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Former Portland Drill Hall, boundary walls, mounting blocks and adjacent workshop

List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

Name: Former Portland Drill Hall, boundary walls, mounting blocks and adjacent workshop

List entry Number: 1431761


The Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust, The Drill Hall, Easton Lane, Portland, Dorset, DT5 1BW

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: Weymouth and Portland

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Portland

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II

Date first listed: 02-Mar-2016

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

A castellated, Gothic Revival/medieval-style drill hall, first built in 1868, designed by George Rackstraw Crickmay of Weymouth (1830-1907); it was extended in 1884 and again in 1900, to designs by Crickmay and Sons. The small brick addition with a bitumen roof attached the north-east corner of the hall and the attached external access ramps are excluded from the listing. Also excluded is the detached concrete-frame building to the south and the rear and side walls.

Reasons for Designation

The former Portland Drill Hall, the front wall and tethering blocks, Easton Lane, Portland is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the buttressed drill hall and castellated front elevation contribute to the strong medieval style that emphasises the building’s original military function, with the later more elaborate additions illustrating the increasing attention given to drill-hall design;

*Historic interest: the original 1868 building is part of the earliest phase of drill-hall construction. Its continuing operational importance and developing requirements are evident in the subsequent extensions;

*Association: George R Crickmay was a significant regional architect who developed a strong body of work, particularly within Dorset and London;

* Level of intactness: the overall original plan and function of the building is still clearly legible, including its operational and social spaces; the surviving front wall and tethering blocks add to the degree of intactness.


Drill halls originated following the formation of Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1859 due to fear of a war with France. The volunteer units were designed to provide a reserve of men with military training, but outside the organisation of the regular army or the militia and yeomanry. By the end of 1860 more than 120,000 had signed up. This vast new force needed accommodation, and existing local barracks and depots were unable to take the strain. Most units were, at first, private organisations with no access to central funds. Although many of the early volunteer groups adapted existing buildings such as village halls, a purpose-built drill hall was considered the most desirable option.

The Portland Volunteer Artillery Corps was formed in 1859. For the first few years the group drilled in temporary accommodation, including the Clifton Hotel and the Grove. Between 1868-9 a purpose-built drill hall was erected on Easton Lane. It was designed in 1865 by George R Crickmay of Weymouth and in 1867 he drew up plans to include a new front range including an armoury and orderly room; however it is unclear if this proposed front range was ever realised. Instead, in 1884, Crickmay and Sons designed a smaller two-storey tower with ground-floor armoury which was added to the north end of the west elevation. In 1900 the same firm designed the adjacent south tower, including vehicular entrance, offices and billiard room. The contractor was Conway and Sons of Portland. An observation gallery over the drill hall, a north-east toilet block and an instructor’s house were also added at this time. By 1893 the corps had become the 2nd (Portland) Brigade of the Dorset Artillery Volunteers, consisting of three companies of nearly 400 men. In the early C20 a single-storey toilet block was built on the south-east corner and a single-storey lean-to was added along the east end. Around the same time a set of six detached accommodation blocks were built on land to the west of the drill hall. By 1929 these had been demolished and the adjacent quarry further encroached onto the surrounding landscape. During the Second World War the Portland Home Guard Unit used the hall. In the mid-C20 a concrete vehicle-storage building was added within the courtyard to the south-east. Following the end of its military use in the latter part of the C20 the drill hall was used for a variety of activities, including a community centre and a dance hall. In 1998 Albion Stone Quarries, operators of the adjacent quarry took over the building, using the front range and attached house as offices and the main drill hall for storage. Since 2004 it has been an education and interpretation centre for the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust, with the main drill hall being used as a gallery and workshops.

The architect George R Crickmay (1830-1907) worked prolifically in Dorset and London. His other projects include contributing to a number of listed churches within the county, designing the brewhouse and office block at Eldridge Popes Brewery, Dorchester (1880, both Grade II) and Purbeck House, Weymouth (1875, Grade II).


A castellated, Gothic Revival/medieval-style drill hall, first built in 1868, designed by George Rackstraw Crickmay of Weymouth (1830-1907); it was extended in 1884 and again in 1900, to designs by Crickmay and Sons. The small brick addition with a bitumen roof attached the north-east corner of the hall and the attached external disabled ramps are excluded from the listing. Also excluded is the detached concrete-frame building to the south and the rear and side walls.

MATERIALS: Portland stone coursed rubble with ashlar dressings, all under slate roofs.

PLAN: T-shaped footprint on an east-to-west alignment with offices to the west, drill hall to the east and the former instructor’s house to the south.

EXTERIOR: the front, two-storey range is decorated by machicolations and a crenelated parapet. At the centre is a projecting single bay entrance containing a set of large double doors in a rounded stone-voussoir arch (the glazed door light has been removed). Above is a glazed embrasure and a corner turret on a moulded corbel at parapet level. The south tower has matching three-bay west and south elevations with round-headed metal windows to the ground floor and first-floor glazed arrow-openings with ashlar surrounds. The lower north tower has three ground-floor and two first-floor round-arched windows. Behind the crenelated front is the pitched-roof drill hall with roof lights. The north elevation has seven bays; each is separated by a buttress and contains a painted timber two-pane casement window (temporarily boarded up internally). The south elevation also includes a central mid-C20 fire exit (a modified window) and the west end is obscured by the two-storey instructor’s house. The house has a crenelated west gable end. The south elevation includes two gable dormers and a later pitched-roof porch. The windows in this house and the front office range are metal casements, most of which replaced earlier iron frames. At the south-east end of the drill hall is a late-C20 side entrance and a partially-rendered single-storey toilet and boiler room. Along the east elevation is single-storey lean-to and another toilet block. Above in the east gable end of the drill hall is a set of triple lancets; these were partially truncated when they were repositioned from lower in this elevation.

INTERIOR: the west-end two-storey range contains offices. At the centre is the internal vehicular entrance with a mounting block on the left side. It is divided from the drill hall by a set of double doors. It is flanked by an office to the south with a corner brick fireplace, and the former armoury to the north. Beyond the double doors is the main drill hall with a steel-truss A-frame roof and pine-block parquet floor bedded in bitumen. A first-floor timber gallery is accessed by a set of stairs next to the former armour. The gallery balcony is painted timber with a central removable section. Also on the first floor is a small office in the north tower and to the south, through a set of partially glazed timber doors above three curtail steps, is the former billiard room and bar. The billiard table and bar have been removed. The timber wainscot, chimney breast, remains of gas pipes and central glass ceiling lantern survive. At the east end of the drill hall is a disabled toilet (former female toilets) a gallery and refreshment space (former armoury) and an earlier male toilet block at the north-east corner. The former instructor’s house to the south has a three-room plan arranged around a central dog-leg staircase with plain timber banister. The former kitchen and pantry have been extensively reordered, all of the fireplaces have been removed, and there are late-C20 internal fire doors throughout.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a Portland-stone front wall and square piers; the internal face of the wall has been subject to some repairs in breeze block. There are two stone tethering blocks in front of the main entrance.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Historic England, , Introduction to Heritage Assets: Drill Halls, (2015)
Other, accessed 23 December 2015, accessed 23 December 2015
Katie Carmichael, Drill Halls: A National Overview (Historic England, Research Report Series no. 6-2015)
Various historic plans in Dorset History Centre

National Grid Reference: SY6917272368


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End of official listing