Contemporary records of the Albion Street drill hall

A description of Chester, 1874, states: 'The DRILL HALL is entered from Pepper street, and contains a lofty and spacious room, 100 feet long and 60 feet wide, lighted from the roof; the floor is concrete, which is well suited for the purpose of drill. It has a castellated front, with tower on the left side, through which is the main entrance, sufficiently wide to admit the Volunteers in full marching order, four abreast. The tower contains apartments for the armourer, and on the basement a small powder magazine and the armoury, in which are 770 stand of arms. A Reading Room, Committee Room, and other offices, and Orchestra overlook the large hall, which is convenient for banquets, concerts, &c. Messrs. Kelly and Edwards were the architects, and the late Mr. Robert Bellis the builder. The cost was about £2,000.'

Kelly, 1914, describes the above building: it is in 'Albion st, erected 1869 at a cost of about £2,500; it is a building of stone with embattled front and a tower.' He continues that, 'It was refloored in 1891 with wood at a cost of about £400.' He says that it also has 'a dwelling house for the hall keeper.' Confusingly, Kelly then lists 'head quarters, The Drill hall, Volunteer st.'

(This confusion about addresses is quite common where a drill hall adjoins more than one street.)

There is no mention of a military unit based there by 1914, but Kelly 1914 lists 'James Joseph Rahill, hall keeper.'

Redevelopment of the drill hall

A planning application exists for the 'Former Drill Hall, Albion Street, Chester: Retention of façade with formation of new residential development.'

It provides an interesting, detailed description of the premises.

"CHESTER CITY (IM) SJ4066SE ALBION STREET 595-1/4/26 (South side) Albion Mews GV II Drill hall. 1868. By James Harrison, built from public subscriptions. Converted to flats mid C20.

"Stone-dressed brick, largely painted, with grey slate roof. 2 storeys plus added recessed Mansard-roofed attic; 3 storey gatehouse tower at east end has red sandstone archway with moulded arrises to jambs and double-chamfered voussoirs; battered buttresses; a 2m brick plinth to west wing, now rendered; a rectangular loop and 3 stone cross-windows to the first storey. 3 recessed panels with blank shields, a stone cross-window with pointed upper lights and a quatrefoil in a recessed stone circlet above the archway.

"The second storey has a 1-light transomed stone window and 3 cross-windows with shouldered arch, pointed arch and shouldered arch to upper lights. The crenellated parapet to the west wing has a small square turret at the west corner with machicolated crenels. "The third storey of the gatehouse has a 2-light mullioned window, a crenellated parapet and a corner turret with machicolated crenels. "Gatehouse archway has double cross-boarded doors. The east side is English garden wall bond. INTERIOR rebuilt."
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The Drill Hall Project - Charting a neglected legacy