The barracks


Victoria County History



P.M. Tillott (editor)

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'The barracks', A History of the County of York: the City of York (1961), pp. 541-542. URL: Date accessed: 27 November 2014.


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Military quarters are thought to have been established on the site of the later barracks as early as 1720. (fn. 1) The cavalry barracks were built as part of the barrack-building programme launched by William Pitt in 1792; (fn. 2) land in Fulford Field was purchased in 1793 (fn. 3) at a cost of 100 guineas an acre (fn. 4) and the buildings erected in 1795 and 1796. (fn. 5) Three troops of the Ancient British Fencibles had already moved in by October 1795. (fn. 6) The buildings were designed by the official barrack architects, James Johnson and John Sanders, (fn. 7) and the total cost was about £25,000. (fn. 8) The 19-acre site included a barrack nursery garden of 7 acres, probably originally intended as a cavalry drill ground. (fn. 9)

The establishment of the barracks was 232 men in 1796, (fn. 10) and 264 in 1849. (fn. 11) During the year 1 April 1846 to 31 March 1847 the barracks were in fact garrisoned by 10 officers and 210 men of the 5th Dragoon Guards; from 9 April to 25 May 1846 2 officers and 60 men of the 69th Regiment were also in residence. (fn. 12)

Drainage improvements were carried out in 1852 and 1853, and a gas main laid in 1854; (fn. 13) and by 1853 the scale of accommodation had been increased to 18 officers and 276 other ranks. (fn. 14) Considerable additions were made to the barrack buildings in 1861-5 and the area of the site was increased to about 20 acres by the inclusion and development of the barrack nursery. (fn. 15) In 1854 a new military hospital was built on the opposite (west) side of Fulford Road to replace the first which had stood in the corner of the barrack site and had housed only 24 patients in 1853; the old building was demolished in 1862. (fn. 16) The new hospital was enlarged in 1878, and in 1893 it accommodated over 100 patients and 20 men of the Army Hospital Corps. (fn. 17) It could accommodate 120 patients in 1906. (fn. 18) A church was built on the barrack site in 1867, and a prison in 1884; the prison accommodation was supplemented in 1900 when York castle was used for military prisoners. (fn. 19) A small prison was still maintained at the barracks in 1906. (fn. 20) By 1890, cavalry drill was carried out on a field behind the adjacent infantry barracks. (fn. 21)

The result of these changes was a greatly increased establishment. The regulation number of men was 308 in 1861; (fn. 22) by 1884 there was accommodation for 30 officers, 510 other ranks, and 46 married soldiers. (fn. 23) The site had not been enlarged by 1921, but further building had taken place and the barracks then accommodated 25 officers, 564 other ranks, and 31 married soldiers. (fn. 24) Actual strength may frequently have exceeded establishment: in 1909 24 officers and 705 other ranks were in residence. (fn. 25)

With the exception of two short periods in 1859 and 1886, the barracks were continuously occupied from 1859 to 1893. During that time 8 Hussar, 7 Dragoon, and 4 Lancer regiments had been garrisoned there. (fn. 26) The barracks continued to be occupied by cavalry units, with horses, until 1939, the last occupants being the 15/19th Hussars. In January 1939 a farewell parade to the horses was held and the regiment was equipped with armoured cars. From 1939 to 1945 the barracks were used by a succession of war-time units, and since the war they have housed units of, for example, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Army Service Corps. (fn. 27)

In 1855 the depot of the 2nd West York Light Infantry was situated in Lowther Street, on the north side of the city; the depot companies were then billeted in the city. (fn. 28) By 1876 a site of about 35 acres on the south side of the cavalry barracks had been acquired by the War Department, (fn. 29) and infantry barracks were built between 1877 and 1880. Designs for the buildings were furnished by the War Department; (fn. 30) the site had cost over £22,000 and building costs totalled about £150,000. (fn. 31) Equipment and staff quarters were moved to the new barracks from the Lowther Street depot in December 1880. (fn. 32)

The barracks accommodated 55 officers, 1,058 other ranks, and 99 married soldiers in 1884, (fn. 33) and 49 officers, 1,123 other ranks, and 98 married soldiers in 1908. (fn. 34) These numbers were unequally divided between an infantry battalion stationed in the area, and occupying the south side of the barracks, and the depot of the 14th Regimental District of the West Yorkshire Regiment, occupying the north side. (fn. 35) The barracks were continuously occupied between 1880 and 1893: during that period the battalion quarters were occupied by units of 12 different regiments. (fn. 36)

With the amalgamation of the West Yorkshire and East Yorkshire Regiments, Imphal Barracks, as they were named in 1951 in commemoration of exploits in Burma, (fn. 37) were in 1958 closed as the depot of the West Yorkshire Regiment; their future use was uncertain. (fn. 38)

