Concrete barrack block, Block 1, dated 1880, constructed by the Royal Engineers within the Royal Engineers Barracks, later Burgoyne Barracks.
Reason for Listing
Concrete barrack block, Block 1, dated 1880 and constructed by the Royal Engineers, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Unique use of materials: one of four mass concrete barrack blocks, the only known use nationally of mass concrete in barrack blocks of this type, probably built as an experimental exercise in the use of the material by the RE on their own barracks;
* Date: the earliest military use of mass concrete in a superstructure;
* Architectural interest: built of mass concrete, it echoes its brick and stone barrack block equivalents in form and architectural detail;
* Plan: single-storey block, accommodating two units each of 24 men and an NCO, implementing recommendations set out in the Cardwell reforms;
* Intactness: of the four blocks, Block 1 retains most of its original fenestration and its internal plan;
* Historic interest: built to replace hutted accommodation at the Barracks which was developed to meet the specific needs of the Royal Engineers. 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 formed: Moore Barracks, Napier Barracks, Somerset Barracks, Ross Barracks and the Royal Engineers Barracks, later Burgoyne Barracks, where some earlier buildings were retained. These 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 on the site (shown on a Royal Engineers plan of 1873 in the on-site archive and the Ordnance Survey map of the same date). A court martial room, which was probably extant in 1867, was replaced in the later C19 by the water tower.
By the late C19 the wooden hutments were evidently inadequate and some huts were demolished and replaced by barrack blocks in permanent materials. This was executed in phases throughout the C19, each using different materials and designs. The provision of accommodation was limited in comparison to the scale of the blocks laid out at Napier and Somerset, but importantly, in 1800-81, four experimental blocks were built in mass concrete. It is believed that these are the first concrete huts to be built by the military in the country.
Further blocks which had been added to the west in 1887, were by 1907 used as a canteen, cook house, NCO’s mess, and company offices. Around 1901 stores buildings were added to the area of the racquet court, although the court itself appears to have remained in its original use. By 1904 large stables and harness rooms had been built, some to the west of the perimeter road. Similarly 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.
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.
Mass concrete structures
The experimental use of cement and concrete took place in both France and England during the early to mid-C19. The development of Portland cement in England was pioneered by Joseph and William Aspdin in the 1820s and an early form of lime concrete, moulded in situ in blocks, was patented in 1832 and 1834 by William Ranger after its experimental use in Brighton c1830. Ranger’s material was used in foundations and walling at the Admiralty in the 1830s and - although not altogether successfully - at Woolwich and Chatham Dockyards. However, Charles William Pasley, who in 1812 founded the Royal Engineering Establishment (later Royal School of Military Engineering), its commandant until 1841, and a highly influential engineer, considered concrete to be unsuitable for military use. His findings, Observations on Limes, Calcaréous Cements, Mortars Stuccos and Concrete published in 1838 (2nd edn 1847) halted its development in military sites until the late 1850s when it was advocated by Francis Fowke for fortifications, and first used in Britain at Newhaven Fort in 1864. Although concrete was used increasingly in civil structures, it was not until 1875 that it was used in preference to stone or brick in land forts in the Chatham ring, while it was in 1876 that Portland cement was used in the construction of barrack blocks at Guildford, in floors, cills and lintels. The four 1880-1 mass concrete bocks at Shorncliffe, probably built experimentally by the Royal Engineers, are the only known examples of their kind; thereafter barrack blocks were built in conventional masonry or timber.
Following enquiries into sanitary standards in the army in the late 1850s and 1860s and the Military Localisation Act of 1872, reforms were gradually implemented. In 1886 the Sandhurst Committee concluded that the construction and repair of barracks would provide useful practical experience for Royal Engineers, at a saving of £100,000 pa. Prior to that, it is likely that the REs were only occasionally able to supervise works but it made sense that they were involved in experimental work at their own barracks at a time when funds were otherwise not available.
