Saturday, 10 March 2018

Plans for Port Royal: a further Drill Hall study

For an overview of the design, layout and look of the Drill Hall, here's an interesting study just carried out:
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: a Drill Hall study

Here are a few more images - which should help us map out what we would like to see on the seafront - and whether we would like to see the Drill Hall as part of a rejuvenated Port Royal.

These were taken by Mary Walden-Till and can be seen on her Drill Hall Research Site: 

Interior photographs February 2017

Throughout the building it is clear that much of the original glass and woodwork survives.

There is little sign of deterioration from 2013 to February 2017 which was a surprise to me because the ridge tiles are missing from the front portion of the roof. I had anticipated much more water damage, especially as these photographs were taken after a period of prolonged and heavy rain.

Committee Room

Main Hall

Interior photographs February 2017 - Sidmouth Drill Hall Research Site 

Original Interior

I was astounded to find a picture of part of the original interior in a newspaper from 1909. This is very early for newspaper photographs and the quality is remarkably good for an interior shot. It shows us just how much light there was in the hall as there aren’t the strong shadows associated with flash photography.

As ever, the copyright for anything I have found in the British Newspaper Archives belongs to both the British Library and the individual newspaper concerned, in this case the Devon and Exeter Gazette.

I have tried to bring out different details in the two versions seen above and below.

If it hadn’t been for the recent photographs of the Drill Hall interior given to me in Feb 2017 I would doubtless have passed over this picture without recognising that it was the Drill Hall. However, once you are familiar with the brickwork and the position of the doors then it becomes possible to see past the two-tone painting on the hammer-beam and know that it can be nowhere else.

Newspaper reports speak of the portraits hung on the Drill Hall walls as well as of the lovely glass panels which were in the doors. I am very excited to have been able to get this glimpse into how it would have looked.

Original Interior - Sidmouth Drill Hall Research Site 

Paul Jeffries, architect, put these drawings together: 

Architectural drawings

Architectural drawings are an important component of researching a space or building. I am very fortunate to have the talented young Sidmouthian architect Paul Jeffries working with me on this project.

He has given his time and skills for free and produced all the images on this page. Reconstructing what the building originally looked like is a long and painstaking task which requires constant reference back to the partial photographic record we have managed to find. As such the image is being constantly revised in the light of new knowledge.

Areas which are greyed out are where further revision is needed.
Architectural drawings - Sidmouth Drill Hall Research Site

Finally, again from Mary Walden-Till, an image of the front doors: 

Original frontage

We know that the Drill Hall did not look like it does now at the time it was built, but finding a full picture of the original front feels rather like the search for the Holy Grail.

One image comes from Sidmouth Museum, and they hold the copyright, I am very grateful that they allow me to reproduce it here.
The date it was taken is unknown, the only clues are that it is after the level of the road has been raised ( they are standing on the pavement on a level with the door ) and before the name changed from 3rd to 4th Battalion. The Museum has the photo described as being an original from the time of the opening in 1895 but I think this must be a mistake as there is no doubt that it was after the Reading Room opened in Nov 1903. The board can be seen in front of the window at the right.

Image reproduced by kind permission of Sidmouth Museum

Many of the rubber brick details mentioned in newspaper reports can be seen here but unfortunately we can’t see the top of the upper oriel window, the clock in the gable end or the ornaments on top of the pillars or the gable.

The other good view of the front comes from John Ankin, it is in his book ‘Sidmouth a history: Jacob’s ladder to Alma Bridge’. He has given me permission to reproduce it here.

In this detail from Mr Ankin’s picture East Cliff House is the building on the left with the Drill Hall on the right.

When this image of the Drill Hall is viewed in conjunction with the one from the Museum then the picture becomes clearer. However, the detail of the top of the gable is not present and we can not see the front door. Other details still remain unclear.

April 2017 saw me find two new photographs of the front in the records of the British Newspaper Archive. The copyright of these belongs to the British Library and the newspapers concerned. Printed pictures are always difficult to see clearly but I have done my best to bring out their potential.

From 1907 we have the Volunteer Bazaar photograph in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette. In the bottom right hand corner Brigadier-General Lord Clifford is shown pinning a Long Service Medal on the breast of Sergeant-Instructor Pitt.

Original frontage - Sidmouth Drill Hall Research Site

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