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Okehampton Camp: Revetment walls and steps to the South-Western Camping Ground

A Grade II Listed Building in Okehampton Hamlets, Devon

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Latitude: 50.719 / 50°43'8"N

Longitude: -4.0052 / 4°0'18"W

OS Eastings: 258547

OS Northings: 92959

OS Grid: SX585929

Mapcode National: GBR Q2.J309

Mapcode Global: FRA 27H5.PH7

Plus Code: 9C2QPX9V+JW

Entry Name: Okehampton Camp: Revetment walls and steps to the South-Western Camping Ground

Listing Date: 5 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1421972

Location: Okehampton Hamlets, West Devon, Devon, EX20

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Okehampton Hamlets

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Okehampton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

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Five parallel revetment walls with steps to the grassed terraces of the South-Western Camping Ground at Okehampton Training Camp. Three walls were built circa 1906-24 and extended in length circa 1924-33, with a further two walls added after 1933.


Five parallel revetment walls with steps to the grassed terraces of the South-Western Camping Ground at Okehampton Training Camp. Three walls were built circa 1906-24 and extended in length circa 1924-33, with a further two walls added after 1933.

MATERIALS: of locally quarried limestone with some slatestone blocks, probably from a small quarry situated to the north-east of Building 150. Some of the stone steps have been replaced in concrete.

PLAN: the walls are aligned north-east to south-west and retain five grassed terraces cut into a north-facing slope.

DESCRIPTION: five dry-stone revetment walls of circa 1.22m (4ft) in height. The southernmost wall measures around 95m (311ft) in length while the other four walls are larger with a length of around 131.92m (400ft). At each end there are short returns; the exception being the southernmost wall which only has a return at its west end. Each wall contains two sets of dry-stone steps to provide access between the terraces. Some small sections of the walls have been repaired or replaced with concrete blocks.


Dartmoor has been used as a defensive location since at least the Bronze Age. There is evidence of Iron Age, Roman, Medieval and Civil War military use in the Okehampton area, indicating the strategic significance of the area as the elevated gateway to the south west of England. Okehampton Training Camp is on the edge of Dartmoor within the C13 Okehampton Deer Park. Medieval settlements were scattered through the park and the remains of one extends across the north-west corner of the camp, and others lie close by.

The modern military use of the moor dates back to the late C18 when it was used to train the Okehampton Militia. By the early C19, soldiers guarding Dartmoor Prison used the moor for training, and troops garrisoned in the Palmerston Forts in South Devon used Dartmoor by the mid-C19. The Militia also continued training, often on Hay Tor, and in large numbers. Later in the C19, due to improvements in the range and power of artillery weapons, the Royal Artillery School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness (est. 1859) became unsuitable for training, and Dartmoor was identified as a suitably barren and uninhabited area to become its summer headquarters. Training became formalised into regular summer manoeuvres for the Royal Artillery from 1873, with the permission of the landowner the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1876, the first annual training event took place using the north moor, with a tented camp located at Okehampton.

By the early 1890s the War Office and Royal Artillery resolved to build a permanent camp at Okehampton to provide better protection against the harsh weather conditions. On 31st December 1892, the War Office secured a 999 year lease for the site of the camp: 94 acres of land on the Okehampton Park Estate. The first phase of construction included buildings of a number of different types, functions and specifications. The highest standards of design and materials were reserved for the officers’ accommodation and stabling for their horses, the hospital, the dining rooms, a barrack room, sergeants’ mess and quarters, harness rooms and the guard room. The architect was James Julian, a War Office contractor, who used specifications outlined in paragraph 1151 of the Royal Engineers Regulations of 1892. The architectural detailing appears to be Julian’s own design. Construction was completed on 14 June 1894 at a cost of £11,604. Other ancillary buildings, such as troop stables, canteens, stores, magazines and offices were constructed of inferior materials to lower specifications. Temporary buildings were also built and the troops continued to sleep on straw mattresses in tents, laid out on terraces cut into the hillside. Other artillery training camps were set up at Lydd (1882), Golden Hill, Isle of Wight (1888) and Salisbury Plain (1899).

