Rescue Sidmouth Drill Hall

Update 7th November 2022. After years of wrangling over a legal difficulty Rockfish are finally going ahead as reported in the Sidmouth Herald 

While I do not know what the legal problem was I suspect it had something to do with the strange clause in the sale of the Drill Hall from the Cadet Force to EDDC in 2012. This clause, which can be seen on the Land Registry document here  prohibits EDDC from disposing of the property without the former owners agreement. Heaven only knows why the then EDDC council thought this was a sensible idea!

The planning application has been passed and Rockfish are intending to have the restaurant open in autumn 2020.

THE DRILL HALL (1895) Marketing Period has now finished. Councillors have assessed the bids and chosen Rockfish.

Update, 20th August 2019. I am finally in contact with Grainge Architects who have produced the plans for the Drill Hall renovation, whether anything further will come of it I don’t know.

April 2019 We now have to wait to see what their planning application holds, despite several emails offering my help and experience Mitch Tonks has chosen not to respond to me.

See ‘The Drill Hall for Sale’ page.  Also the subpages in that section.

The link in this paragraph takes you to the original press release, the dates have now been changed so the closing date is Feb 4th 2019,  East Devon District Council press release

All of this site except the pages Drill Hall for sale and Buying the Drill Hall are now background reading along with the information to be found on the Research site.
If you want to know how we got to this stage then you can find out by reading those pages. Especially the pages contained in the section Port Royal thoughts, under Background Reading.

The fact that Community Groups are allowed to put in a bid does not mean the battle is won.
In the first place, they need to create a strong business plan and identify financial backers, which is a huge task!
In the second place, even if they do that successfully EDDC are under no obligation to sell to them. They could even put in a bid which gets EDDC more money than any other option and they could still be turned down because, in EDDC’s view, another option would be better for the town.

When looking at legal documents or heritage documents you may find it useful to refer to the Glossary to find out the specific meaning of word and phrases in these contexts.

The original home page read as below :-

This is the second, or relaunched, campaign aiming to rescue Sidmouth Drill Hall. It is necessary because the first effort diverged into considering wider community interests and it was decided in February 2016 that the directors would no longer work to preserve the building.

Unfortunately the decision was not widely known, and it was December 2016 when it became obvious that the only options were either leaving it to its fate or someone else trying to save the building: the result is this website and the new Drill Hall Rescue Group. I do hope you will go to the righthand side of this page and sign up to be a member, you’ll then receive the newsletters. If you are one of the Friends of Sidmouth Drill Hall you do not need to sign up again. is still maintained by Matt Booth but the 4 remaining directors of what was Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub have changed the name and are no longer connected with the website or attempts to save the hall. They are now called Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub. For the purposes of clarity I must stress that the endeavours of Matt Booth and these four directors are no longer linked.

I am Mary Walden-Till, I trained in Three Dimensional Design at what is now the High Wycombe Campus of Buckinghamshire University and then became a teacher. I have always been interested in buildings and how they affect people’s wellbeing, from the psychological effects of their scale and mass, through historical development, to the problem of ‘sick building syndrome’. For many good reasons I love Sidmouth Drill Hall.

Some of these reasons can be found here,  ‘A special space’ on my Sidmouth Drill Hall Research site, which is the site where I record facts about the Drill Hall. I try to keep my bias to a minimum there but here I will taking the opposite tack, this is where all the intangibles will be explored … in as much as intangibles can be!

One of the reasons I want to rescue Sidmouth Drill Hall is the way the space inside makes me feel. In some part the feeling is of course tied to the experiences I had there, the ceilidhs and concerts of the International Folk Festival in the 1970s and onward, but I believe that the space helped create the success of those events. It is a space of the type we are fast losing to dark, small, low ceilinged public spaces.

I particularly remember the summer of 1976 when the hall was NOT ideal, it seemed the only way to get air into the place was through the front doors and possible the small windows in the toilets. I believe the small round window on the north did not open by that time and if any of the side windows did then I can’t remember it. All I really remember is heat and sweaty bodies, and the music … but we were all young and resilient then and we loved the place.

Apart from 1976 my strongest memory is of the first time I entered the Hall. The bright sun outside ( yes, it was a sunny day during Folk Week! ) gave way to a dark hallway with a blaze of light streaming through another set of double doors in front of me. As I passed through these doors the feeling of containment gave way to one of expansion, rather like entering a church but homely rather than holy. It was a welcoming space, wooden floors, wooden rafters, matchboarded ceiling. Although it was rather utilitarian, once the people were in it was obvious how well it had been designed to hold a crowd. The floors were solid and dependable even when it was packed with people all leaping and landing on the same beat, unlike the floors which were laid in the marquees; which bounced and sprang their nails to catch unwary feet. (Does anyone but me remember Stewards patrolling with hammers to drive them back down? ) And the acoustics were good, it didn’t echo nor did the sound get lost, this was before all music was amplified to a painful level. I and my group of friends practically lived in the Drill Hall for the week every year and it felt like home. It still does.