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Okehampton Camp: Building 116 (formerly the Guard Room)

A Grade II Listed Building in Okehampton Hamlets, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7207 / 50°43'14"N

Longitude: -4.0022 / 4°0'7"W

OS Eastings: 258765

OS Northings: 93140

OS Grid: SX587931

Mapcode National: GBR Q2.HXFW

Mapcode Global: FRA 27H5.QMZ

Plus Code: 9C2QPXCX+74

Entry Name: Okehampton Camp: Building 116 (formerly the Guard Room)

Listing Date: 5 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422217

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 guard house built in 1894 and designed by James Julian, extended in 1901, with internal alterations in mid-C20.


Former guard house built in 1894 and designed by James Julian, extended in 1901, with internal alterations in mid-C20.

MATERIALS: slate stone block work with brick quoins to the corners, entrance threshold and window openings, the latter with granite window cills. The windows are all modern uPVC replacements, as are the fascia. The roof is slate.

PLAN: an L-shaped building facing east, towards the former camp entrance.

EXTERIOR: a single-storey building with a veranda on three sides, supported by tubular stanchions (with attached downpipes), and decorated with chamfered timber supports. The front (east) elevation has an off-centre door and two windows. The south elevation has five windows and a door at the left end. The west elevation contains another door and window. The north elevation includes further window openings and the exercise yard to the west end. It is now entered via an external door in the stone enclosure wall. It would originally have been solely accessed from the guard room and the blocked brick arch entrance is still evident. The yard contains a single cell and an ablution space. The cell retains the metal vents and a timber cell door with observation hole, topped by a brick arch. The wall to the cell has recently been rebuilt. The roof is hipped at the east end, with a half gable on the west end. The north end of the side wing is gabled.

INTERIOR: the east door opens into a small lobby with timber partitions. The building contains three rooms and a set of modern toilets. The former guard room is decorated with chamfer-and-stop detailing to the chimney breast and in the arches above the windows. The roof is ceiled and constructed of close-coupled rafters.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the building is surrounded on three sides by raised paving capped with granite stone and a continuous stone rain gully served by down pipes.


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 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.

The former guard house (Building 116), was built in 1894 and used as such until 1925. The unusual central position of the building, facing, but set well back from, the original camp entrance in the north-east corner, is probably due to the fact that the guards were protecting the guns in the neighbouring gun park, rather than vetting visitors. It was originally a rectangular plan with the main part consisting of the prisoners’ room and guards' room, each with three beds. Two enclosed exercise yards, including ablution blocks, were accessed from the guard room. The roof had gable ends, with a veranda on three sides. The north-east corner was extended in 1901 with the addition of a detention room, to create an L-shaped footprint and the roof profile of the east elevation became hipped-shaped. Outside two new cells were created which reduced in size the exercise yard. By 1933 the building was used as a Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) barrack room. The guard room became accommodation for 16 men and the prisoner room became a NCO’s bedroom. At an unknown date the small cell windows in the south-west corner were dropped, a door and a further window were added to the south elevation, and another door was added to the west elevation, most finished in a similar style to the original openings. The central brick chimney stack was also removed. The building is now (2014), used as the headquarters for visiting units.

Reasons for Listing

Building 116, the former Guards House of 1894, 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;
* 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 116 is one;
* Architectural interest: a handsome and distinctive design that denotes its important position within the camp, it is built using quality materials such as rubbed brick, local slate stone and granite and is one of the more successful architectural statements of this Victorian military generation;
* Intactness: despite some adaptation, to be expected for the maintenance of structures in this relatively inhospitable location on the edge of Dartmoor, the original use and function of the building is legible and the building survives well;
* 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, 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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