internal plan form and layout of the guardhouses roughly corresponds to that shown on plans dating from 1916. The plan form is typical of the building type with a series of rooms branching off from a main corridor with associated toilet facilities and communal areas. There has been some reconfiguration of rooms by the addition (and in some cases removal) of partition walls and original door openings, however overall, the layout of the principal rooms has been largely retained. Both guardhouses were designed to be entered from the pedestrian entrance underneath their respective verandas and a series of entrance doors were positioned along the side (veranda) elevations of the guardhouses, a number of which have been since blocked up and new window openings formed as the use of these guardhouses changed over time.

As the use of the overall Eastriggs site changed throughout the 20th century, so too did the guardhouses and, as such, the buildings were upgraded to suit changing requirements. Mid to late-20th century alterations include the reconfiguration of window and door openings, particularly along the veranda, south and north elevations of the guardhouses and the addition of a later MoD police sentry box (the current openings are different to those shown on a historic photograph taken around 1916-18). Importantly, much of the original footprint, layout and function of the buildings is retained, and while they no longer form a main entrance route into the site, they remain readable in the landscape and their architectural integrity is retained.

The positioning of the two guardhouses and entrance gatepiers represents the whole functioning of the site and its evolution during the 20th century. At the time of their construction in 1916, the guardhouses were built to act as both a gatehouse and entry point into the site but also as a place of security and congregation for those in the role of supervision, namely police. The two pedestrian entrances formed between each guardhouse and gatepier were designed to cope with a large numbers of workers as they entered and exited the factory site, and these were designed specifically to separate men and women according to strict social codes of the time. The west (men's) entrance continues to be readable as a pedestrian walkway into the site, however the east (women's) entrance has been altered by the addition of a late-20th century MoD sentry box which has blocked the pedestrian gate and reconfigured the interior. The southern sections of both guardhouses were originally used as search rooms with two doors, one for entry and one for exit. While openings have been blocked up and the rooms reconfigured, the original entry and exit points can be seen and inform the building's original function.

While there has been some later alteration to the guardhouses, this has not adversely affected the overall historic interest of the buildings. They retain much of their historic character and authenticity as largely symmetrical, double guardhouses with associated gatepiers. Furthermore, the L-shaped footprint of the buildings and their respective male and female entrances are evident. In their current form, the guardhouses and gatepiers continue to inform their original and intended function.


The guardhouses and gatepiers are situated at the end of what is now a minor road that leads southeast from the village of Eastriggs at the junction of Melbourne Avenue, The Crescent and The Ridge. These structures are located at the former entrance to the Eastriggs site, the westernmost extent of the former HMEF Gretna, and largely occupy the same boundary as they did when they were constructed in 1916. The Eastriggs site is deliberately located in a rural, coastal setting, next to the north shore of the Solway Firth.

The location of the guardhouses and gatepiers, within easy walking and vehicular distance of the village of Eastriggs, further adds to the interest of these buildings because it continues to inform their function. The outline of the train platform (known as Wylie's platform) is still visible on aerial photographs of the entrance to the site which further connects and informs the function of the guardhouse buildings.

The guardhouses have retained much of their historic setting. Their positioning and form clearly identify them as a main entrance into a site of outstanding historic importance. When the Eastriggs site was adapted to become an explosives storage depot after 1938 much of the surrounding infrastructure was removed and the site repurposed, however the guardhouses continued to be used for their intended purpose and, as such, survive as one of the few remaining and upstanding First World War structures at Eastriggs, albeit in a modified form.

While there have been significant alterations to the wider site since its use as a munitions factory between 1915 and 1921 and its use as munitions storage depot from the late 1930s onwards, the guardhouses and gatepiers are clearly readable in the landscape as military gatehouse buildings. The historic and functional relationship of the guardhouses and gatepiers, as well as the standing and archaeological remains of the wider site, can still be seen and they aid our understanding of the operation and size of Eastriggs as the starting point of the wider cordite production process at HMEF Gretna.

The immediate setting of the guardhouses and gatepiers has changed since the time of their construction, particularly by the removal of two buildings to the south, the brick and timber-built parcels and check offices, removed sometime between 1924 and 1940 (MUN 5/297, pt3; NCAP, 1940; sales plan, DX 170/38). Furthermore, the addition of a single-storey range attached to the west elevation of the west guardhouse and the addition of other detached buildings to the north and west of the guardhouse complex in the mid-20th century has altered the setting, but these changes have not adversely affected the overall grouping and historic setting of the guardhouses and gatepiers because their original footprint, design and plan form are largely intact.

The structures are prominent features in the landscape which broadly retain their historic character and setting. Overall, these are key First World War buildings in a wider complex of archaeological remains of former factory structures and later, military buildings and, as such, are a unique survivor at the site.

