A Future for the Drill Hall

 cropped-exterior-view_01-s1.jpgInterior_front view_02 s

All images (c) Alex Vick

Please also visit the Gallery and the new Drill Hall research website created by local historian Mary Walden-Till that is looking at the history of the building. Mary is working with a local architect on designs for the building and immediate area. These plans will be published here and on Mary’s website soon.

We would like to make the following position clear about the future of Sidmouth Drill Hall:

We support the regeneration of the whole of the Port Royal area and the east end of Sidmouth seafront, including the Drill Hall. We would like, as much as anyone, to see an innovative, inclusive, and inspiring regeneration of the whole area that would be a landmark for Sidmouth and that would greatly improve the offer to residents and visitors alike. We acknowledge that to achieve that it might require a complete rethink and reconstruction of all buildings in the area including the Lifeboat, Port Royal Club, public toilets, the fishermen’s sheds, and Sidmouth Drill Hall.

The Drill Hall was closed and boarded up in 1994. Twenty years on at February 2015 no plan of any kind has yet been presented by East Devon District Council for regeneration of the building or the area. It is very likely that no plan will be presented for a further 20 or more years and it will remain boarded up and the east end of the town remain under used and neglected.

We believe that the people of Sidmouth now have a right to a long term lease on the building and the opportunity to regenerate the building for public use. It serves noone to continue to leave the Drill Hall boarded up and unused indefinitely. A lease might be for 20 years. The building will most likely remain untouched for another 20 years. In that time something could be done to bring it back to life that might inspire new people and the right developers to look to work with the people of Sidmouth to regenerate the whole area.

What we will never support is the wanton destruction of any part of the Port Royal area to create apartments, a chain hotel, or similar that will make large profits for one company, and serve only to benefit a few.

What we will also not support is the destruction of any part of the area without an alternative plan, that has been approved by the community, already in place. 

We believe that by renovating the existing Drill Hall we will create a situation whereby we populate the eastern end of Sidmouth seafront, generate new economy in the area, and inspire a vision for a sustainable future for the area that benefits everyone.

Our Vision for Sidmouth Drill Hall

In August 2013 we presented a draft business plan to East Devon District Council that outlined how the Drill Hall might be renovated and turned into both a social enterprise – community development and outreach work available to all residents and visitors – and a commercial venture – eating place, bar, community venue.

The draft plan focussed on the provision by East Devon District Council to the CIC of a peppercorn rent for a fixed period so that we might seek the investment required to create the initial stage of redevelopment of the building in order to open the building and begin trading.

Such investment would be at such a level as to manage the future of the building within the overall redevelopment of the area. By this we mean that any redevelopment of the Drill Hall would be funded in stages so as to mitigate any potential losses due to any agreed wider redevelopment of Port Royal. Operation of the building would aim to run at a profit within 3 to 5 years.

The proposal was declined by East Devon District Council who saw, for example, that a deal could be made with a national hotel chain such as Premier Inn to create a hotel presence in the eastern end of Sidmouth sea front around which exclusive apartments could be built.

The plan is based on two stages of redevelopment.

Stage 1 would carry out initial repairs, install a kitchen, bar and furniture, and would open the building for trading as a cafe and eating place, a venue, museum, boat and water sports centre, and a community centre that would promote the fishing heritage of Sidmouth. It would be offered up for use by community groups, for functions, and for organisations outside Sidmouth to hire. It would act as an adaptable performance venue with a stage being movable to all points of the building to accommodate different appropriate types of music, theatre and other performance.

The basement would be converted as both storage for the Gig longboats and as an exhibition on the coastal and fishing history of Sidmouth, plus the history of the Drill Hall itself and, for example, of Sidmouth’s involvement in both world wars.

Stage 2 would improve the construction of the building either with the installation of a glass frontage, or working to restore the building back as much as possible to how it was originally when it was built in 1895. We would improve the interior of the building, and create an improved connection to the fishermen’s yard and fishermen’s sheds at the rear.

To receive a copy of the plans, including budgets, please register as a Friend of Sidmouth Drill Hall and get in touch.

