Racquet court at Burgoyne Barracks, formerly the Royal Engineers Barracks, Shorncliffe Camp, constructed between 1867 and 1873 by the Royal Engineers.
The south and west walls and flat, steel roof of the squash court and inserted panelling above the gallery associated with this court, also later C20 timber steps and structure associated with the use of the climbing wall are excluded from the List entry. Similarly, the later stores, structures and yard attached to the racquet court are not included in the listing.
Reason for Listing
The racquet court at Burgoyne Barracks Shorncliffe Camp, constructed between 1867 and 1873 by the Royal Engineers, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: prominently sited racquet court, with a carefully articulated facade, complete with a clock and bellcote; unusual light-weight roof structure, likely to be an experimental structure built by the Royal Engineers;
* Degree of survival: little-altered elevations, plan and roof structure conforming to an 1858 template; the interior includes an unusually heavy door to the court and its fittings, and stairs to an upper gallery;
* Rarity: one of very few little-altered military racquet courts at a barracks;
* Historic interest: evidence of the role played by sport as means of improving discipline and well-being among officers, in this case at the Royal Engineers' barracks; Shorncliffe Camp was a military site laid out on an unprecedented scale and of major importance from the early C19.
History of Shorncliffe Camp
Shorncliffe Camp was established in the late C18 and is significant for its role in the early years of the C19 as a training camp for light infantry, providing the troops who would prove crucial to the success of the British against Napoleon. The camp was sited in a key position in relation to the Kent coastline, which was always vulnerable to invasion from the Continent. Shorncliffe Heights had been purchased in 1794 for the construction of a redoubt, designed to provide a look-out point and battery to defend the bay below. In 1803 Sir John Moore (1761-1809) was appointed to command a brigade of infantry stationed at Shorncliffe, and it is Moore who is credited with establishing the rigorous and successful training regimen associated with the camp. The units at Shorncliffe, including the green-jacketed 95th (Rifle) Regiment, the first British infantry regiment to be wholly armed with the Baker rifle, provided the basis of the elite Light Division, which served with great distinction under Moore and Wellington; training placed an emphasis on self-reliance, self-improvement and professionalism for both officers and men.
As was typical for early military camps, Shorncliffe, situated to the north and east of the redoubt, comprised little more than an open field, with temporary buildings and tents put in place for seasons of training. Permanent training grounds for the army began to be established in the 1820s, and from the 1850s, against the backdrop of the Crimean War, further grounds were established. Although termed 'permanent', these camps comprised a formal layout of wooden huts, rather than buildings of more solid construction. The first of these mid-C19 hutted camps to be laid out was Aldershot in 1854, with Shorncliffe (1854-5) and Colchester following soon afterwards.
An 1867 map of Shorncliffe shows the hutting of the camp laid out in grid patterns around the central parade ground. These were split into five ranges, lettered from A to E, The Royal Engineers’ (later Burgoyne) Barracks forming ‘C range’. Around the perimeter road a series of ancillary complexes are also shown. By 1873, further buildings had been added, including the surviving brick racquet court, indicating that by this date the camp was beginning to receive some buildings in more durable materials. By the late C19 the process of replacing the standard wooden accommodation huts with blocks in more permanent materials was well underway and in a major programme of investment from 1890, most of the wooden huts had been replaced by the turn of the century. These new buildings constituted Moore Barracks, Napier Barracks, Somerset Barracks, Ross Barracks and the Royal Engineers Barracks, later Burgoyne Barracks, where some earlier buildings were retained. They appear to have followed a standardised design, modified in layout to fit the allocated space, with the provision of parallel rows of soldiers' quarters, with a large officers’ mess and other ancillary buildings.
By the first decade of the C20, Risborough Barracks had been added on land to the north of the existing site and to the east of this, an Army Ordnance Depot was laid out. Further expansion was undertaken in the First World War with the establishment of camps on St Martin’s Plain to the west. Around the outbreak of the Second World War the perimeter of the site was defended by a ring of pillboxes, and St Martin’s Plain was used as the base for anti-aircraft batteries. The largest phase of redevelopment after the Second World War was the construction of the new Moore Barracks in the early 1960s.
