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Former Sergeant's Mess, Redford infantry barracks, Colinton Road, Edinburgh

A Category C Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9113 / 55°54'40"N

Longitude: -3.2455 / 3°14'43"W

OS Eastings: 322243

OS Northings: 669387

OS Grid: NT222693

Mapcode National: GBR 8BX.3G

Mapcode Global: WH6SS.3PT6

Plus Code: 9C7RWQ63+GR

Entry Name: Former Sergeant's Mess, Redford infantry barracks, Colinton Road, Edinburgh

Listing Name: Former Sergeants' Mess, Redford Infantry Barracks, Colinton Road, Edinburgh

Listing Date: 26 June 2017

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406691

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52431

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Colinton/Fairmilehead

Traditional County: Midlothian

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A single-storey, 6-bay, asymmetrical-plan former sergeants' mess with piended roofed section to the south and flat-roofed section to north designed by Harry B Measures and built between 1909 and 1915. The building is of dark, coursed rock-faced rubble with pale ashlar dressings. There is a cill course, a band course and an eaves course and the flat-roofed section has a blocking course. The windows have projecting cills.

The principal elevation is to the southwest and has a recessed piended section to the right with an advanced, central tripartite bay with a scrolled and finialled pediment. There are paired windows to either side. The northwest elevation has an advanced porch with a 2-leaf timber door with a small-pane glazed fanlight above.

The windows are predominantly timber casement windows with 6-pane glazing to the upper lights and 4-pane glazing to the lower lights. There are grey graded slates to the piended roof.

The interior was seen in 2016. There is a central corridor with offices to either side. There are some part glazed fanlights above the doors.

Statement of Interest

The former Sergeants' mess at Redford infantry barracks dates to between 1909-1915 and is an important part of the complex of infantry and cavalry buildings which make up the extensive Redford barracks. The building has some decorative architectural features in the window pediment and is little altered to its exterior. The complex as a whole was the pinnacle of military building prior to the First World War and gives an important and rare insight to the way the military was organized at the beginning of the 20th century.

Age and Rarity

Within the military, the different ranks of personnel lived and socialised separately. The sergeants' mess at Redford was for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and would have had a formal reception, a dining room and bar, as well as other offices. There is no accommodation block attached to the sergeants' mess at Redford infantry barracks, but the men would have had separate living quarters somewhere on the site. The sergeants' mess associated with the Redford cavalry barracks, located to the east of the site, does have a 2-storey accommodation block attached, but this was built at a later date.

Redford infantry barracks was built to alleviate cramped military accommodation at Edinburgh Castle. As the cavalry troops based in Edinburgh were also housed in poor conditions at Piershill, the decision was taken by the Government to build a new substantial complex incorporating barracks for both infantry and cavalry and including all the necessary associated buildings on the same site at Redford. Although on the same extensive site, the cavalry barracks (located to the east) and infantry barracks (located to the west) were administered separately. Redford barracks was the largest barracks to be built in Scotland since Fort George in Inverness (1748-1769, Scheduled Monument SM6692). The Redford barracks was the most advanced of its type in Britain at the time and the best equipped, incorporating all the latest developments in training and accommodation. They reflect the military confidence of Britain before the start of the First World War. The complex was the first to include living, dining, baths and recreation facilities for infantry under one roof and when built could accommodate 1000 men.

The magnitude of the building programme at Redford was so great that the builders, Colin MacAndrew Ltd, built their own railway to transport materials from the main line at Slateford. The Scotsman in 1914 noted 'there is no point at the extensive field at Redford where building operations are in progress which are not served by either the broad or narrow gauge railways'.

All of the infantry buildings lying to the west of the entire barracks site allocated to the infantry include, a large barracks block, a guard house with its associated gates and gatepiers, a Commander in Chief's house (Alva House), the Officers' mess and stables, a former Sergeants' mess, a band block, a gymnasium and a stores building. There were originally married quarters, but these were demolished in the 1990s. The cavalry barracks and all its associated buildings lie to the east of the site.

During the last quarter of the 19th century, the expanding British Empire required more personnel for its administration and its security. To help with the recruitment and training of soldiers, the Secretary of State for War, Edward Cardwell, introduced the Military Localisation Bill in 1872, which introduced new recruiting and training centres around Britain. The majority of the architectural design and planning was carried out by the Director of Design, Major H C Sneddon, and a number of standard types of barracks resulted. Local variations were possible, for example at the Cameron Barracks at Inverness, listed at category B (LB35340) where Scots Baronial architectural features are used. During this period the overall planning and layout of a barracks complex changed from a strict symmetry of buildings around a parade ground to placing the various buildings in the most sensible position according to function.

