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Former Drill Hall, Whithaugh Avenue, Paisley

A Category C Listed Building in Paisley, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.8476 / 55°50'51"N

Longitude: -4.4054 / 4°24'19"W

OS Eastings: 249500

OS Northings: 664214

OS Grid: NS495642

Mapcode National: GBR 3L.4MLT

Mapcode Global: WH3P6.99F0

Plus Code: 9C7QRHXV+2R

Entry Name: Former Drill Hall, Whithaugh Avenue, Paisley

Listing Name: Former Drill Hall including railings, Whitehaugh Avenue, Paisley

Listing Date: 24 April 2017

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 405996

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52380

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Paisley

County: Renfrewshire

Town: Paisley

Electoral Ward: Paisley Northeast and Ralston

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

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This former drill hall was designed by James Craig & Barr and opened in 1912. It is in a Scots Baronial style and comprises a single-storey and attic, 4-bay former administration building to the right (north) and an adjoining single-storey hall to the south. The building is concrete rendered with some painted raised stone margins. There is a prominent battered and advanced 3-stage tower to the far right with a corbelled parapet and a crow-stepped gable rising above the parapet. The attic windows break the wallhead and have decorative curvilinear pediments. The entrance door lies in the re-entrant angle within a moulded doorpiece and there is a panel above with a crest and the Royal Engineers motto 'Ubique quo fas et gloria ducunt' (where right and glory lead). The administration building has a pitched and slated roof and the hall has been reroofed in a replacement material.

The interior was seen in 2015. The room layout of the administration building appears to be largely consistent with the building's 1912 date with some modifications. There is a wide curved terrazzo staircase with some metal railings. Some of the rooms have timber fire surrounds and there are some 6-panel timber doors. There are round-arched openings to a number of the rooms and the hall and some of the window architraves have simple decoration. An ancillary staircase has a banister with a stylised thistle decoration as a newel. The hall still retains trench warfare training pits to its south end. It has temporary partitions and a lowered ceiling. The floor of the former viewing balcony is still intact.

There is a low wall to the front elevation topped by metal railings with stylised thistle finials.

Statement of Interest

The building is among a small number of surviving drill halls in Scotland and retains key features which relate to its former use. The fortified, castellated design of the former administration block is notable and the relationship of this block to the long single storey drilling hall set directly next to it is a typical plan form, which adds to its interest for its building type. The building was built just before the First World War and shows us how Scotland was preoccupied with the threat of impending war and the building still includes the sunken trench warfare training pits which are relevant to this period in military history. For its relative scale, architectural interest and degree of alteration, the building is considered to be of local importance.

Age and Rarity

This former drill hall was designed by the Paisley architects James Craig Barr and Henry Cook and was opened by the Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Renfrew, Sir Thomas Glen-Coats, on the 25 September 1912. It was built as the new headquarters for the Renfrew Fortress Royal Engineers, a volunteer unit of the British Army, whose main function was the defence of the ports and shipments on the River Clyde. They were established as part of the Haldane Act, when a number of local volunteer 'electrical engineer groups' amalgamated into the Territorial Force.

The building was built to a design approved by the War Offices at the time. A newspaper article in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette of 1912 describes the interior of the building as having a large armoury, quartermaster's store and rooms for sappers and non-commissioned officers on the ground floor and officers' quarters, a mess-room and an observation gallery into the drill hall on the upper floor. The drill hall itself is described as being 75 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a large sand pit at the end away from the main building so 'sappers can erect therein models of redoubts, trenches and other earthworks'.

The 1939 Ordnance Survey map shows a long narrow building to the immediate south of the drill hall which may have been a rifle range. It is not clear whether this building still survives, as it was not visited as part of this assessment.

The hall was built on the site of a previous barracks and parade ground which had been established in 1822 and is depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1864. Some sources cite the drill hall as being part of these early 19th century military barracks, but the newspaper report from September 1912 confirms that the building dates to 1912.

In the late 1850s there was concern in the British Government about the Army's ability to defend both the home nation as well as the Empire. Britain's military defences were stretched and resources to defend Britain needed to be found. One solution was to create 'Volunteer Forces', a reserve of men who volunteered for part-time military training similar to that of the regular army and who could therefore help to defend Britain if the need arose.