Redevelopment Initial Stages

Drawings (c) Alex Vick.

Architect’s vision of the initial stages of regeneration of the Drill Hall.

Arcitect's vision for initial stage of regeneration (exterior) (c) Alex Vick 2013

Arcitect’s vision for initial stage of regeneration (exterior) (c) Alex Vick 2013

Architect's vision of initial stage of regeneration of the Drill Hall (interior) (c) Alex Vick

Architect’s vision of initial stage of regeneration of the Drill Hall (interior) (c) Alex Vick


The vision for regenerating the Drill Hall is now focused with a number of partners on 6 main areas:

• Community and Social Enterprise

• Heritage, Creativity & the Arts

• Education

• Catering – café/restuarant (casual eating place) & bar locally sourced

• Maritime & fisheries

• Employment, Apprenticeships & Training

Regeneration of Port Royal and Eastern Town

We are working with an architect towards developing a wider vision for Port Royal and Eastern Town beyond redevelopment of Sidmouth Drill Hall. This includes consideration of the future of the toilet block to the east side of the Drill Hall and considered use of the whole of the turning circle area. This could include; a cycle hire space, where the toilet block currently is, to encourage cycling from Port Royal around Sidmouth and up the Byes to Sidford; pedestrianising the area from Ham Lane across the turning circle to create a wider area for tables outside of the Drill Hall linked to the Sailing Club and cycle hire; a community garden area at the back of the Drill Hall by the Fishermen’s Yard to include growing food for the Drill Hall kitchen (herbs, salad); and a consideration of the whole of the Port Royal with the Sailing Club, Gig Club and Lifeboat.

Current Exterior of the Drill Hall

Current Exterior of the Drill Hall

Architect's vision phase 2 Drill Hall Interior (c) Alex Vick

Architect’s vision phase 2 Drill Hall Interior (c) Alex Vick

Architect's vision phase 2 Drill Hall exterior front (c) Alex Vick


Please Note: At February 2016 we will be concentrating on supporting the Sidmouth Town Council ‘Neighbourhood Plan’. To that end we will contribute all findings from our work on the Drill Hall campaign to date, including outcomes from the Sidmouth Sea Fest event and the EU TourFish project, to the Neighbourhood Plan Chair and Steering Group but will not look to focus attention on the restoration of the Drill Hall being paramount within the Neighbourhood Plan. While we maintain the best route to full, ground up and inclusive regeneration of the Port Royal area for the long-term is best approached via restoration and opening of the Drill Hall as a focal hub of activity for the town that will draw full engagement into the process of regeneration of the area, we believe the Neighbourhood Plan is the best opportunity that Sidmouth has perhaps ever had to take control of its own destiny and shape a positive future for all and it is important that everyone from all groups gets fully behind that process.

We are looking for;

HELP! – friends, patrons, board members, administrators, campaigners, and potentially trustees, plus willing builders, plumbers, electricians etc.

Please become a Friend of Sidmouth Drill Hall and contact us if you think you might be able to help.

The Localism Act requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act then gives community groups the time to develop a bid and raise the money to bid to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life

Final Stage

All drawings by architectural designer Alex Vick of Sidmouth (c) 2013

Exterior view_02 Exterior view_01

Architect's Drawing of a Renovated Drill Hall Interior (c) Alex Vick

Architect’s Drawing of a Renovated Drill Hall Interior (c) Alex Vick

Architect's Drawing of a Renovated Drill Hall Interior (c) Alex Vick

Architect’s Drawing of a Renovated Drill Hall Interior (c) Alex Vick

3 thoughts on “A Future for the Drill Hall

  1. This renovation is very attractive and would make a very good use of this building. Why knock it down when its interesting interior can be opened up in this way?

  2. Its always struck me as a waste of a decent buiding ,and something of an eye sore….Why ,collectively, have we allowed it to happen. Given its position it could be Quite special. I see it ,in my dreams,as a centre point to an extension off the Ham,a spot with a bandstand.childrens area ,picnics…whoops! showing my age

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