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35 Back Row (former Volunteer Hall), Selkirk

A Category C Listed Building in Selkirk, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.5477 / 55°32'51"N

Longitude: -2.8387 / 2°50'19"W

OS Eastings: 347182

OS Northings: 628539

OS Grid: NT471285

Mapcode National: GBR 84M9.74

Mapcode Global: WH7WV.CTHF

Entry Name: 35 Back Row (former Volunteer Hall), Selkirk

Listing Date: 11 December 1996

Last Amended: 25 May 2016

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406020

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB43741

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Selkirk

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Selkirkshire

Traditional County: Selkirkshire

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The former volunteer hall was built in 1867 and is a single-storey, 3-bay, rectangular plan building set close to the road. The symmetrical, classically detailed frontage is of squared, pale grey whinstone with rusticated pilaster quoins and polished ashlar dressings while the side and rear elevations are of whinstone rubble. The glazed double door to the central bay has a classical doorpiece with a consoled pediment and the windows to either side have corniced architraves. Above the moulded cornice is a rectangular plaque, flanked by scrolled consoles and carved with 'Volunteer Hall' and dated to 1867. There is a coped chimney stack with a clay can at each of the front corners. The roof has a platform apex with grey slates and the windows and doors to the principal elevation have fixed, multi-pane glazing. There is a later metal and glazed entrance outshot (added circa 2000) and an earlier lean-to addition to the south elevation.

The interior was seen in 2016. The entrance has been remodelled for use as a community centre with a reception area, café and partitioned office space extending into the hall area. The hall has a king post trussed ceiling, with the timber arch braces supported on stone corbels, and each tie beam has two decorative timber bosses.

Statement of Interest

This former Volunteer Hall is an early and good example of a purpose-built drill hall in the Borders region. Built in the wake of the Volunteer Act of 1863, the hall uses good quality materials and has a distinctive classically-influenced principal elevation which has not been significantly altered. It has a prominent presence on a street just to the east of Selkirk town centre.

This hall is understood to have been built for the Selkirk Rifle Volunteer Corps, also known as the 'Ettrick Forest Rifles'. Newspaper notices between 1868 and 1910 show that the Selkirk Volunteer Hall was 'very popular as a meeting place' (Southern Reporter, 28 April 1910) for various local organisations and played host to events including dances, music recitals, comic operas, dramas, flower shows and the 2nd Selkirk Rifle Volunteer's annual ball for many years. In 1909 and 1910, the Southern Reporter newspaper drew attention to confusion over 'the erection and ownership' of the volunteer hall 'becoming the subject of an enquiry' (Southern Reporter, 28 April 1910). The building passed into the ownership of the Territorial Force, which replaced the volunteer system after 1908. By 1914 the Volunteer Hall was the drill station of "C" Squadron, Lothian & Border Horse and base for "H" Company, 4th battalion, King s Own Scottish Borderers. The Selkirk Home Guard held their 'farewell' social evening at the hall in 1944 (Southern Reporter, 30 November 1944).

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 Regulation of the Forces 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 understood 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.

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.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016 as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16. Previously listed as 'Back Row, Drill Hall and boundary wall'.

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