Eastriggs has a wider setting as one of the key sites that made up the overall Gretna factory complex, from Longtown (Cumbria) in the east to Eastriggs in the west and combined with the planned villages of Gretna and Eastriggs, both purpose-built to house the workforce. The survival of other elements of this dispersed complex adds to the significance of Eastriggs.

Historic interest:

Age and rarity

The survival of the guardhouses and gatepiers, particularly on a site that has been adapted for different uses since its closure as a munitions factory, is unique. The structures are of interest because they are a group of buildings that were built in 1916 and which largely survive in their original form in terms of overall footprint, plan form and function.

Guardhouses not only act as gatelodges to a site, they are also important for the security of the complex and house all the personnel on guard duty for a specific period of time. Guardhouses are normally positioned at the entrances to military or highly secure sites. Those at Eastriggs were constructed for the accommodation of police officials who were there primarily to inspect workers upon entry to and exit from the site (The National Archives, Supp 10/21 and Supp 10/28). The two guardhouses included search rooms as well as a guard room and cells in the west guardhouse for the secure holding of prisoners.

Over 150 women were employed at HM Factory Gretna in the Women's Police Service (WPS), to supervise the female workforce. One of their main roles was to inspect female workers as they entered and exited the factory. One woman, for example, is recorded as trying to smuggle in her cigarettes and another tried to steal some cordite (The Devil's Porridge Museum, Women's Police Service at HM Factory Gretna). The east and west guardhouses would have been used as part of this screening process. Women would have used the east guardhouse and pedestrian entrance and the men would have used the west guardhouse entrance and been supervised by male police.

Much of the Eastriggs site was composed of temporary, industrial structures, many of which were dismantled or sold off after the First World War and those that remained were adapted and repurposed when Eastriggs became an explosives storage depot from the late 1930s onwards. The guardhouses and their associated gatepiers are a major example of their building type which are largely unaltered in terms of their footprint, plan form and historic function as a critical link between civilian and restricted areas. While the guardhouses and gatepiers are architecturally plain, they are also typical of their building type as functional and utilitarian structures. Their special interest comes from their date of construction (in 1916) and their rarity as a largely intact group of two gatehouses and associated gatepiers marking the entrance to a site of outstanding historic interest.

Social historical interest

Social historical interest is the way a building contributes to our understanding of how people lived in the past, and how our social and economic history is shown in a building and/or in its setting.

HMEF Gretna site was the sole, purpose-built cordite factory in Scotland and was the single largest producer of cordite in the United Kingdom. It plays an important role in our understanding of the industrial scale response to the demands of the First World War and how the home front responded. Gretna was one of 24 munitions factories in Scotland, collectively producing essential war materials and contributing to the outcome of the First World War.

The guardhouses were built as the main entrance in and out of the factory at the Eastriggs site. Their survival informs and represents the functioning of the whole First World War munitions site, particularly so since the site's significant adaptation and change of use from the mid-20th century onwards. Furthermore, the visual and logistical relationship between the site entrance to the purpose-built township at Eastriggs remains evident in the landscape and directly illustrates the historic function of these buildings and the wider HMEF Gretna site, as well as the social history of Eastriggs village and the surrounding areas.

The social historical significance of women and their role in the workplace in relation to Eastriggs is of further interest. Of a 30,000-person workforce at HM Factory Gretna, around 12,000 of the workers were women (The Devil's Porridge Museum). Women, many young, single and working-class, were employed across the factory in a variety of roles, including manual labour as part of the production of cordite, hospitality, domestic service, medicine, chemistry, firefighting and policing.

Over 150 women were employed at HM Factory Gretna in the Women's Police Service (WPS), to supervise the female workforce. As well as inspecting female workers as they entered and exited the factory, another role, indicative of the time, was to police the morals of the female (and male) workers by, for example, breaking up public kissing within the factory site and maintaining the 10pm curfew in the townships. By December 1919 the factory police force no longer employed women (Hansard).

Association with people or events of national importance

Eastriggs is a relatively uncommon example of a section of a military industrial complex built as part of the overall war effort during the First World War. At the time of its construction and use, HMEF Gretna was known as the largest factory in the empire.

The wider Eastriggs site is of national importance because it provides an important and tangible historical link to the global conflicts of the First World War by highlighting the scale of the conflict and how it essentially became a war of production. Eastriggs was purpose-built to produce materials necessary for the national war effort, namely cordite for shell production. Cordite RDB was almost exclusively used for land service munitions and was supplied in huge quantities to support the artillery barrages on the Western Front. These munitions were one of the chief causes of mass casualties on both sides and this site is an important reminder of the requirements and impacts of industrialised war.

Kenneth Bingham Quinan (1878-1948) is one of several key figures associated with Eastriggs. Quinan was an American-born chemical engineer who later settled in South Africa. He had a background in explosives and mining, and upon the outbreak of war was put in charge of the Factories Branch of the Ministry of Munitions. This included designing and overseeing the construction of HMEF Gretna and the Eastriggs factory. Quinan recruited chemists and technical experts and used his expertise to develop a highly complex cordite production system at Eastriggs, made simple by the breaking down of processes into constituent parts (The Devil's Porridge, Quinan).

