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DENBIGH DRILL HALL

Site Details



NPRN 415869

Map Reference SJ06NE

Grid Reference SJ0503466073

Unitary (Local) Authority Denbighshire

Old County Denbighshire

Community Denbigh

Type of Site DRILL HALL

Broad Class CIVIL

Period 19th Century

Site Description The Drill hall at its most basic level is a building where soldiers practice military drill. Most of the drill halls were built through public subscriptions to help support the local volunteer forces that were raised in the late 1850’s, they later became the Territorial Armies. As well as the main drill hall itself, they featured other facilities such as gymnasiums, stores, administrative offices, armouries, mechanic shops for vehicle maintenance and mess halls.

Large, heated and well lit buildings with all the necessary facilities to hand, Drill Halls were often let for dances and concerts. This provided the committee – run halls with valuable income, and served to help create a sense of civic pride as the local people came together in support of their volunteer forces.

There is no such thing as a standard design of drill hall; most premises followed the same basic principles of a large shed or hall, approximately 80ft by 40ft, with offices and stores attached. The frontages of the premises were generally individual. From the crenelated stone fort style to the more usual brick and tile buildings found in small market towns the design was often left up to the architects. Some Drill Halls had a dwelling house attached for the instructor or caretaker, usually a retired officer. Decoration of the frontages often included a regimental device in stone or terracotta.

The drill hall in Denbigh is located at the bottom of Bridge Street, standing opposite St Mary’s Church on the other side of the mini roundabout. A large building with an attached house to its right was for the use of the caretaker or instructor as mentioned above. Featuring two foundation stones, laid by Mrs Lloyd Williams and Mrs Mainwaring on October 21st, date the building to 1882 and the lettered string course above the paired arched windows states that it is the ‘Volunteer Drill Hall’. The hall originally had two sets of double doors, one pair either side of the central windows though the left hand entrance has since been bricked up.

Since its closure as a Drill Hall the building has undergone long periods of disuse. There has been some sporadic attention when a new venture has come along and attempted to make use of it, recently as pool hall and a night club.

Source: The Drill Hall Project - www.drillhalls.org/TownDenbigh.htm

D.Jones, RCAHMW, 16 August 2012

The Volunteer Drill Hall is symbolic of the move of the Lentern Pool area in the second half of the nineteenth century from a semi-rural area on the margin of the town to a more urban character.

Such halls were built from the 1860s to provide a space where military drill could be carried out by the many local Volunteer Forces (later the Territorial Army) that were raised in the 1850s, and a previous ‘Drill Shed (Rifle Volunteers)’ at Denbigh is marked on the 1875 OS map on Love Lane, complete with an external area and flag staff. Building reached its heyday in the 1880s following the Cardwell Army Reforms however, brought about after the Crimean war, when the necessity of having 25,000 troops on duty in the Crimea had left Britain vulnerable at home. These reforms included the Army Act in 1870 which gave men the right to choose to join Reserve rather than Regular forces, and in 1871, The Regularisation of the Forces Act, which divided the country into local regimental districts. This provided local battalions, the idea being that while one battalion was serving oversees, another would remain at home for training. In these instances the Volunteers, or Militia, would be relied on to supplement the battalion that remained behind, or if there was only one battalion act as one in their absence. In Denbighshire alone, fifteen halls served both the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Denbighshire Hussars, that at Denbigh providing for ‘D’ 4 Fusiliers and ‘B’ Squadron Hussars.

Facing the newly constructed St Mary’s church, the hall would have been strikingly in contrast with its use of red and yellow brick and wide, crow-stepped pediment hiding a barrel vaulted roof. It was by far the grandest of the North Wales halls, until the construction of that on Poysner Street, Wrexham in 1902. Both took a common theme of Drill Hall architecture, the crenellated fort, though to varying degrees, the Wrexham example incorporating crenellated doorways and cross-bow loops into the façade ornamentation. Denbigh is unusual in that it has no central entrance 'sufficiently wide to admit the Volunteers in full marching order, four abreast’, the pair of doors set to either side. The façade also contains two foundation stones, laid by Mrs Lloyd Williams and Mrs Mainwaring on 21 October, terracotta string course above the paired arched windows stating that it is the ‘Volunteer Drill Hall’.

The main feature of the building was the hall, of necessity well lit and heated, so often attractive as a venue for other functions such as concerts and dances. This was valuable in providing income and a sense of community spirit, and in Denbigh some affect must have been had by Dr Pierce’s provision of another hall at the opposite end of town. In addition there was the provision an attached house for the use of a drill sergeant (often a retired sergeant) who would care for the building and provide training, while to the left was an educational institute.

Since its closure as a Drill Hall the building has undergone long periods of disuse. Recently reuses have included pool hall, night club and Asian restaurant.

S Fielding RCAHMW
October 2018

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