An expansion of military property followed the removal of the Headquarters of the North-Eastern Military District from Manchester to York in 1878; York became the Headquarters of Northern Command in 1905. (fn. 39) A headquarters office-block was built and opened in Fishergate by October 1878. (fn. 40) In 1882 Bootham House was purchased for £5,000 and, as 'Government House', became the residence of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief. (fn. 41) It was vacated in 1936 when Claxton Hall, about 8 miles north of York, became the new residence. (fn. 42)

Many existing buildings were taken over, among them Fishergate House for the Ordnance Survey Department. In 1890 workshops were completed between the military hospital and the Ouse for the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and a wharf was constructed on the river bank. Subsequent additions have been a barrack block near the hospital for the Royal Army Mechanical Corps in 1924, and a temporary hutted camp between the barracks and Walmgate Stray during the Second World War. (fn. 43)

Extensive married quarters have been provided since 46 such quarters were built in 1861 during the additions to the cavalry barracks and 90 were built at the infantry barracks in 1877-80. Between 1892 and 1895 3 blocks of flats were built, and a third was added in 1903. Four blocks of married quarters, known as Hospital Fields, were built near the hospital in 1924; 11 blocks of 4 houses each, known as Moorland Fields, were erected on the south side of the infantry barracks in 1938; and semi-detached houses, known as Broadway Grove, were built in 1954. (fn. 44)

Several Territorial Army units have premises in the city. Among them are Lumley Barracks, opened in Burton Stone Lane in 1911; the architect was W. H. Brierley. (fn. 45) There are drill halls in Colliergate (opened in 1872), (fn. 46) and Tower Street (opened in 1885). (fn. 47)


1 C. Caine, Martial Annals City of York, 255.
2 G. Heelis, 'The Army and a City', thesis for Royal Institute British Architects (1956), copy in York Pub. Libr.
3 York Herald, 7 Sept. 1793.
4 Yorks. Herald, 10 Mar. 1906.
5 Caine, Martial Annals, 257.
6 Yorks. Herald, 3 Oct. 1795.
7 Heelis, 'Army and City', 2, 5; W.O. 49/245.
8 Caine, Martial Annals, 257; by Dec. 1795, £12,000 had been paid, £10,000 was due, and a further £2,453 was needed to complete the work according to the surveyor's estimates: An Acct. of all Sums of Money Issued by the Barrack Master General, &c. H.C. 824 (1), (1795-6), xli.
9 Heelis, 'Army and City', 4.
10 An Acct. of the No. of Infantry or Cavalry for which the Barracks are to be provided, H.C. 826 (4), (1795-6), xli.
11 1st Rep. Sel. Cttee. Army and Ordnance Expenditure, H.C. 277, p. 849 (1849), ix.
12 Barrack Damages, H.C. 553, p. 495 (1847-8), xli.
13 Heelis, 'Army and City', 5; W.O. 44/569.
14 Heelis, 'Army and City', 6.
15 Ibid. 15; W.O. 78/4532.
16 Heelis, 'Army and City', 4, 6, 15.
17 Caine, Martial Annals, 266.
18 Yorks. Herald, 10 Mar. 1906.
19 Heelis, 'Army and City', 15-16; see p. 528.
20 Yorks. Herald, 10 Mar. 1906.
21 W.O. 44/558.
22 Gen. Rep. Com. for Improving Sanitary Conditions in Barracks and Hospitals [2839], p. 213, H.C. (1861), xvi.
23 W.O. 78/3267, 3387.
24 Ibid. 4532.
25 Yorks. Gaz. 19 June 1909.
26 Caine, Martial Annals, 257-8.
27 Ex inf. P.R.O., H.Q. Northern Command.
28 W.O. 44/572.
29 Heelis, 'Army and City', 17.
30 Yorks. Gaz. 28 Feb. 1880.
31 Yorks. Herald, 10 Mar. 1906; Caine, Martial Annals, 262.
32 Yorks. Herald, 10 Mar. 1906.
33 W.O. 78/3267, 3387, 3743.
34 Ibid. 3743.
35 Ibid. 3267, 3387, 3743; Heelis, 'Army and City', 17.
36 Caine, Martial Annals, 263-4.
37 Yorks. Eve. Press, 7 July 1951.
38 Ibid. 13 Jan. 1958.
39 J. B. Morrell and A. G. Watson, Whitehall at York, 74-75.
40 Caine, Martial Annals, 256.
41 W.O. 78/3040.
42 Heelis, 'Army and City', 19.
43 Ibid. 20-23.
44 Ibid. 18, 25-29.
45 Yorks. Herald, 14 Nov. 1911.
46 Kelly's Dir. N. and E.R. and York (1913), 13.
47 Ibid. (1889), 11.