Webpage created: February 09, 2016
Webpage updated: June 12, 2019
DESCRIPTION IN 1897
Another excellent description of the new Royal Naval Barracks appeared in "The Navy and Army Illustrated" on August 6th 1897.
At that time there were two main blocks, each containing four barrack rooms. The officers' quarters, wash-house, cook-house, canteens, drill shed and administrative offices were all in separate buildings. Captain Charles Johnstone, who had been appointed the officer in command in May 1896, had his own residence and at the entrance to the Barracks was the guard-house and clock tower, which was surmounted by the inevitable semaphore.
Each of the eight barrack-rooms could accommodate hammocks for 125 men. In fact upwards of 1,500 men could be messed as a large number of the men always slept outside the Barracks, often at home. Each room was laid out as far as possible like a ship's mess deck while each Block had a lofty and spacious basement in which the lavatories were located and storage provided for hammocks and baggage: sometimes they were even used for drill when the drill -shed was in use for other purposes.
A warrant-officer was in charge of each barrack-room had a room of his own and there was accommodation for chief petty officers.
The Drill Shed was a very fine building with an asphalt floor and a flight of steps on one side leading to the parade ground.
Adjoining the canteen was a large room fitted out with small round tables and stools, where the men could sit to discuss their beer or the affairs of the nation. Smoking concerts and sing-songs were held there frequently. The canteen itself, where the seaman could obtain anything from a glass of beer to a bootlace, was only open at specific times. A recent innovation was to use the skittle-alley, which was not much in demand, as a coffee canteen and so successful was had this been that a separate building was now under construction for that purpose. Recreation-rooms were also provided, including tables for billiards and an American bowling alley.
In the wash-house were boilers, washing troughs, a mangle and a centrifugal wringer, which the men were allowed to access at all hours in order to avoid overcrowding. All the buildings were heated by either stoves or fireplaces.
Outside the main buildings was the Battery, which had recently been moved by means of rails to make room for the Dockyard extension. This contained one 9.2 inch 22-ton breech-loading gun; two 6-inch, one 5-inch and one 4-inch breech-loading guns on different mountings; one 4-inch quick-firing gun; one 9-inch muzzle-loading gun; a 9-pounder field gun; a 6-pounder Hotchkiss gun; and two Nordenfelt guns.
A new cricket pitch was in the process of being laid out in addition to the officers' tennis lawns and five tennis courts for the men. The cricket area was utilised during the summer of 1897 as a playground for some 500 youngsters at a party organised by the Captain and his wife, with swings being erected for the occasion.
There were two horses kept in the Stable Block, one, named "Tom", being the charger of Colonel Ducat, which was to be used only on light work.
Supporting Captain Johnstone were Commander Charles W Winnginton-Ingram, who was in charge of executive duties, and Commander R B Colmore, who was superintendent of drafting, along with five Lieutenants, a staff-commander, and no fewer than three Paymasters, one of whom was engaged solely in looking after the victualling and clothing department. The barrack master was a Chief Boatswain and there were five other warrant officers and a full staff of instructors.
The training of homing pigeons was started by the previous commanding officer but this had been discontinued by August 1897 and the pigeons transferred to Mount Wise. However, the cotes remained in place and some pigeons still returned there despite the discouragement of no food being provided for them.