Geilston Hall was built in 1889-90 by Honeyman and Keppie as a drill hall for the local rifle volunteers. The pale sandstone hall is set back from the road and is in a Collegiate Tudor style. There is a two-storey administration block at the west end incorporating a square tower with a crenellated parapet. The former instructor's accommodation is on the upper level, and is accessed by a stone forestair to the rear.
The single-storey hall has two gabled porches, each with a roll-moulded Tudor-arched doorpiece. Above each door is a cast stone plaques with the inscriptions 'The Geilston Hall' (to the west door) and 'Erected 1889 in memoriam J.T.G' (to the east door). There are three buttresses between the porches and arrow-slit air vents equally spaced between them. There are tripartite window openings with stone mullions and transoms, while the upper stage of the tower has round-headed timber window frames. The roof is of grey slate with roof lights along the ridge and there is a chamfered chimney stack with clay cans on the west side of the tower. A smaller (pre-1950) hall addition adjoins the building at the northeast corner.
The interior, seen in 2016, largely retains its 19th century character with timber panelled doors throughout. The top-lit hall roof structure has arch-braced timber trusses on stone corbels. There is a timber platform to the west end, grooved timber panelling to the walls and some ornamental ironwork detail. The south wall has three timber vents, where the wooden framing has been carved to mirror the shape of the stone corbels. The fireplace within the tower has a carved timber surround. The former armoury room on the ground floor to the north of the tower has a heavy door with a large metal lock and key. The smaller hall adjoining to the rear has a metal, A-frame roof structure. The former instructor's dwelling on the first floor level was not seen (2016).
Statement of Special Interest
Geilston Hall is an early design by the well-regarded Glasgow architectural practice, Honeyman and Keppie, in a distinctive Collegiate-Tudor influenced style, which is relatively uncommon for drill halls. It has a prominent presence to the west of Cardross, on the main road through the village. The east-west orientation and traditional village hall setting (parallel to the road and set back behind a large open grassed area) is unusual for a drill hall. The principal elevations and interior hall and administrative spaces do not appear to have been significantly altered and much of its late 19th century exterior and interior design survives.
Geilston Hall was built as the base for the 7th Dunbartonshire (Cardross) Rifle Volunteers, partly in memory of Major Joseph Tucker Geils who was their commanding officer from 1860 until his death in 1871. An earlier wooden drill hall was built on the site in 1863–4, under the patronage of Major Geils, but was destroyed by fire on 7 March 1889. The newly formed Glasgow architectural practice of Honeyman & Keppie were immediately employed by the Geils family to replace it with a stone building. Major Geils, lived at Geilston House (see separate listing) which is located around 200 metres to the north of the hall.
An article in the Helensburgh and Garelochhead Times of 7 August 1889 reported that the commemorative stone of the new Drill Hall in Cardross was laid by Miss Catherine Geils on the 30 July 1889. The article also notes that the building was 'now sufficiently advanced to show that the design by Messrs. Honeyman & Keppie is a very beautiful one . A temporary platform was erected on a level with the lintel of the principal door for the laying of the commemorative stone and information relating to the history of the hall and commemorating the life of Major Geils were placed inside the stone.
Geilston Hall is shown on both the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1897) and 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1914) without the later hall addition to the rear. This addition is visible on the Ordnance Survey Air Photo Mosaics, which were flown 1944-1950. Geilston Hall was a popular venue for local meetings, shows, dinners and other uses and continues to be used by various local clubs and organisations (2016).
John Honeyman was a founder member of the 1st Dunbartonshire (Helensburgh) Artillery so the commission for Geilston Hall may have originated through this connection. Geilston Hall has also been linked with the internationally significant Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh as it was built during the first year of Mackintosh s employment with Honeyman & Keppie. The stylised lettering in the plaques above the doors, particularly the double-bar on the H, hint at Mackintosh's personal font style, but there is currently no clear documentary evidence, such as signed architectural drawings, to indicate conclusively that he contributed to the design of the hall. Mackintosh's sketch book does however contain a drawing of the Coplaw Street Drill Hall in Glasgow designed in 1884 by John Bennie Wilson, which also has a crenellated tower and some similar architectural details to the Geilston Hall (Macaulay, p.82). Between 1901 and 1914 the same practice carried out a number of minor alterations and refurbishments to Geilston Hall.