The work at HM Factory Gretna came under the Official Secrets Act and was a crucial component of the home response to the war. The guardhouses and gatepiers are an important group of multiphase historic buildings that have stood at the entrance to an area of outstanding historical significance since 1916.

Other Information

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle wrote a widely published article in November 1916 in which he described the gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine mixture used in producing cordite as a 'sort of devil's porridge' (see for example, Dundee Courier). Interestingly, in this article, after a glowing report of the factory he mentions two difficulties: drink and labour.

All work at HM Factory Gretna came under the Official Secrets Act. Security was paramount and state control of operations was an effective way to ensure this. As well as the control of people's day-to-day working lives, the state also intervened in their limited free leisure time. Not only were night-time curfews in place in the townships of Gretna and Eastriggs, the men and women were segregated (as at work) and excessive drinking was curbed. Many munitions workers lived over the Scotland-England border in Carlisle and travelled to Eastriggs by train (and also to Mossband and Longtown).

The State Management Scheme known as the 'Carlisle Experiment' began in Carlisle in 1916 and was extended to Gretna, Silloth and areas close to the border (where HM Factory Gretna was). The state nationalised all the breweries and over 300 pubs and licensed premises in these areas, introducing changes to moderate alcohol consumption and behaviour, because excessive drinking and drunken disorder was causing absenteeism and poor productivity at the factory. The Scheme continued in Carlisle and the surrounding districts long after HM Factory Gretna closed, finally coming to an end in 1971 (Historic England).



Canmore: CANMORE IDs 121308 and 255707


No author (no date) Block plan showing H.M.F. Gretna: Site No.3, Acids, Gun cotton & N/G [Nitro-Glycerine] Sections. Scale 1:2400. Quinan Papers, Supp 10/39. The National Archives, Kew.

Tiffen, W. L & Sons (1924) Plan of Factories & Land Eastriggs Dumfriesshire. Insert map in DX 170/38, Cumbria Archive Centre (Carlisle).


H.M. Factory, Gretna: sales particulars with plans and photographs of the estate (July 1924), DX 170/38. Cumbria Archive Centre (Carlisle).

Hansard. Gretna Factory (Police Force), volume 122, Commons: 8 December 1919.

Photographs of HM Explosives Factory, Gretna, Dumfries. MUN 5/297, pt3. The National Archives, Kew.

Plan of Factory Gates and Police Station, Wylies Lane (April 1916). Quinan Papers, Supp 10/28, drawing no.3921. The National Archives, Kew.

Descriptions of plans, nos. 3892-4135 [book 20] (1916). Quinan Papers, Supp 10/21. The National Archives, Kew.

Printed Sources

Dundee Courier (28 November 1916) Britain's Miracle Town, p.4.

Dundee Evening Telegraph (20 June 1921) Protest Against Closing of Gretna Factory, p.7.

Dundee Evening Telegraph (21 July 1936) Famous Gretna Factory May Be Re-Erected, p.1.

Motherwell Times (29 August 1924) Sale by Auction, p.1.

The Scotsman (29 August 1919) Gretna Munitions Factory, p.3.

The Scotsman (19 January 1924) Forthcoming Sales, p.16.

The Scotsman (23 June 1938) Gretna Arms Store, p.11.

Online Sources

British Police History. HM Factory Gretna, at [accessed 21/07/2022].

Historic England. The 'Carlisle Experiment' – Government Takes Control of Public Houses, at [accessed 21/07/2022].

National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP) (1940). Royal Air Force Second World War Aerial Reconnaissance, Sortie: M/124/13, at [accessed 19/07/2022].

National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP) (1963). United States Navy Aerial Reconnaissance, Sortie: USN/219/206, at [accessed 19/07/2022].

National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP) (1975). Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC), Sortie: 39/4701, at [accessed 19/07/2022].

The Devil's Porridge Museum. Explore the Museum: virtual reality tour, at [accessed 20/07/2022].

The Devil's Porridge Museum. About us, at [accessed 20/07/2022].

The Devil's Porridge Museum. Members of the Women's Police Service at HM Factory Gretna, at [accessed 21/07/2022].

The Devil's Porridge Museum. Women's Police Service at HM Factory Gretna, at [accessed 21/07/2022].

The Devil's Porridge Museum. Kenneth Bingham Quinan Part 2, at [accessed 29/07/2022].

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East guardhouse at the former entrance to Eastriggs factory, showing pair of gatepiers and the west guardhouse in the distance, principal elevation, looking west, with signage in front of the guardhouse, during daytime, on clear day with blue sky.
East guardhouse and pair of gatepiers at the former entrance to Eastriggs factory, rear elevation, looking northeast, with trees and vegetation growth in foreground, during daytime, on clear day with blue sky.



Printed: 22/05/2024 19:14