In February 2017 someone, or a group of people, broke into the Drill Hall through the wooden cladding which covers the stair from the main hall to the basement. East Devon District Council believe the damage was caused by a ‘rough sleeper’ who was searching for shelter, I think it is equally likely that it was people searching for somewhere to spend a sociable evening.
It doesn’t matter who caused the damage, what is of concern is that the holes have been repaired using sheets of plywood which increase the air of a condemned building and the impression that it is past saving. I do not know whether the original boards, which were lying on the ground, have been preserved but I suspect not.
I was fortunate to be down there at the time the workmen arrived to board it up, but I was unfortunate that they were very conscientious workmen and would not allow me to enter the building to take photographs on the grounds of safety. However, someone did manage to do so and anonymously passed them on to me. They show the two downstairs rooms at the front, either side of the entrance hall as well as other details not obvious on the photographs from 2013.
The match-boarding wall covering has been removed in the main hall, presumably in the search for asbestos in 2013, and as the blue plastic sheeting has been taken up from the floor the floorboards are also visible.
Above the main doors to the hall some boarding has been removed to reveal the original leaded glass design, and throughout the building it is clear that much of the original glass and woodwork survives.
As you enter the Drill Hall from the Esplanade you step into a wide hall which used to have another set of double doors into the main hall. These appear to have been removed, as you can see where the hinges originally fixed on the door frame. To the right, eastern, side was a room used as a committee room; and to the left, west, was an armoury. After the armoury a set of stairs rises to the second floor, which was a Reading Room from 1903 to an unknown date. I have been told that it was finally used as a canteen area.
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.