South of ‘C range’, an open area indicated on the 1867 map was used to provide some of the early communal buildings on the camp, in the form of sporting facilities. Between 1867 and 1873 a racquet court and a gymnasium were constructed (shown on a Royal Engineers plan of 1873 in the on-site archive and the Ordnance Survey map of the same date). The racquet court appears to have replaced a three-sided structure, possibly an earlier court, shown on the 1867 site plan. A court martial room, which was probably extant in 1867, was replaced in the later C19 by the water tower.
During the expansion of the barracks in the later C19, further blocks were added to the west of the site in 1887, and by 1907 were used as a canteen, cook house, NCO’s mess and company offices, and extensive stables and harness stores built. By 1907 the wooden huts to the north of the site had been replaced by further offices and stores, including a courtyard providing working space for carpenters, bricklayers etc with a Surveyor’s House attached. Thus by the early C20 the area provided a wide range of buildings for the various works of the Royal Engineers, as well as accommodation.
Although circa 1901 stores buildings were added, creating a yard to the north of the racquet court, the court itself appears to have remained in its original use. During the C20 a smaller squash court was inserted within the racquet court, and more recently the internal walls of the original court have been used in part as a climbing wall.
After the Royal Engineers moved out in the C20 most of the buildings were demolished leaving only the 1860s racquet court and c1900 wagon stores, the 1880-1 concrete huts, the water tower and a mid-C20 gymnasium which had replaced the later C19 building.
Unlike the smaller fives court, which typically has a sloping roofline, the mid-C19 racquet court is an enclosed rectangular building c30 x 60 feet on plan and at least 30 feet high. Commonly it included a gallery for spectators; at first these were open to the court, in later examples they tend to be enclosed
The term 'rackets' had been used since the medieval period to cover a range of ball games played using a racket. The game now known as 'racquets' appears to have evolved in the C18 from what is now known as fives, reaching a peak of popularity between the 1860s and 1914. The sport became particularly associated with upper echelons of society, and courts were built for country houses, gentlemen’s clubs and public schools, and on military sites for officers who were recruited from these circles, since from the mid-C19 sport in general was recognised by the Army as essential to officer development.
In the early C19 'rackets' was played generally in open courts of one, two or three sides; Harrow School included an open 'rackets' court in its expansion in the 1820s. Covered courts appear to have become popular from the mid-C19, with the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) constructing a covered court in 1844. It was around this time that the court size and rules were also codified and the version of racquets played at Harrow School in the 1850s and ‘60s was adopted at other schools in the ensuing decades.
The military may have been one of the innovators in the use of covered courts. At the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich a covered court was built in the 1830s, possibly the earliest covered court in the country; another followed in the 1850s (both demolished). In 1842-48 a type of racquets or fives court was built at Fulwood Barracks, Preston (listed Grade II).
The Crimea War (1853-56) had revealed the inadequacy of training for officers and this coupled with an increase in the number of officers following the Indian Mutiny (1857-8) led to a programme of building at Sandhurst, designed by the eminent architect Sir James Pennethorne. After an initial decision was made in 1857 to rebuild the existing fives court as a racquet court, in 1858-9 a new Racket Court, now known as Mons Hall, was built as part of Pennethorne’s scheme. Following the cadet mutiny at Sandhurst in 1861 it was recommended that priority should be given to ’outdoor manly exercise’ while indoor provision should include ‘covered Racket courts’. The practice was adopted widely at other barracks such as at Shorncliffe, the courts built by Royal Engineers. A racquet court at the army camp at The Curragh, Eire (1855), built to a plan published in 1858, bears a striking resemblance to the Shorncliffe court suggesting that the Royal Engineers may have followed a similar template at the major military camps at Aldershot, Colchester and Shorncliffe. A covered court (demolished) was built at Chatham, as part of the Infantry Barracks (now Kitchener Barracks), before 1864. For the Royal Navy two courts were built at Greenwich, the first constructed by Charles Pasley in 1874-5, the second in the 1880s (both later converted to laboratories, the first now within the Grade II* listed Pepys Building).
Racquet court, built between 1867 and 1873.
