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Okehampton Camp: Building 121 (formerly a shell magazine)

A Grade II Listed Building in Okehampton Hamlets, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7211 / 50°43'16"N

Longitude: -4.0018 / 4°0'6"W

OS Eastings: 258790

OS Northings: 93188

OS Grid: SX587931

Mapcode National: GBR Q2.HXJ9

Mapcode Global: FRA 27H5.QR2

Plus Code: 9C2QPXCX+C7

Entry Name: Okehampton Camp: Building 121 (formerly a shell magazine)

Listing Date: 5 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422014

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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Former magazine at Okehampton Training Camp. Constructed prior to 1924; minor late-C20 alterations.


Former cartridge magazine at Okehampton Training Camp. Constructed prior to 1924; minor late-C20 alterations.

MATERIALS: constructed of red brick with plain fascias and bargeboards. The roof covering has been replaced with artificial slate and there is a Boyle’s extract ventilator to the centre of the ridge.

PLAN: rectangular on plan and aligned roughly south to north.

EXTERIOR: it is a single-storey building with an opposing entrance in each gable end, but no other openings. The principal elevation faces south and has a central entrance with a pair of sliding timber doors. The doorway has a projecting segmental-arched lintel of soldier bricks springing from pre-cast concrete corners which are in turn supported by projecting brick jambs. There have been some repairs to the brickwork at the south-east corner of the building. The side elevations are divided into five bays with plain brick piers. The rear (north) opening is identical to the one to the front, but the sliding doors have been removed and the doorway has been blocked. Rainwater goods are modern.

INTERIOR: it has an open plan with a paved surface of engineering bricks and diamond-cut blocks to the central part of floor. The roof structure is of common rafter construction with wooden tie beams and additional steel ties. There is horizontal timber cladding to the underside of the roof.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: in front of each doorway is a paved surface of concrete, engineering bricks and diamond-cut 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 and protective render to the sides and rear. Many of the granite window sills 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.

Within the northern part of the camp, close to the main entrance, are the ordnance stores and magazines. The former magazine (Building 121) was built prior to 1924 and is situated within a row of similar structures, including a shell store and a magazine of circa 1896 located to the east. The building was constructed to originally store quick-firing cartridges, and is now (2014) for general storage.

Reasons for Listing

Building 121, a former artillery magazine at Okehampton Camp, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: it has 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, including preparations for the major artillery conflicts of the modern era;
* Rarity: this is the only known example of this type of artillery magazine;
* Intactness: despite some adaptation the original use and function of the building is legible and the building survives well;
* Group value: it forms an historic group with the late-C19 camp buildings, notably the Guard Room, and with the former gun park and C19 magazines. Together they form a compact pre-mechanised transport artillery training camp;
* 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.

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