Drill Hall, introduction

The Drill Hall was commissioned and built in 1895 on land given specifically for that purpose by J G G Radford, a solicitor and prominent citizen of Sidmouth.

It was first used by the Devon Volunteer Rifles from the time of opening until the Second World War. The name changed from the 3rd to the 4th Battalion at a date I have not found yet.

During the First World War it was used as an Army resource for the despatching and return of troops. Many injured men received treatment in Sidmouth’s Bath establishments.

In the Second World War almost all south coast towns were utilised during operation Overlord; Sidmouth and its Drill Hall were no exception. Full details can be found in Sidmouth The War Years.

After the Second World War it passed into the possession of the Territorial Army and from them to the Cadet Force.  Then East Devon District Council obtained ownership by providing replacement facilities for the Cadets at Stowford. The EDDC aim was to demolish the hall in preparation for proposed regeneration of the Eastern Town; which would happen at some unidentified time in the future.

There is no question that EDDC owns the Drill Hall and the land it stands on even though the building was paid for by subscribers and donors from the town.

This subscription money was raised at a time of great fear of invasion. Emperor Napoleon was provoking wars on the continent and the government was concerned we could be next. It became a patriotic duty to raise Volunteer forces and to provide for their requirements. Despite this national need, the Drill Hall was not intended just to provide a place for the Volunteer force to train.

It was also intended that the Drill Hall should raise the standard of the Eastern Town and attract residents and visitors to that part. This is why the hall was created with a long balcony with full height, double, glazed, doors opening onto it. The view and the refreshing air were seen as a great advantage for social gatherings. It was an added expense which, obviously, was not something which was needed to help soldiers with their drill.

Given that the Drill Hall was supposed to be a resource for the town as a whole, in the same way as the gift of Ham field for a pleasure and recreation ground was, I believe that EDDC has a moral duty to consider retaining the building for the benefit of the town. This website attempts to explain all the reasons why the building is of historical importance to Sidmouth.