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Okehampton Camp: Building 82 (formerly Harness Room 1)

A Grade II Listed Building in Okehampton Hamlets, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.7196 / 50°43'10"N

Longitude: -4.0019 / 4°0'6"W

OS Eastings: 258783

OS Northings: 93018

OS Grid: SX587930

Mapcode National: GBR Q2.J3VF

Mapcode Global: FRA 27H5.QRR

Entry Name: Okehampton Camp: Building 82 (formerly Harness Room 1)

Listing Date: 5 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1421995

Location: Okehampton Hamlets, West Devon, Devon, EX20

County: Devon

District: West Devon

Civil Parish: Okehampton Hamlets

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Okehampton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

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Summary

Former No.1 harness store, latterly a target store, at Okehampton Training Camp. Built 1894 by James Julian, War Office contractor; some late-C20 alterations.

Description

Former harness store, latterly a target store, at Okehampton Training Camp. Built 1894 by James Julian, War Office contractor. Some late-C20 alterations.

MATERIALS: constructed from random cut and squared slate stone with brick quoins under a gabled slate roof. The west gable end and rear wall are rendered. The square-headed openings have brick surrounds with lintels of rubbed bricks, and the windows have chamfered granite sills.

PLAN: rectangular on plan and aligned west to east. The interior was originally open plan, although a partition wall has subsequently been inserted.

EXTERIOR: the entrance front (north) has a central entrance with a pair of timber doors, approached by a stone step, and an overlight of five panes. To either side is an eight-pane timber casement set high in the wall. The gable walls each contain two timber windows, three of which appear to have either had their glazing bars replaced or have been re-framed; only the sixteen-pane window in the east elevation appears original. The rear, south-facing elevation has two openings set high in the wall which contain modern uPVC windows.

INTERIOR: the upper parts of the walls are faced with painted fair-face brick and the lower parts are rendered. All the openings have segmental heads internally. The original timber cladding has been removed; a false ceiling has been inserted in the eastern half of the building and a transverse partition wall has also been introduced. The roof consists of Queen post trusses, two rows of purlins and diagonal timber board cladding to the underside of the roof.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the modern partition wall and false ceiling within the building are not of special architectural or historic interest and are not included in the listing.

History

Dartmoor has been used as a defensive location since at least the Bronze Age. There is evidence of Iron Age, Roman, Medieval and Civil War military use in the Okehampton area, indicating the strategic significance of the area as the elevated gateway to the south west of England. Okehampton Training Camp is on the edge of Dartmoor within the C13 Okehampton Deer Park. Medieval settlements were scattered through the park and the remains of one extends across the north-west corner of the camp, and others lie close by.

The modern military use of the moor dates back to the late C18 when it was used to train the Okehampton Militia. By the early C19, soldiers guarding Dartmoor Prison used the moor for training, and troops garrisoned in the Palmerston Forts in South Devon used Dartmoor by the mid-C19. The Militia also continued training, often on Hay Tor, and in large numbers. Later in the C19, due to improvements in the range and power of artillery weapons, the Royal Artillery School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness (est. 1859) became unsuitable for training, and Dartmoor was identified as a suitably barren and uninhabited area to become its summer headquarters. Training became formalised into regular summer manoeuvres for the Royal Artillery from 1873, with the permission of the landowner, the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1876, the first annual training event took place using the north moor, with a tented camp located at Okehampton.

By the early 1890s the War Office and Royal Artillery resolved to build a permanent camp at Okehampton to provide better protection against the harsh weather conditions. On 31st December 1892, the War Office secured a 999 year lease for the site of the camp: 94 acres of land on the Okehampton Park Estate. The first phase of construction included buildings of a number of different types, functions and specifications. The highest standards of design and materials were reserved for the officers’ accommodation and stabling for their horses, the hospital, the dining rooms, a barrack room, sergeants’ mess and quarters, harness rooms and the guard room. The architect was James Julian, a War Office contractor, who used specifications outlined in paragraph 1151 of the Royal Engineers Regulations of 1892. The architectural detailing appears to be Julian’s own design. Construction was completed on 14 June 1894 at a cost of £11,604. Other ancillary buildings, such as troop stables, canteens, stores, magazines and offices were constructed of inferior materials to lower specifications. Temporary buildings were also built and the troops continued to sleep on straw mattresses in tents, laid out on terraces cut into the hillside. Other artillery training camps were set up at Lydd (1882), Golden Hill, Isle of Wight (1888) and Salisbury Plain (1899).

From May to September each year, batteries from across England travelled by rail to Okehampton for two or three weeks training. In 1901 a battery consisted of 5 officers, 166 men, 6 guns and at least 89 horses. The camp could accommodate two brigades each containing four batteries. The initial layout of the camp is shown on a War Office plan of 30 May 1896 (WO 78_3547), surveyed and drawn by F.W. Stanlake. To the north were the ordnance stores, magazines and a gun park (now the parade ground). In the centre of the camp were troop stables, dining rooms and terraced camping grounds. To the south, on the higher slopes, were the officers’ mess and their quarters, and the hospital.
Between 1904 and 1913 further buildings were added including four barrack blocks, improved drying rooms, and a bread and meat store. The North Gate to the camp was in place by 1906. During the interwar period, artillery operations became increasingly mechanised and tractors or jeeps replaced horses as the principal means of deploying field guns. New buildings with better facilities replaced some of the earlier structures. However, horses were still used in some capacity until the Second World War. The outbreak of war saw the increased use of the camp and nearly 30 Nissen huts were built for accommodation; and troop stables were converted to quarter blocks.

The D-Day preparations of 1943/4 led to the replacement of British troops with the American 4th and 29th Divisions, who took part in the Normandy invasion. Subsequently, training took place at Okehampton for the campaigns in Korea (1950-53) and Suez (1956), and it remained the most important field artillery practice camp in the country throughout the C20.

Since the late C20 the Camp has been used extensively by the Territorial Army, Commando Brigades and the Royal Marines, with some buildings having been replaced or converted to other uses. Due to the harsh moorland conditions, most buildings have uPVC window frames and protective render to the sides and rear. Many of the granite window sills on the earliest buildings have also been cement rendered. Most of the roofs have been recovered, and the chimneystacks removed. Other early camp buildings have been removed or otherwise altered in the C20, and a number of infill buildings have been introduced. The road plan of the camp is largely intact.

In 2014 the camp still provides accommodation for up to 720 armed forces personnel.

The former No.1 Harness Room (Building No.82) was one of four harness stores (one demolished) built in 1894 during the first phase of construction at Okehampton Camp. The interior was open plan, and equipped with timber harness racks (removed) which were placed around all four walls with an additional two central rows, one to either side of a tortoise stove. In more recent years the building has undergone some alteration and has served as a target store.

Reasons for Listing

Building 82, formerly No.1 harness room at Okehampton Camp, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: of the three artillery training camps established in the late C19, Okehampton is the only one to survive with a legible group of contemporary buildings of note, of which Building 82 is one;
* Historic interest: the Royal Artillery Training Camp at Okehampton played an important role in the advancement of new military techniques and tactics, and Building 82 reflects the significant role of horses for the army during the late C19 and the early part of the C20;
* Intactness: despite undergoing alterations, it is a well-built structure and the most complete harness room surviving at the camp;
* Group value: it forms an historic group with other late-C19 camp buildings, with which it has a related use and design concept. Together they form a compact pre-mechanised transport artillery training camp;
* Setting: additional and significant interest is provided by the relationship of the camp to Okehampton Range on the Dartmoor Training Area. The range is of high historic significance in itself, and the two sites should not be seen in isolation of each other.


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