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Officers' Mess, Redford Infantry Barracks, Colinton Road, Edinburgh

A Category B Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9097 / 55°54'34"N

Longitude: -3.2483 / 3°14'53"W

OS Eastings: 322065

OS Northings: 669213

OS Grid: NT220692

Mapcode National: GBR 89Y.J1

Mapcode Global: WH6SS.2QHF

Plus Code: 9C7RWQ52+VM

Entry Name: Officers' Mess, Redford Infantry Barracks, Colinton Road, Edinburgh

Listing Name: Officers' Mess and stable block, Redford Infantry Barracks, Colinton Road, Edinburgh

Listing Date: 26 June 2017

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406718

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52432

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Colinton/Fairmilehead

Traditional County: Midlothian

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A 3-storey, 25-bay, L-plan Officers' Mess, dated 1915 with associated single-storey stable block lying to the west, designed by Harry B Measures. The Officers' Mess is of dark, coursed rock-faced rubble with pale ashlar dressings. There is a base course, band courses to all floors and an eaves course. The windows have projecting cills.

The principal elevation is to the northwest and has an advanced, section at ground level with a lean-to roof and advanced single-storey, square-plan pavilions at both ends. There are advanced gables to the centre and to both ends with pinnacles to the sides. The entrance is through a 2-leaf, half-glazed timber panelled door in a rusticated doorway with a semicircular pediment. The central -3-bay gable behind has an oculus window. There are tripartite windows to the ground floor and paired windows to the upper floors. The square pavilions have Diocletian windows and a blocking courses. The end bay gables are 4-bay with central, advance chimney stacks.

The rear elevation has a central round-arched key-stoned doorway with flanking windows and there are large canted bays at ground. The central gable has an oculus and there are Diocletian windows to the end gables. The fenestration is regular within windows largely in groups of 3.

The windows are predominantly timber sash and case windows with 12 pane glazing to the upper floors. There are timber casement windows to the ground floor with small pane glazing. The rear elevation has plate-glass casement windows with small-paned upper panes at ground level. The chimney stacks have wide cornices. There are grey graded slates and raised skews to the roof.

The interior was seen in 2016. The public rooms are situated on the ground floor with residential accommodation above. The dining room has a parquet timber floor and carved two carved timber fire surrounds, each dated 1915. There are carved timber fire surrounds to other formal rooms and there is some simple decorative cornicing. The entrance hall has some round-arched openings and the staircases have decorative metal balusters and timber banisters.

The rectangular-plan, single storey stable block lies to the west and is also of dark, coursed rock-faced rubble with pale ashlar dressings. The stalls lie to the west, with offices and tack room to the east. There is a gabled section to the east over a pair of cart-arch openings. The doors are predominantly boarded timber with an occasional part-glazed door. The windows are timber sash and case with a 6-pane over 9-pane glazing pattern.

The stables interior was seen in 2017 and has a timber-lined roof, and timber stalls with metal separating posts.

Statement of Interest

Dating from 1915, the Officers' Mess at Redford is amongst the largest Officers' mess in Scotland and is one of the key buildings in a complex of infantry and cavalry buildings which make up the extensive Redford barracks. The complex as a whole was the pinnacle of military building prior to the First World War. Both the Officers' Mess and its stable block are little altered to their exteriors and have significant early 20th century internal decorative features. Together, they give an important and rare insight to the way the military was organized at the beginning of the 20th century.

Age and Rarity

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 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 its 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.

Within the military, the different ranks of personnel lived and socialized separately. Officers had their own separate accommodation and recreational facilities and most barracks sites had an officers' mess building. The stables block was built to accommodate the officers' horses. Only some of the officers would have had horses, depending on their rank.

Officers' included not only those who would serve on the front line, but also those in administrative positions. A substantial mess building was therefore required.

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 in the ground floor of the building with residential 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 Officers' mess and stables for the infantry is one of a number of key buildings in a complex of infantry and cavalry buildings which make up one of the largest barracks sites ever built in Britain. It has significant architectural detailing, in keeping with the status of its occupants and has been little altered. Redford barracks was the pinnacle of military building prior to the First World War and a tangible representation of British imperial power during the period. The complex as a whole is a rare survival.

Architectural or Historic Interest


An officers' mess building would traditionally have more decorative features and be of a higher quality than the accommodation for the regular infantry. The interior of the Officers' mess here is not overly elaborate, but the decoration including carved timber fire surrounds, simple cornicing and the parquet flooring in the dining room is of a greater extent than is seen in the barracks building (listed at category A, LB49560).

The survival of the stalls in the stables is of interest in listing terms.

Plan form

There does not seem to have been a standard plan-form for an Officers' mess building and the L-plan form here is not considered to be exceptional. The New Building, Officers' Training College, mess and barracks at Sandhurst (listed at Grade II, Ref no 1390374), also by Measures has a symmetrical plan-form with a central tower.

Internally, the arrangement of recreation rooms to the ground floor and residential accommodation above is standard.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The Officers' mess building is distinguished by a number of decorative features used, both in the stonework and in the design. 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.

A number of design features are incorporated into the building, including the use of gabled sections along the elevations to relieve the long, horizontal facades and pinnacles used to give the gables a distinctive appearance. The entrance with its rusticated doorway creates an imposing entrance.

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).


Redford infantry Officers' mess and sables are key buildings in a wider complex of military barracks buildings and their ancillaries that make up Redford barracks.

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 buildings are situated 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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