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, all military fortifications, including barracks were the responsibility of the Royal Engineers. This was reviewed from 1902 and as a result, a civilian department was formed in 1904 under the direction of the Director of Barracks Construction which was responsible for War Department buildings. The new Director was Harry Measures. Measures had his own ideas about the design of barracks buildings and he instigated the bringing of various functions under the same roof which had previously had separate buildings. His first project was new cavalry barracks at Norwich, which he designed with all the ancillary and recreational functions were in the ground floor of the building with accommodation above. This was never built but his ideas on design were realised at Redford.

Following the First World War and over the course of the 20th century, the practice of warfare and the organisation of the military changed. Military accommodation was updated and smaller residential units became standard. Horses were replaced by machinery and Redford cavalry barracks, on the same site as the infantry barracks, was amongst the last of its type to be built on such a large scale. Only the Hyde Park Barracks in London, built by Sir Basil Spence in 1970 for the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment are comparable in size and scale.

The former Sergeants' mess at Redford infantry barracks is one of a number of key buildings in a largely intact complex of infantry and cavalry buildings which make up one of the largest barracks sites ever built in Britain. The building has architectural features which are in keeping with the group of buildings at this site and is little altered to its exterior. Redford barracks was the pinnacle of military building prior to the First World War and the complex as a whole is a rare survivor.

Architectural or Historic Interest


There was a hierarchy of design in the military and a sergeants' mess building would traditionally have more decorative features and be of a higher quality than the accommodation for the regular infantry, but not so elaborately decorated as the officers' mess. The interior here has been altered to provide office accommodation and no features of special interest have been retained.

Plan form

There does not seem to have been a standard plan-form for a Sergeants' mess building and the asymmetric form here is not considered to be exceptional. The former sergeants' mess at Bodmin, Cornwell, (listed at Grade II, Ref no 1375572), for example, is an L-plan building.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The external decoration in the Sergeants' mess building lies mostly in its high quality stonework. The stone used to build the barracks came from Black Pasture and Doddington quarries in Northumberland, which provided stone for a number of buildings in Scotland. The contrast between the smooth blond stone used in the margins with the rock-faced darker stone used in the rest of the building gives the building a characteristic appearance.

The only decorative feature used is the scrolled and finialled pediment above the bay window to the southwest elevation. The entrance door does not have an elaborate doorway.

Harry Bell Measures (circa 1862-1940), was based in London and was the first (and only) holder of a new civilian post, Director of Barrack Construction, which was created in 1904 in order to free the Royal Engineers for other, more military, duties. He designed a number of stations for the Central London Railway, several of which survive as current London Underground stations, including Oxford Circus (listed at Grade II). In terms of barracks buildings, however, Douet (1998) suggest that Measures rethought the layout of barracks buildings and 'abandoned the long-entrenched principles of subdivision and separation of the various elements and functions'. Redford Barracks appears to be one of the few barracks sites he completed with his only other large military building the New College at the royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, listed at Grade II (Ref no 1390374).


The former Sergeants' mess is situated towards to the east of the main Redford infantry barracks block and remains as a prominent building towards to the middle of the barracks site. On the Ordnance Survey map, published in 1934, the building is shown as lying between the Infantry barracks block and the married quarters, which would place it in the centre of the infantry barracks and easily accessible. Some of the earliest buildings in the Redford site, including the married quarters which lay to the east of this building have been demolished and replaced with modern military accommodation. While there have been some later alterations to the group of buildings at the barracks site, the majority of the 1909-1915 buildings remain, however, and the integrity of the site continues to help our understanding of the organisation of the military in the years leading up to the First World War.

The building lies within the Colinton Conservation Area.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

No close historical associations known at present.

As a major military base in Scotland, Redford barracks has provided accommodation and services for a number of Regiments which have been involved in the defence of the United Kingdom over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2017 as part of the Redford Barracks listing review. Previously listed as Colinton Road, Redford Infantry Barracks with Officers' Mess, Alma House, Guard House, Former Band Block, Former Sergeants' Mess, Gates, Gatpiers and other ancillary Buildings.


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