Memorial hall and library in an Arts and Crafts style, 1915-16, by Sir Aston Webb.
Reason for Listing
The Sir John Moore Memorial Library and Hall, Somerset Barracks, Shorncliffe Camp, of 1915-16 by Sir Aston Webb, is listed for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: built in an Arts and Crafts idiom, the building is handsome and well-executed in fine materials with a high degree of craftsmanship and quality of detail;
* Architect: designed by a significant early C20 architect, this building demonstrates Webb's skill for form, composition and detail, expressed on an a-typically small and intimate scale;
* Commemorative interest: through its dedication, and integral artworks, the building commemorates a key figure synonymous with the earliest and most significant period of the Shorncliffe Camp;
* Historic interest: an unusual example of a military building which served both a symbolic commemorative purpose as well as providing recreational facilities;
* Group value: the building forms a group with the listed statue of Sir John Moore, located to the immediate south.
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. Around the perimeter road a series of ancillary complexes are also shown. By 1873, further buildings had been added, including the surviving brick racquets 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). 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.
SOMERSET BARRACKS AND THE SIR JOHN MOORE MEMORIAL HALL AND LIBRARY
Somerset Barracks replaced in brick what had been 'E' range of the mid-C19 wooden-hutted Shorncliffe Camp. The majority of Somerset Barracks sat north of the perimeter road (North Road), on an area that is now housing. This included all the accommodation buildings and the associated communal blocks, with the officers’ mess and amenity buildings to the south of the perimeter road. The amenity buildings included a school, schoolmaster’s house, ball court and quartermasters’ accommodation. Subsequently, a corrugated iron hall was added (before 1907) and the Sir John Moore Memorial Hall and Library in 1916.
Perhaps intended as a more permanent successor to the earlier corrugated iron hall to its immediate north, the memorial hall and library was a particularly notable addition to Somerset Barracks. Buildings to provide recreation, as well as physical and mental improvement for the men, were common on barracks from the 1860s onwards. However, this example was intended from the outset to also provide an important commemorative function, celebrating a key figure synonymous with the earliest and most important period of the camp's history. An appeal for subscription was made by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Aylmer Haldane, the camp commander, in the Spectator (24 May 1913). The letter extolled the need for a memorial to Moore, and notes that a library is 'urgently required' at Shorncliffe and that the building should be of 'national and not a purely military character'. The subscription was raised for the construction of both the building and the bronze statue of Moore which stands in front of it (listed Grade II). The designs were published in order to help the campaign (The Times, Wednesday 3 June 1914, p5) and patronage was received from some prestigious figures. The building was designed by Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930), a notable architect of the period, whose work includes the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth (listed Grade II*) and Admiralty Arch, Westminster, London (listed Grade I). The weathervane on top of the building was salvaged by Haldane in 1915 from the church in the village of Zillebeke, near Ypres, Belgium, which was ruined during the intense fighting in the Ypres salient on the Western Front.
During the appeal the building was described as a recreation hall and library, and the architectural drawings identify the small room at the east end of the building as a 'reading room'. The building was completed, notwithstanding the outbreak of war, in 1916, but its official opening was held back until 1923, allowing the accompanying statue of Moore to be completed by the sculptor John Tweed. It is not clear how long the building retained its library function, and it is still referred to as the 'library', however it is now (2013) solely in use as a hall.
Memorial hall and library, 1915-16, by Sir Aston Webb.
MATERIALS: the building is constructed of narrow red bricks laid in English bond, with Portland stone window frames, sills, door surrounds and dressings. The roof is covered in clay tiles, doors are dark-stained timber and windows are steel casements (some galvanised, some not). Interior walls are plastered, or in the case of the entrance lobby, in exposed brick.
PLAN: the building is single storey and has a rectangular plan, orientated east-west. The principal entrance is at the east end of the south elevation, which faces on to a small garden with a statue of Sir John Moore, beyond which is the Sir John Moore Plain; the large open space at the centre of the Shorncliffe Camp.
The east end of the building is occupied by a small entrance lobby and room (marked on original plans as the reading room). The building has a single chimney stack, which would have served the reading room, but the fireplace opening is now blocked. Stairs lead from the lobby to an open gallery above this part of the building. The remainder of the building is occupied by the hall which is open to the roof.
A small extension housing a WC has been added to the east end of the building at some point after 1938.
EXTERIOR: the building has a deep pitched roof with over-hanging sprocketed eaves. At the centre of the ridge is a tapering, square, half-glazed cupola with a square domed roof. It is dressed in lead and is surmounted by an iron weathercock. On each elevation there are low-level vents formed of stacked clay tiles.
The building has six bays, divided by heavy vertical brick buttresses. The main entrance bay on the south elevation, and the west end bays on the north and south elevations, advance beyond the building line and break through the eaves, terminating in a stone-capped parapet, with flat roof behind. The double-leaved main door has a Tudor arch set in a chamfered stone surround. Above is the crest of Sir John Moore carved in deep relief; this has suffered some significant weathering.
The west bays to the north and south, each have a large six-light mullion-and-transomed stained glass window, with a second, two-light, stained glass window on the west-facing cheek of each bay. Elsewhere on these two elevations, each bay has a three-light mullioned window set just below the eaves. On the north elevation, second bay to the east, the three-light window pattern is modified to contain a secondary entrance into the hall. This comprises a half-glazed double door with a Tudor arch, set in a simple stone surround; above are two small over-lights and a larger single light to the right.
The east and west gable-end elevations have bands of tiles laid flat in off-set courses. There is a high-level oculus to the west and two pairs of two-light mullioned windows lighting the former reading room and gallery to the east. The small WC block is executed in materials to match the main building, and is accessed via a door in the former reading room.
INTERIOR: the interior of the hall is dominated by the unusual roof structure, which comprises steel king-post trusses with heavy arch-braced collars; between the trusses are timber rafters with off-set collars. At the west end of the hall is a timber proscenium, the front edge of which has woven timber grilles interspersed with pairs of square, downward-tapering, columns.
The west wall behind the proscenium bears a number of commemorative plaques, many of which have come from the two Catholic Churches at Shorncliffe – one now demolished, and one (a listed building) now in secular use. The proscenium is lit to either side by the large stained glass windows in the west end bays. Each of the 14 lights depicts either the coat of arms of a senior military figure, or the insignia of a particular regiment, associated with Sir John Moore's career.
To the east of the hall, multi-light glazed doors lead into the entrance lobby to the right, and the former reading room to the left. The entrance lobby has a clay tile floor and the arches over the main entrance door, the door leading into the hall, the half-glazed door into the former reading room, and the radiator recess beneath the stair, are all formed of clay tiles laid flat in off-set courses. A glazed screen with double doors forms an outer lobby between the lobby and the main entrance door. A stair with square and turned balusters leads up to the gallery. The former reading room has a wood block floor laid in a herring-bone pattern. The gallery has a timber balustrade with square and turned balusters.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.