Gloucester Rd drill hall - North Laine History

North Laine History
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The Gloucester Rd drill hall

What is now a block of recently built apartments was once home to the Brighton Corps of the Sussex Artillery, who moved into the building in 1869.The site had been an iron foundry owned in the late 1860s by Charles and John Reed (who at various times owned the foundry in North Road).

The site was acquired by Chalres Hannington in his role as Commanding Officer of the Sussex Volunteer Artillery and converted for use by the volunteers who had been founded in 1859 following the threat of war with France. The building was refurbished to include an officers' mess, rest rooms for the different ranks and a main and a smaller hall. The site remained home to the Artillery Volunteers until following the creation of the Territorial Army at the beginning of the c20th it became home to the 1st Sussex Royal Garrison Artillery and later also the Home Counties Army Service Corps. The building remained in the service of the Territorials until 1949 after which it was used as offices for Nestle & Co and a warehouse for Surridge Dawson before being turned into apartments  after 1999
The Brighton Corps of the Sussex Artillery  had been formed in 1859, when Napoleon III, the  French Emperor had survived an assignation attempt by Felice Orsini, who had been assisted by English radicals and who had provided bombs made in Birmingham. Tension mounted between the British and French governments  and there was the possibility of a French invasion. To provide necessary cover for the army Lord Lieutenants were empowered to allow the formation of local militia, usually paid for, and organised by local businessmen. In Brighton a corps of riflemen was formed and also a corps of artillery volunteers.
When they were first formed the corps had no official home and used the Town Hall but they soon obtained permission from the government to use land adjacent to the Infantry Barracks in Church St. Using money donated from the Hannington family, a new drill shed and gun room was built and with the new facilities the number of volunteers increased. Sixty of the volunteers came from the foundry in North Rd and there were quite a few volunteers from Hannington’s store, including Charles Hannington and his son James Hannington,  later Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa. It was after Charles became commander of the corps in 1868 that the former Eagle foundry became available and he bought the site and had the new drill hall built. There was an officers’ mess, and rest rooms and similar facilities for the sergeants and the NCOs. There was also a large recreation room for the gunners.
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