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Okehampton Camp: Building 85 (formerly Dining Room 2)

A Grade II Listed Building in Okehampton Hamlets, Devon

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Latitude: 50.719 / 50°43'8"N

Longitude: -4.0018 / 4°0'6"W

OS Eastings: 258786

OS Northings: 92952

OS Grid: SX587929

Mapcode National: GBR Q2.J3VM

Mapcode Global: FRA 27H5.QT3

Plus Code: 9C2QPX9X+H7

Entry Name: Okehampton Camp: Building 85 (formerly Dining Room 2)

Listing Date: 6 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422154

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 dining room, now accommodation block, built in 1894 and designed by James Julian, War Office contractor.


Former dining room, now accommodation block, built in 1894 and designed by James Julian, War Office contractor.

MATERIALS: constructed of snecked slatestone blocks with brick quoins and brick window and door openings. The window cills are granite, some have been rendered. The rear and side elevations are cement rendered. The roof is covered in Cornish slate tiles. The link corridor and ablutions annexe are constructed of brick laid in stretcher bond. The fascias and rainwater goods are uPVC.

PLAN: aligned north-west to south-east the former dining room is situated to the north-east of the tented camp site, and comprises a central bay flanked by set-back rectangular wings. There are mid-C20 additions to the side (south-east) and rear (south-west) elevations.

EXTERIOR: the former dining room is a single-storey building with a pitched roof. The central, gable-ended bay of the principal elevation (north-east) projects forward and has two window openings; to its side (south-east) elevation is a doorway with brick surround. The central bay is flanked by the dining wings of four bays, each with four windows to their front and rear elevation. To the side elevations the chamfered ends of the purlins are exposed, and to the south-east side is a mid-C20 lean-to addition with two window openings. The rear elevation of the central bay has a central doorway with a window to either side. In front of the doorway and left-hand window is a mid-C20 single-storey link corridor which provides access to the mid-C20 ablutions annexe to the rear. The door and windows are all in their original openings but the door is aluminium and the windows have been replaced with uPVC double-glazing. The five brick chimney stacks have been removed.

INTERIOR: each dining room wing has a chimney breast to the gable end and to the centre of the rear wall. That to the rear wall of the west wing has chamfered run-out stops. To the ceiling are three chamfered beams with run-out stops and metal straps. To the south-east wing a door has been inserted to the right of the chimney breast to provide access to the lean-to addition. The internal doors are C20 fire doors. The fixtures and fittings from the dining rooms, NCO’s room and Cook’s room have been removed, and although the shutter fixings to the windows survive, the original shutters have been removed. The roof structure is not visible but it is believed to have queen-post roof trusses.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the lean-to addition to the south-east end and the single-storey link corridor and ablutions annexe to the rear elevation are not of special architectural or historic interest and are not included in the listing.


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 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 former Dining Room 2 (Building 85) was designed by James Julian, War Office contractor in 1892 and built in 1894. It was one of three dining rooms (one for each of the three battery camps) and all three shared a similar plan-form and internal layout. This comprised a central unit housing the NCO’s (non-commissioned officer) room and the cook’s room (which included a ‘Warners’ cooking appliance to prepare the food), with dining room wings to either side. There were fitted cupboards in all of the rooms and all, apart from the cook’s room, included fireplaces. In April 1904 detached cookhouses were built to serve each dining room, and the cook’s room became the wash-up. The cookhouse was a small timber or steel-framed detached building of standard design by The Portable Building Company Ltd. After 1924, in-line with the development of similar buildings, a preparation room extension was added. The cookhouse was removed in c1939 when an ablutions annexe was built at the rear of the dining room. In the 1950s this was modernised to include showers and boiler room facilities. The former dining room now provides 52 bed spaces for the junior ranks, and the central unit is used for storage and locker areas.

Reasons for Listing

Building 85, the former dining room of 1894 at Okehampton Camp, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: of the three artillery training camps to have been established in the late-C19, Okehampton is the only one to survive with a legible group of contemporary buildings of note, of which Building 85 is one;
* 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;
* Architectural interest: a handsomely designed building, given its military use, the dining room is built using quality materials such as local slate stone and granite to present one of the more successful architectural statements of this Victorian military generation;
* Intactness: despite some alteration, the original use and function of the building is legible and it is the most complete dining room surviving at the camp;
* Group value: it forms an historic group with other late-C19 camp buildings, with which it has a related use and design concept. 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. 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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