No 56 Davies Street

The Original Drill Hall

The Old Drill Hall
In 1889 56 Davies St, which was formerly occupied by the southern part of Grosvenor Market, was made available to the St. George’s Rifles for a new headquarters and drill hall. The St. George’s Volunteers had used the site now occupied by St. Mark’s Church in North Audley Street as a parade ground for several years. The demolition of Grosvenor Market was desirable from the Estate’s point of view, especially as its inhabitants might be rehoused in newly built model lodging-houses in Mount Row, and the Duke of Westminster granted a new lease at a peppercorn rent for ninety-nine years, a term which he subsequently extended to two hundred years.

A Regimental Guard of Honour outside Davies Street c.1902

The building, which was erected to the designs of Charles Herbert Shoppee by E. Lawrance and Sons at a cost of some £16,000, was opened by the Duchess of Westminster on 6 December 1890. It included a drill hall, armoury, gymnasium, mess room and officers’ rooms. A terracotta statue of St. George and the Dragon, modelled by Lieutenant G E Wade, sculptor brother of the architect Fairfax Wade, and a former officer in the corps, was placed on the pediment over the entrance. Shoppee’s lively elevation of red brick and stone, with its curious copper-covered cupola, was a prominent feature of Davies Street until the building was almost totally destroyed by bombing in 1940.

The old hall is shown in the image above and the new hall is shown below.

The New Drill Hall

The New Drill Hall

The present drill hall was built in 1950–2 by James Miller and Partners to the designs of Trenwith Wills for the Queen Victoria’s Rifles (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) which had been formed from the amalgamation of the St. George’s with the Victoria Rifles and other battalions. Its restrained neo-classical elevation in stone, rusticated on the ground floor with smooth ashlar facing above, is in marked contrast to its predecessor and pays decorous respect to its early-Victorian neighbours at Nos. 52–54 (which had been taken over by the QVR in 1949).

Mess at Davies Street

First and Third images courtesy of Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings). London County Council, London, 1980.