The drill hall in Gainsborough Street, Sudbury, Suffolk, had its foundation stones laid on 11th May 1891, by the then Mayor of Sudbury, George Henry Grimwood, and Colonel Nathaniel Barnardiston, Brigadier Commanding Harwich I.V. Brigade.
The following quotes are from Kelly’s Directories for Suffolk, and outline some of the history of the Suffolk Regiment in Sudbury, and the Drill Hall, where many of Sudbury’s volunteers and those from the surrounding villages would have enlisted into the Army, and many answered the call to arms, during the First World War.
Suffolk Rifle Corps (11th), Sudbury. Headquarters North Street; Henry Streat-Adams, Capt; John Bird Westeby, Lieut; George Lancelot Andrews, 2nd Lieut; James Ross, Drillmaster.
West Suffolk (6th) Rifle Volunteers, ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’, ‘G’, and ‘H’ Companies, Headquarters The Corn Exchange, [Market Hill, Sudbury], J.T. Rowly, Lt. Col; Major N. Barnardiston, Adjutant; J.S. Holden M.D., Surgeon; J.R. Wright, J.C. Norman, H.P. Leech & C.W. Whistler, acting surgeons; Rev. D. Campbell & T.L. Green M.A., acting chaplains. ‘D’. Co. Sudbury, H.S. Adams.
A change in name occurred with in the Regiment, within the next five years, as can be seen in the following;
Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Volunteer Battalion (‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’, ‘G’, and ‘H’ Companies). Headquarters, The Corn Exchange, F.E.L. Schreibe, Lt. Col.; F. Woolnough, Major; Major A.S. Hext, adjutant; E.W. Robinson, Quartermaster; J.S. Holden, M.D., surgeon; J.R. Wright & H.P. Leech, acting surgeons; Rev. T.L. Green M.A., acting chaplain. ‘D’ Co. Sudbury, Capt. G.L. Andrews.
The change of address is apparent in the next extract;
Harwich Volunteer Infantry Brigade. Headquarters, ‘The Ryes’, Little Henny, near Sudbury. Commanding, Brigadier-Colonel Barnardiston.
2nd Volunteer Battalion (‘D’ Co.), Armoury and Headquarters, New Drill Hall, Sepulchre Street, [renamed Gainsborough Street in the late 1890’s]; Capt. P.E. Allen, commanding; Rev. J.L. Green M.A., acting chaplain; Sgt. P. Purcell, drill instructor.
The new Street name is evident in the entry for 1900.
2nd Volunteer Battalion, Suffolk Regiment (‘D’Co.), Armoury and Headquarters, New Drill Hall, Gainsborough Street, Capt. W.M. Ames, Surg. Lt. Col.; J.S. Holden M.D., V.D., medical officer; Rev. B.S. Fryer M.A., acting chaplain; Sgt. George Harrison, drill instructor.
The last, Battalion name change, before WW1, recorded in the directories, occurs in 1912.
5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment (‘D’Co), Armoury & Headquarters, Drill Hall, Gainsborough Street, Capt. H.J. Hargreves, commanding; Colour Sgt. Edward Fisher, drill instructor
During the build up to the First World War, the drill hall was modified to accommodate motor vehicles, by the addition of the large sliding door on the left of the building. This was added for two main reasons, one to allow vehicular access to the hall, and two, access to the gun shed built at the rear of the building.
There is a 25-yard indoor firing range in the building, open in those days, but now enclosed for safety reasons. The centre section of the roof was glass until about 1990, when the glass was replaced by wood internally, and tiles externally to match the rest of the roof. The original wooden floor was replaced and strengthened in about 1995, with the addition of hardwearing, ‘lino-type’ tiles, to protect it from modern day wear. Upstairs little has changed, the C.O’s. Office is the same as built, the only real addition, is the female toilets.
The Gun Shed, at the rear of the building, has recently been refurbished, (2003), in accordance with the Grade 2 listing it now enjoys. The hall itself followed suit, in late 2003, in gaining its listed building status. Like many other older buildings it was earmarked for redevelopment but with some hard work, its historical importance has been recognised.