MATERIALS: pier and panel construction, the walls panels and gable elevations in stock brick, largely in English bond, in alternate header and stretcher courses, but with later patching in variant bonds; the buttress piers on the side and west elevations are in red brick. Red brick patching. Stone, buff brick and concrete dressings. Lightweight metal roof trusses (either a combination of wrought and cast iron, or steel) and slate roof.
PLAN: roughly 30ft x 60ft x 30 ft high (the standard dimension of a racquet court) aligned east-west.
Originally a single court filling the building, preceded by an entrance lobby from which stairs rise to a full-width gallery overlooking the court. There is a small ground-floor room (marked store room in 1907) to each side of the entrance.
At a later date a smaller flat-roofed squash court has been inserted within the racquet court, fully enclosing the gallery.
EXTERIOR: the main, east elevation is in two storeys and three bays, articulated by offset brick buttress piers, all beneath a segmental pedimented gable. Brick chamfered plinth, buff brick finely-jointed segmental arches to ground-floor openings, and similar round arches to first-floor openings which also have raised keystones; concrete cills throughout. Central entrance beneath a three light overlight has a pair of flush-panel doors. Flanking windows have six-over-six pane horned sashes, recessed in plain brick reveals. Three similar first-floor windows have round-arched heads. Shallow, simple moulding to the cornice and pediment, which is surmounted by a small flat-headed cupola, the base of which is in stock brick, the upper part, presumably rebuilt, in red brick; it is flanked by rendered or concrete scrolled brackets. Within the pediment is a clock face.
Side elevations in seven bays articulated by red brick buttress piers and a stock brick dentil cornice. There is an offset approximately seven foot above the ground to all but the altered bay on the northern elevation. On the south elevation, the western three bays have a further offset at approximately two thirds the height of the building; evidence of any similar feature on the north elevation is hidden beneath later abutting additions. The eastern two bays of the south elevation are rendered to first floor height where dressing rooms, WCs and bath, present in 1907, have been removed. There are also repairs and scarring following bomb damage in WWII and two inserted metal-framed small-paned lights and a door. The northern elevation is similarly detailed; the upper courses of wall in the eastern bays having been patched. The lower courses, which are now internal, are painted. The later, attached Royal Engineers' stores buildings are not included in the listing.
The west elevation is also articulated in three bays by red brick buttress piers. The lower part of the wall is obscured by the attached building, dated 1901 (not included in the listing). The racquet court has a segmental pedimented gable with a similar cornice to the more ornate east elevation and is surmounted by a larger blocking course with a moulded cornice. Within the gable is a small, round-arched vent, with a flush, rendered surround; the opening is blocked.
The later stores, structures and yard attached externally to the racquet court are excluded from the listing.
INTERIOR: the roof is constructed of lightweight segmental arched trusses from which a bracket-like strut rises to the apex. The inner roof is laid on two planes. The outer planes have square-cut timber rafters and are lined with moulded matchboard panels. The upper planes appear to have been built as a glazed toplight, the only source of natural light to the court, and have moulded rafters; the glass has been replaced with later timber boarding. Longitudinal timber planks, fixed to the base of the trusses, appear to be original, possibly providing access to the roof for maintenance. The vent in the eastern gable wall is covered with a grille. The walls are rendered in hard cement, now adapted as a climbing wall.
The entrance lobby is lined in matchboard panelling, an arched opening leading to the court. Closed string stairs have square chamfered newels, square balusters and a rounded rail of later C19 character and lead to a gallery where the balustrade is also enclosed in matchboard panelling; the frame is supported on posts rising to the roof. The gallery appears to have been open to the court having a timber rail and has been subsequently enclosed. At roof height the clock mechanism is contained within a timber box. Doors are of a standard four panels except for the inner door to the court which is exceptionally thick. In the centre it has an inserted square opening, covered on the outer face by a box with a ball-sized hole in the top, and on the inner face by a hinged flap which shuts flush with the door. The door has heavy brass handles and sunk closing mechanisms.
A C20 squash court has been inserted and built against the existing east and north walls of the racquet court and the racquet court has been adapted for use as a climbing wall. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the C20 brick south and west walls and flat steel roof of this squash court and the inserted C20 panelling above the original gallery, associated with the squash court, are not of special architectural or historic interest; and that the later C20 timber steps and structure above the gallery associated with the use of the climbing wall are also not of special architectural or historic interest.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.