Designed by James Macintyre Henry and built in 1907 this hall is a 2-storey, 10-bay irregularly planned Scots Jacobean domestic style building, formerly the Scottish Horse Drill Hall and now used as the village hall. 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 later two rendered rear wings and the 1950s rifle range.
The hall is built of squared blue limestone rubble with light brown polished ashlar dressings. The principal (north) elevation has an advanced wide crowstepped gable central bay with a bowed tower and a bellcast roof to the right. The central doorway has a large projecting hood, above which is a stone panel with the arms of the regiment; the triple window above is surmounted by panel with the Scottish Crown and Thistle and the date 1907. The first floor has catslide dormers on the east side of the front elevation, while the west side has tall dormers with triangular gableheads.
There is a mixture of 12- and 18-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows and the roof is grey slate. There are corniced chimney stacks with some red clay cans. The low boundary walls at the front of the site have moulded copes.
The interior which was seen in 2015 has a good surviving early 20th century decorative scheme. There are several large public areas within the building which includes the armoury (located in the east part of the building), offices and the drill hall itself. The main hall is located at the centre of the building at right angles to the main elevation. The bowed tower has a circular stair with iron balusters and timber hand rail. This staircase gives access to a raised viewing balcony overlooking the hall lit by a triple window while at the opposite end of the hall is a raised dais. The hall is lined with timber boarding to dado height and the roof is supported on timber trusses. A first floor room has a compartmented ceiling with small cornice.
Statement of Special Interest
The former Scottish Horse Drill hall complex, designed by the prominent Edinburgh architect James Macintyre Henry in 1907, is a large and important example of a drill hall built just before the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 was implemented. The hall has particular historical interest because, at the opening ceremony in September 1907, Richard Haldane, Secretary of State for War, outlined his plans for restructuring of the army. Designed in a late 17th century Scots domestic style with a distinctive central crowstepped gable and tower with bellcast roof which indicate the position of the hall itself, the building is an important element of the streetscape in the village of Blair Atholl. The principal and side elevations and the interior of the main spaces in the building are largely unaltered.
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 two rendered rear wings and the rifle range.
The hall was built in 1907 and opened on 14 September of that year. At the time it was built it was intended primarily for Squadron A of the Scottish Horse but also for use by the local people as a village hall. The cost was estimated to be £4000 but by the time it was opened only £2300 has been raised and there was a debt of £500. The drill hall, armoury and sergeant major's house had been built but some areas, namely the proposed library and clubhouse in the west wing were not completed as intended at that time.
The hall is of historical significance because Richard Haldane, Secretary of State for War, personally attended the opening ceremony in 1907 and gave an important speech describing his plans for the reorganisation of the forces. The choice of this hall for this speech was presumably partly because of the timing of its completion but also because of the significant figures who had been involved with the conception and construction of the building. The foremost of these was George Stewart-Murray, Marquis of Tullibardine and son of the Duke of Atholl. Lord Tullibardine had served under Lord Kitchener in the Sudan, and during the Second Boer War, he raised two regiments in South Africa, the 1st and the 2nd Scottish Horse. The 1st Scottish Horse saw active service in Western Transvaal. It was very successful and Lord Tullibardine received the local rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in South Africa. Following the war, the regiments were disbanded for a period in 1902 before being reconstituted and in 1907 Blair Atholl became the headquarters of Squadron A. The Duke of Atholl, father of the Marquis and who had also seen active service in South Africa, gave the site for the building.
Lord Lovat, another committed supporter of the volunteers, also spoke at the opening ceremony. In 1899 he raised the Lovat Scouts and served as their second-in-command in the South African War, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1900. He had established his Yeomanry headquarters at what had been the public hall in Fort Augustus in 1900. The list of those who were present also includes commanding officers from a large number of volunteer battalions across the country as well as many other distinguished individuals. The opening of this hall is a key moment in the history of the volunteers.
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.
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 'Village Hall, Blair Atholl (Scottish Horse Drill Hall)'.