The work was overseen by the Barracks Office, headed by a civilian architect, but individual designs were left to regional Royal Engineer teams. The architect Ingress-Bell, overseer of the Barracks Office from 1890-98, in 1881 had outlined forms for barrack blocks and local depots which had been developed in the 1870s. These included a standard plan for a barrack block of four rooms on two storeys, each room housing twenty-four men, although single-storey blocks became the standard at Shorncliffe into the C20. The concrete blocks at Burgoyne Barracks appear to follow Ingress-Bell’s conventional layout and in their architectural detail echo conventional masonry counterparts.
The earliest surviving record, an 1899 block plan of the Royal Engineers Barracks (NA WO 78/3402), indicates that the four blocks were used for a mixture of purposes by that date. A more detailed plan of 1907 (NA WO 78/3720) shows internal subdivisions. The southern two blocks, numbered 1 and 2, were soldiers’ quarters. Each had a pair of semi-circular projections, the night latrines, on the inner elevations. The 1907 plan indicates that 1 and 2 blocks were entered from a near central point; adjacent to the entrance was a small room for an NCO (with a fireplace), opposite it and between the night latrines, were the ablutions and a bathroom; to either side were two rooms, each housing twenty-four men. Block 3 was divided into soldiers’ quarters to the east, laid out similarly to the southern blocks, with a cook house and workshops etc (1899) and a tailor, shoemaker, saddlers' shop and store (1907) in the western half. Block 4 in 1899 housed a guard room, sergeants’ mess, company offices and recreation facilities, and by 1907, from west to east, a reading room, billiard room, dining and supper room and kitchen, scullery, grocery and store.
Blocks 2-4, dated 1881 and numbered on their eastern elevations, in 2013 have replaced uPVC sashes in original openings, although one such window on the northern elevation of Block 4 retains its vertical sliding shutter or light baffle. The north elevation of Block 4 has a pair of double doors, the eastern pair of ledge and batten construction, both sets now blocked internally. The pedestrian entrance also has a ledge and batten door beneath a small-paned glazed overlight. Elsewhere, doors are flush panel or part-glazed C20 replacements, beneath plain overlights. In Block 4 the internal transverse chimneybreasts are visible but blocked, the ceiling panels indicate the position of the southern lateral stack; it also has one four-panel door.
Concrete barrack block No 1, dated 1880, at the former the Royal Engineers Barracks, later Burgoyne Barracks, at Shorncliffe Camp.
MATERIALS: rendered, mass concrete with later C20/early C21 slate composite roofs and uPVC eaves and fascias.
PLAN: single-storey block aligned approximately east-west, No 1 was the southernmost of four near identical blocks, blocks 2-4 dated 1881.
Originally laid out as soldiers’ quarters, divided into two large rooms with a separate NCO’s room adjacent to the entrance. Now storage, No 1 block retains this plan, including the NCO’s room (room 4) to the west of the entrance. It is linked to Block 2 to the north by a C20 ablutions block.
Constructed of mass concrete, the proportions and architectural details are modelled on the brick and stone equivalents at other barracks, having concrete quoins and plinths imitating brick, stone or render, and round-arched or segmental-headed rendered window and door architraves and cills.
The east elevation has paired round-arched windows below a roundel inscribed RE with the date 1880 below. It is numbered, 1, within a lozenge-shaped panel between the windows; the first of four blocks, numbered consecutively from south to north. The west elevation replicates the east elevation, also having a roundel dated and inscribed RE 1880 and a numbered lozenge-shaped panel between the windows.
Block 1 retains its original six-over-six pane horned timber sashes on the east gable wall, the north elevation and on all but one of the south elevation windows. The west gable has replaced six-over-six pane horned timber sashes closely matching the original windows. According to the 1907 plan, this block had a near-central southern entrance, which has been enlarged. Other doorways on this elevation appear to replace original widow openings shown on the plan but they also have complete, rendered architraves.
The link corridor to the north, and the other three concrete barrack blocks, are not included in the listing.
Room 4, the NCO’s room, has an angle chimney breast; the fireplace opening has been rendered over; the stack removed above the roof. The original skylight structure in the passage is in place but roofed over. Block 1 has plain ceilings, compared with probably higher specification board and batten ceilings, that tend to denote officer use, in Blocks 3 and 4.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.