In 1859 the Rifle Volunteer Corps was formed and the Volunteer Act of 1863 provided more regulation on how the volunteer forces were run and it set out the standards for drills and a requirement for annual inspections. Most purpose-built drill halls constructed at this time were paid for by a major local landowner, the subscriptions of volunteers, local fundraising efforts or a combination of all three. The Regularisation of the Force Act 1871 (known as the Cardwell Reforms after the Secretary of State for War, Edward Cardwell) gave forces the legal right to acquire land to build a drill hall and more purpose-built drill halls began to be constructed after this date. The largest period of drill hall construction, aided by government grants, took place between 1880 and 1910. The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (known as the Haldane Reforms after the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane) came into force in 1908 and the various Volunteer Units were consolidated to form the Territorial Force. The construction of drill halls largely ceased during the First World War and in 1920 the Territorial Force became the Territorial Army.

In the 20th century changes in warfare and weaponry made many of the earlier drill halls redundant and subject to demolition or change to a new use. Around 344 drill halls are believed to have been built in Scotland of which 182 are thought to survive today, although few remain in their original use. Drill halls are an important part of our social and military history. They tell us much about the development of warfare and the history of defending our country. They also, unusually for a nationwide building programme, were not standardised and were often designed by local architects in a variety of styles and they also have a part to play in the history of our communities.

Built in 1912, the former drill hall at Whitehaugh Avenue was constructed in a period of intense building activity of drill halls following the 1908 reorganisation of the Territorial Forces. The interest of this drill hall lies in the distinctive architectural detailing of the office section and the inclusion of key features relating to its former use for training (see below).

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interiors were designed to be practical and largely unembellished. The interior detailing at this former drill hall at Whitehaugh Avenue is typical for a drill hall of this date, with no exceptional detailing.

The main requirement of a drill hall was the provision of a large open space unimpeded by columns. The interior of the hall has been altered by addition of temporary partitions and a lower ceiling, but features, such as the viewing balcony can still be partially seen. The hall still retains trench warfare training pits to its south end and these are of particular interest for its pre-First World War date.

A wide entrance was also a typical feature to allow large groups of drill marching volunteers to enter and exit the building. The large round-arched door to the street, in this drill hall has been filled-in and there are also large double doors from the office accommodation into the hall, which would have served a similar purpose.

Plan form

The requirements for drill halls were basic – a large covered open space to train and drill as well as a place for the secure storage of weapons. The vast majority of drill halls were modest utilitarian structures. Most drill halls conformed to the pattern of an administrative block containing offices and the armoury to store weapons along with a caretaker or drill instructors accommodation, usually facing the street. To the rear would be the drill hall itself. Occasionally more extensive accommodation was required, such as for battalion headquarters where interior rifle ranges, libraries, billiards rooms, lecture theatres and bars could all be included.

The plan form here, with the hall positioned to the side of the administration block is therefore slightly more unusual than in most cases but is not exceptional.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Drill halls were built in a variety of architectural styles and no individual type dominates. They were usually designed by local architects and constrained by tight budgets. They often had a strong link to their local communities and could be used for other community activities. Architectural style could reflect the streetscape of the local community and be small and modest, similar to surrounding domestic properties, or they could be more eye-catching and overtly military in appearance, particularly for larger forces or headquarter buildings.

The Scots Baronial style used here can be found on a number of other drill halls, including Huntly (1901-2) and Blair Atholl (1906-7). Whitehaugh Avenue has a distinctive crowstepped tower that dominates the building and gives it an overtly military appearance. There is also some decorative detailing in the crest above the entrance door and the curvilinear pediments to the upper storey windows. The building has undergone some alteration, particularly the replacement of the roofing material to the drill hall and the blocking of the ground floor windows. A drawing in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette article of 1912 shows rooflights to the roof of the hall, which would have provided the necessary light for drilling.

The drill hall was designed by J Craig Barr & Cook, which was a Paisley architectural practice. The majority of their work was carried out in Paisley, including the A-listed Former Clydesdale Bank building at 7 Gilmour Street. The Dictionary of Scottish Architects records that they designed another drill Hall on Newlands Road in Glasgow, but there no further information on this building is known at present.


The building is set within an area of Paisley which is predominantly residential, and therefore the building is distinctive because of its Scots Baronial style tower and long rubble wall of the former drill hall. The hall itself is hidden from the street behind a rubble wall.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

None known at present.


Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 333001


Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1858, published 1864) Renfrew Sheet XII.3. 25 Inches to the Mile map. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1911, Published 1913) Renfrewshire Sheet 012.63. 25 Inches to the Mile map. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1939, Published 1947) Renfrewshire Sheet 012.03. 25 Inches to the Mile map. 3rd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette (21 September 1912) New Headquarters for the Renfrew Fortress Royal Engineers' Works Company. p.5.

Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland's Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.

Online Sources

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. J Craig Barr and Cook at http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=200371 (accessed 03/11/2015)

Other Sources

Further information courtesy of owners (2017).

Recommended Books

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