In the late 1850s there was concern in the British Government about the Army's ability to defend both the home nation as well as the Empire. Britain's military defences were stretched and resources to defend Britain needed to be found. One solution was to create 'Volunteer Forces', a reserve of men who volunteered for part-time military training similar to that of the regular army and who could therefore help to defend Britain if the need arose.
In 1859 the Rifle Volunteer Corps was formed and the Volunteer Act of 1863 provided more regulation on how the volunteer forces were run and it set out the standards for drills and a requirement for annual inspections. Most purpose-built drill halls constructed at this time were paid for by a major local landowner, the subscriptions of volunteers, local fundraising efforts or a combination of all three. The Regulations of the Forces Act 1871 (known as the Cardwell Reforms after the Secretary of State for War, Edward Cardwell) gave forces the legal right to acquire land to build a drill hall and more purpose-built drill halls began to be constructed after this date. The largest period of drill hall construction, aided by government grants, took place between 1880 and 1910. The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (known as the Haldane Reforms after the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane) came into force in 1908 and the various Volunteer Units were consolidated to form the Territorial Force. The construction of drill halls largely ceased during the First World War and in 1920 the Territorial Force became the Territorial Army.
In the 20th century changes in warfare and weaponry made many of the earlier drill halls redundant and subject to demolition or change to a new use. Around 344 drill halls are understood to have been built in Scotland of which 182 are thought to survive today, although few remain in their original use. Unusually for a nationwide building programme, drill halls were not standardised and were often designed by local architects in a variety of styles. Drill halls are an important part of our social and military history. They tell us much about the development of warfare and the history of defending our country and they also have a part to play in the history of our communities. Funds for the construction of drill halls usually came from the patronage of local land or business owners or from the subscriptions of the volunteers and local fundraising efforts, and this was the case at Cardross, as noted above.
The requirements for drill halls were basic – a large covered open space to train and drill as well as a place for the secure storage of weapons. The vast majority of drill halls were modest utilitarian structures. Most drill halls conformed to the pattern of an administrative block containing offices and the armoury to store weapons along with a caretaker or drill instructors accommodation, usually facing the street. To the rear would be the drill hall itself. Occasionally more extensive accommodation was required, such as for battalion headquarters where interior rifle ranges, libraries, billiards rooms, lecture theatres and bars could all be included.
Category changed from C to B, statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016 as part of the Drill Halls Listing Review 2015-16. Previously listed as 'Cardross, Main Road, Geilston Hall'.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID: 197606
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1860, published 1865) Dumbarton Sheet XVII.15 (Cardross), 25 Inches to the Mile. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (Revised 1897, published 1898) Dumbartonshire n017.15 (includes: Cardross), 25 Inches to the Mile. 2nd Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (Revised 1914, published 1918) Dumbartonshire n017.12 (includes: Cardross), 25 Inches to the Mile. 3rd Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey Air Photo Mosaics of Scotland (surveyed, 1944-1950) NS 37 N.W. (Dumbartonshire), London: Ordnance Survey.
Helensburgh and Garelochhead Times (7 August 1889).
Historic Environment Scotland (2016) Scotland s Drill Halls Preliminary Report. Unpublished.
Jones, A. F. (1981), Cardross - The Village in Days Gone By. Dumbarton: Dumbarton District Libraries. p.80.
Macaulay, J. (2010) Charles Rennie Mackintosh. New York: W. W. Norton. pp. 82–3.
Walker, F. A. (2000) The Buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p.167.
Walker, F. A. and Sinclair, F. (1992) North Clyde Estuary. Edinburgh: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. p.60.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects -
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/building_full.php?id=207676 [accessed 11/03/2016].
Historic Scotland/Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (2013) World War One Audit Project at http://canmore.org.uk/event/965766 [accessed 23/03/2016].
Mackintosh Architecture (Glasgow University) at
http://www.mackintosh-architecture.gla.ac.uk/catalogue [accessed 11/03/2016].
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