History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Rifle Hall

A Grade II Listed Building in Halesworth, Suffolk

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street View
Contributor Photos »

Street View is the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the building. In some locations, Street View may not give a view of the actual building, or may not be available at all. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 52.3402 / 52°20'24"N

Longitude: 1.5 / 1°30'0"E

OS Eastings: 638518

OS Northings: 277109

OS Grid: TM385771

Mapcode National: GBR XNV.81H

Mapcode Global: VHM72.YFCW

Entry Name: Rifle Hall

Listing Date: 11 May 2011

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1400605

Location: Halesworth, Waveney, Suffolk, IP19

County: Suffolk

District: Waveney

Civil Parish: Halesworth

Built-Up Area: Halesworth

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Halesworth St Mary

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich

Find accommodation in
Halesworth

Summary

A community hall, formerly a theatre of 1792, converted into a drill hall in 1862, re-fronted in 1892 by Bottle and Olley and altered in the C20.

Description

MATERIALS
The Rifle Hall is built of orange and red brick. The late C18 phase is laid in Flemish bond; the late-C19 extension to the front is laid in English bond. The gable roof is laid in Welsh slate. The façade has stone dressings.

PLAN
Rectangular with additions to the north and south.

EXTERIOR
The Bottle and Olley façade has stone bands and quoins. At the ground floor is a central entrance door, partly glazed with geometric designs to the lower panels and approached by three stone steps. Above the door is a skylight, with a shallow-arched head under a flat stone canopy with a frieze and cornice supported on consoles. On either side are windows of three lights with stone transoms and shallow-arched heads. Above is a large, five-light window with leaded lights and glazing bars, stone transoms and a shallow-arched head. A stone cartouche is in the gable apex, carved with the dates 1862 and 1892 and surrounded by simple swag and scroll details. The rear elevation is plain, but has a corresponding five-light window with stone transoms, lighting the hall. The north elevation has one late-C19, two-light window with stone details; all other openings are C20 insertions. A chimney stack lies to the rear. The south elevation is largely obscured by later extensions; one buttress is exposed and the fenestration and openings are C20 in date. The roof has catslides over the rear extensions to the north and south and has a centrally-placed metal cupola. There are C20, flat-roofed, single-storey extensions to the south elevation and one small extension to the north.

The forecourt is enclosed by a low brick wall.

INTERIOR
The hall has no remaining features pertaining to its use as a C18 theatre or a mid-C19 drill hall. Openings have been inserted into the north and south walls to access later extensions. In the late-C19 extension to the front, there is a first floor gallery (which has been enclosed) overlooking the main hall. The walls have plank panelling, decorated with linear and geometric motifs. This same panelling extends along the lower portion of the roof and serves as a back-drop for the substantial timber, hammer-beam roof structure of 1862, which is obscured by the hall's false ceiling. Some late-C19 doors with geometric designs and joinery remains.

HISTORY
The Rifle Hall in Halesworth was built as a theatre in 1792 by Joseph Hounslow from Bedford, the actor-manager of a touring company. Between 1812 and 1844, the theatre was run by David Fisher, described as a 'comedian from Swaffham', who owned a peripatetic company touring a circuit of theatres in East Anglia including the Fisher Theatre in Bungay. The repertoire took 2 years to tour the region with Halesworth having an Autumn season lasting about 10 weeks every other year; the company was successful with links to the London stage. In 1844, the theatre was put up for auction; in the sales particulars it was described as a spacious brick-built and tiled building of about 66 ft by 40ft with boxes, stage, gallery, dressing rooms and fittings. Its use is uncertain between 1844 and 1862 after which it was used as a volunteer infantry drill hall for the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. The Commanding Officer of the volunteers, Andrew Johnston, had recently died and the late Captain¿s family converted the theatre into a drill hall, renaming it the Rifle Hall in memoriam and presenting it to the town. The building was remodelled at this time when the roof structure was replaced, the existing west window was inserted and an entrance façade with a gabled porch was constructed. The rear outshot at the north elevation may date to this time. In 1892, the building was extended and re-fronted to the design of Bottle and Olley at a cost of £689. The new entrance hall had a gallery and rooms over it. It is possible that the side extensions to the rear, under catslide roofs, were added at this time.

The Rifle Hall was used for drill practice until 1930, after which it was in use as a public hall and has remained so to this day. Further extensions have been added to the south and north elevations.

History

The Rifle Hall in Halesworth was built as a theatre in 1792 by Joseph Hounslow from Bedford, the actor-manager of a touring company. Between 1812 and 1844, the theatre was run by David Fisher, described as a 'comedian from Swaffham', who owned a peripatetic company touring a circuit of theatres in East Anglia including the Fisher Theatre in Bungay. The repertoire took 2 years to tour the region with Halesworth having an Autumn season lasting about 10 weeks every other year; the company was successful with links to the London stage. In 1844, the theatre was put up for auction; in the sales particulars it was described as a spacious brick-built and tiled building of about 66 ft by 40ft with boxes, stage, gallery, dressing rooms and fittings. Its use is uncertain between 1844 and 1862, after which it was used as a volunteer infantry drill hall for the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. The Commanding Officer of the volunteers, Andrew Johnston, had recently died and the late Captain's family converted the theatre into a drill hall, renaming it the Rifle Hall in memoriam and presenting it to the town. The building was remodelled at this time when the roof structure was replaced, the existing west window was inserted and an entrance façade with a gabled porch was constructed. The rear outshot at the north elevation may date to this time. In 1892, the building was extended and re-fronted to the design of Bottle and Olley at a cost of £689. The new entrance hall had a gallery and rooms over it. It is possible that the side extensions to the rear, under catslide roofs, were added at this time.

The Rifle Hall was used for drill practice until 1930, after which it was in use as a public hall and has remained so to this day. Further extensions have been added to the south and north elevations; the original side walls have been punched through to provide access to the extensions. The late-C19 viewing balcony for the drill hall remains, but both that and the roof structure have been covered over.

The Rifle Hall is considered to make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Halesworth Conservation Area. In the character appraisal published by Waveney District Council, the building is described as having 'special national historic interest and local architectural interest'.

Reasons for Listing

The Rifle Hall, London Road, Halesworth, a theatre of 1792 and drill hall of 1862 is recommended for designation for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural Interest: It has a well-executed façade by noted architects, Bottle and Olley, with confident detailing in stone.
* Historic Interest: It retains much of the exterior, historic fabric of the Halesworth Theatre, constructed in 1792, which formed part of the David Fisher theatre circuit until 1844.
* Rarity: Surviving drill halls are rare, with only 39 being designated nationally.
* Interiors: The interior possesses a good hammer beam roof of 1862 and the drill hall gallery and some fixtures and fittings of 1892.
* Group Value: It has group value with the adjacent listed building.

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.