When considering how to return the Drill Hall to community use we have to get both the interior and exterior design right.
The exterior design has to withstand the seafront conditions with the abrasive actions of wind and the storm flung pebbles. As we do not have a great deal of sand we don’t have to worry too much about the wear created by natural sand-blasting. These factors would have been in the forefront of James Jerman’s mind when he designed the original building and it withstood the first 40 years very well. In 1931 the building’s appearance was simplified and it is only lack of maintenance which has resulted in its current sorry state. Photos of the early Drill Hall.
The only storm damage mentioned in the Sidmouth papers were two instances of minor glass breakage and once instance of the front doors being burst open and water entering. Considering that this period included the ‘Great Gale’ of late 1924/early 1925 his design was shown to be sound. The glass he used was either in relatively small panes or curved as are many windows on Sidmouth Esplanade. The use of curved glass gives greater strength and resilience to the panes and they are better able to absorb blows without breakage.
Therefore we would be wise to follow a proven design.
The same applies to the interior design. The town wanted a space which could host a variety of activities so the lighting, flooring, acoustics, and in later years heating and toilet facilities, had to be arranged accordingly.
Jerman’s interior design has remained practically unchanged up to the present day. There have been changes to the windows on the east, minor changes in the use of the small rooms and the addition of a toilet block; but photos show that even some of the original interior glazing has survived. If the design has worked for over 121 years there is not much wrong with it.
What is needed is an injection of capital to get the fabric of the building repaired and get modern conveniences, such as adequate heating/cooling and disabled facilities, installed.
But of course the EDDC owns the building. They worked for many years to get hold of it because they saw fact of the Territorial Army owning the Drill Hall as a potential block to redeveloping the area. After all this effort it will not be easy to persuade them that the Drill Hall should be handed to Sidmouth to run as a community resource, and we can’t fund-raise to revitalise a building we do not own.
I hope that the designs I produce will show both public and councillors that there is a great deal of potential in the Hall for a fairly small outlay. I want people to see that a large part of the work can be done by volunteers who have DIY skills supervised by a few with professional skills.
The original building design would have complied with current disability legislation as it is intended for easy access, the main doors are double and the ground floor rooms are on the same level. The toilets will need upgrading and so it will be easy to include disabled facilities at that stage. The basement can be accessed at ground level at the rear of the Hall which leaves only the one room upstairs which might be challenging for those with restricted mobility. It is not possible to assess that situation as EDDC have refused access to a surveyor but from the plans it looks as though the stairs could be relatively wide and shallow.
The sub-pages in this section show various design drawings but they are only approximate based on incomplete information. I hope to persuade EDDC to allow access to the building soon.