From May to September each year, batteries from across England travelled by rail to Okehampton for two or three weeks training. In 1901 a battery consisted of 5 officers, 166 men, 6 guns and at least 89 horses. The camp could accommodate two brigades each containing four batteries. The initial layout of the camp is shown on a War Office plan of 30 May 1896 (WO 78_3547), surveyed and drawn by F.W. Stanlake. To the north were the ordnance stores, magazines and a gun park (now the parade ground). In the centre of the camp were troop stables, dining rooms and terraced camping grounds. To the south, on the higher slopes, were the officers’ mess and their quarters, and the hospital.

Between 1904 and 1913 further buildings were added including four barrack blocks, improved drying rooms, and a bread and meat store. The North Gate to the camp was in place by 1906. During the interwar period, artillery operations became increasingly mechanised and tractors or jeeps replaced horses as the principal means of deploying field guns. new buildings with better facilities replaced some of the earlier structures. However, horses were still used in some capacity until the Second World War. The outbreak of war saw the increased use of the camp and nearly 30 Nissen huts were built for accommodation; and troop stables were converted to quarter blocks.

The D-Day preparations of 1943/4 led to the replacement of British troops with the American 4th and 29th Divisions, who took part in the Normandy invasion. Subsequently, training took place at Okehampton for the campaigns in Korea (1950-53) and Suez (1956), and it remained the most important field artillery practice camp in the country throughout the C20.

Since the late C20 the Camp has been used extensively by the Territorial Army, Commando Brigades and the Royal Marines, with some buildings having been replaced or converted to other uses. Due to the harsh moorland conditions, most buildings have uPVC window frames, protective render to the sides and rear. Many of the granite window cills on the earliest buildings have also been cement rendered. Most of the roofs have been recovered, and the chimneystacks removed. Other early camp buildings have been removed or otherwise altered in the C20, and a number of infill buildings have been introduced. The road plan of the camp is largely intact.

In 2014 the camp still provides accommodation for up to 720 armed forces personnel.

The South-Western Camping Ground at Okehampton Camp was initially laid out between 1906 and 1924 and comprised four grassed platforms for the pitching of tents. The terraces were initially retained by three dry-stone walls measuring 45.72m (150ft) in length. At some time between 1924 and 1933 they were extended in length to 121.9m (400ft). A further two walls were added after 1933 to form a fifth terrace; one wall being equal in length to the existing walls with the other, which formed the southern boundary of the camping ground, being shorter at circa 95m in length to accommodate the meandering access road to the officers’ mess and hospital. The camping ground housed four batteries along with a brigade HQ on the top, southern terrace.

Reasons for Listing

The revetment walls and steps to the South-Western Camping Ground at Okehampton Camp, laid out between 1906 and 1924, with later additions, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: they have strong cultural and historical significance, within both a local and national context. The Royal Artillery Training Camp at Okehampton played an important role in the advancement of new military techniques and tactics from the late C19;
* Rarity: although tented camping grounds were common at military sites, few survive with upstanding structures to illustrate the transient nature of military training exercises;
* Intactness: despite some repair work, which is to be expected for the maintenance of structures in this relatively inhospitable location on the edge of Dartmoor, they survive well with the majority of historic fabric still intact;
* Group value: they form an important historic group with other training camp buildings, creating a legible ensemble in which the functioning of all the various parts is strongly sensed;
* Setting: additional and significant interest is provided by the relationship of the camp to Okehampton Range on the Dartmoor Training Area, which in part overlooks the camp and instigated the creation of the camp. It contains evidence of its late-C19 and later use by the occupants of the camp. The range is of high historic significance in itself, and the two sites should not be seen in isolation of each other.

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