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St Peter and St Boniface RC Church (formerly the Drill Hall and later the Mackerchar Hall), Cathedral Square, Fortrose

A Category B Listed Building in Fortrose, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.5814 / 57°34'53"N

Longitude: -4.1305 / 4°7'49"W

OS Eastings: 272710

OS Northings: 856593

OS Grid: NH727565

Mapcode National: GBR J85P.8PQ

Mapcode Global: WH4FY.JPBW

Plus Code: 9C9QHVJ9+HR

Entry Name: St Peter and St Boniface RC Church (formerly the Drill Hall and later the Mackerchar Hall), Cathedral Square, Fortrose

Listing Name: St Peter and St Boniface RC Church (formerly the Drill Hall and later the Mackerchar Hall), Cathedral Square, Fortrose

Listing Date: 31 August 1983

Last Amended: 26 May 2016

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406022

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB31816

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Fortrose

County: Highland

Town: Fortrose

Electoral Ward: Black Isle

Traditional County: Ross-shire

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Fortrose

Description

Designed by John Robertson in 1881 this building comprises a 2-storey, 3-bay entrance block with a single storey 4-bay wing accommodating the hall, in a Romanesque style and approximately rectangular in plan. It was originally built as a drill hall, becoming the Mackerchar Hall in 1945 and it is now a church (2015). It is built of pink stugged sandstone with polished ashlar dressings with gables of squared rubble.

The pedimented entrance block has giant pilasters with a stack at the apex. There is a central door and flanking windows all within a triple arched arcade and there is a Venetian window above. The hall has a corbelled eaves course and tripartite round-headed stilted arched windows. The windows are mainly 2-pane glazing in timber sash and case frames (some have early 21st century stained glass).The roof is grey slates and there is a corniced chimney stack with unusual square yellow clay cans.

The interior, which was seen in 2015, has a good late 19th century scheme with timber panelled doors with timber moulded architraves and some timber dado rails. In a first floor room there is a timber chimneypiece with a cast iron inset. The narrow staircase to the upper floor has decorative iron balusters and timber rail. The hammerbeam roof of the hall is lined with timber boarding on the ceiling.

Statement of Interest

The former drill hall in Fortrose, designed in 1881 by the prolific Inverness architect John Robertson, is a very good example of a hall that was built at the beginning of the most intense period of drill hall building activity (1880 to 1910). It has good Romanesque style detailing, for example in the arcade in the entrance bays and arched windows of the hall section. The exterior has not been significantly altered since it was built in 1881 and the interior retains many late 19th century details. It is a distinctive and important part of the streetscape, in a prime position in the centre of the Fortrose Conservation Area, adjacent to Fortrose Cathedral.

This church was built as a drill hall for the Ross-shire Rifle Volunteers and The Inverness Advertiser of 9 December announced that the new hall was to be opened on 15 December 1881. Further newspaper reports in 1882 show that the building was in use not just as a drill hall but also for a variety of public events. For example, the proceeds from a concert given in the hall at the time of opening were to fund seating in the hall, highlighting that the hall was intended to be multi-functional from the start. The footprint of the hall can be seen on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1904), and it remains apparently unchanged.

Some internal changes were made in the 20th century including the addition of an indoor firing range. The rifles used were fitted with a Morris Tube which decreased the calibre of the bullets fired so as not to damage the building but precisely where the firing range was located is not clear. The building also served as a cinema for troops during the Second World War, before being offered for sale in 1945, when it was purchased by the Mackerchar (or Mackerracher) family, who had returned to Fortrose after serving as Church of Scotland missionaries abroad. The hall was donated to the Church of Scotland soon after, and it became a Roman Catholic Chapel in the early 1980s. The various changes of use during its lifetime are reflected in some minor internal alterations to the building.

The Ross-shire Rifle Volunteers were formed soon after 1859, and in January 1860 a meeting was held in the Royal Hotel in Fortrose with a view to electing the officers for the Corps and 'other arrangements in connection with the full organisation of the corps'. The first commanding officer of the Ross-shire Rifles was Keith William Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth, who died in June 1881, so his successor may have been behind the building of the drill hall.

John Robertson (1840-1925) started business on his own account in 1880. One of his first commissions was the design for a 'House for Mr Smith' in Fortrose. The following year he obtained the commission for the drill hall and it is likely that this commission was obtained through this client. The drill hall was designed at a time before Robertson developed his own distinctive architectural style. The timber hammerbeam roof in the drill hall is unusual, as generally more utilitarian iron or later steel beams were employed for supporting the roof in a drill hall. Robertson used a similar hammerbeam roof in the Fortrose Free Church design which dates from the 1890s and in the Village Hall in Fort Augustus. Robertson also favoured round arched openings for public hall designs as can be seen here, Carrbridge and in Fort Augustus.

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 (and Artillery Volunteers Corps in defended coastal towns) were 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 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.

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.

Category changed from C to B, statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016 as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16. Previously listed as 'Fortrose Cathedral Square, The Mackerchar Hall'.

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