Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In for a Barracking

We didn’t know about this until Steve Bird pointed it out to us. We’ve written before about Wilfred Owen and the hutments at Rossall Point – about how in 1859 Fleetwood became an army town and how the squaddies were accused of trampling down fences and destroying farm property. What we didn’t realise was that part of the original barracks is still standing.
Take a look at this:


This is one of two remaining walls belonging to the aforementioned barracks down a back alley running parallel to Beach Road. It might not be very attractive, perhaps, but it is historically interesting, especially when you stop to consider that at the start of the First World War it was actually occupied by this lot:


We were quite impressed by the size of the wall. The barracks never looked that large on the map. Whether Wilfred Owen ever wandered around inside the enclosure or not, we couldn’t say for certain (we suspect he did) because he lived officially down Bold Street (and for a short time on Lord Street as well).
Whatever the case, here’s the first edition Ordnance Survey map showing exactly how large (and complicated) the barracks were.


Here’s another shot of the wall.


High, isn’t it? And heavily defended! Those are gun slots up near the top. They get narrower towards the outside, allowing maximum room for manoeuvre by the riflemen behind them (who, presumably, had some sort of gantry to stand on…unless they were just extremely tall) and minimum chance for any stray enemy bullets to get through.
Oddly enough, the walls appear to have been built, or rather rebuilt, several times. The lower bricks are mainly pre-frogged affairs placing them, if memory serves, in the early Victorian period. Higher up there are your traditional frogged and hard-baked Victorian bricks, whilst at the top a layer consistent with World War II defences seems to have been added. We’re not sure about the entire life history of the barracks, when it demolished and why etc. so we’re just going off what we could actually see.
Round the corner on Beach Road there’s another relic from Fleetwood’s military past, denoting the corner of the barracks themselves.


That’s a War Department stone, that is. There’s another one in the front wall of the North Euston Hotel if anyone fancies a look. You might be able to make out W.D. No. 2 carved into this one, and what appears to be a benchmark. It isn’t a benchmark. It’s the War Department logo. It looks like a benchmark because, well, benchmarks were established by the Ordnance Survey mob, who basically worked for the War Department surveying Britain’s ordnance…er…obviously.
Anyhow, there you go…worth a quick gander if you’re into that sort of stuff.
One last photograph, showing another section of the remaining walls, this time over a hollow section of ground where the foundations to keep it level, as can be seen, were rather large. It’s surprising what’s still left around Fleetwood that we thought had long since gone.


10 comments:

Hels said...

Yes indeed "It might not be very attractive, perhaps, but it is historically interesting". I note that at the beginning of World War I it was seriously involved in military business.

I am examining some architecturally intact barracks in Australia for my blog just now. The Australian barracks have been returned to their regency gorgeousness, as I will show. But soldiers doing training in Australia was one thing; World War One in Britain was another.

Brian Hughes said...

Hels,

There's not a lot of chance that the Fleetwood barracks will ever attain its former glory. In fact, I'm surprised there's any of it left standing at all.

Hels said...

Just by the by, do you know how we use the word "barracking" in Australia? It means supporting and yelling loudly for your favourite football team. I have barracked for The Melbourne Football Club since I was 4 years old.

Brian Hughes said...

Hels,

Here in Blighty it means almost the exact opposite...getting yelled at mercilessly for having committed a wrong.

Ann ODyne said...

Brian - these days, that's what barracking for the Melbourne F.C comprises.

Great post, it was 'hutments' that got my attention.

Brian Hughes said...

Annie,

Melbourne F.C.? Not more football, surely?!

John said...

I wish there were a bit more to this post, such as how long the barracks were used, why they were abandoned, but more importantly what they look like now.

Are these free standing walls just working their way through people's backyards and through the Waitrose parking lot, or do they make up an enclosure with something mysterious behind them? It's not quite clear from the post.

Again, it is amazing how your country manages to keep stuff standing for small snippets of eternity, especially considering your weather.

Get back to posting,eh? You just missed Halloween,and you know that's my favorite. Hey, I know! How about a series of posts about Christmas in Fleetwood through the ages??

Surely, there are some old cartoony Victorian Holiday cards down in the antique shop? And didn't Arthur SaintGimbole write about how Santa Claus vacationed on your sunny shores?

Facetiously yours, JOHN ":0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

What you see is what you get. There's only the walls in the photographs left of the barracks now, nothing else I'm afraid.

As for Father Christmas holidaying in Fleetwood...he might be a bit eccentric, but he's not completely insane.

John said...

So the walls are just... walls? They don't go protecting nothing?

I suppose that causes some awkwardness, depending on how far they go! Something like that can divide a town! Or worse,what if you were on one side, and the loo on the other?

So many questions you leave us with....

Oh well... looking very much forward to your Holidays in Fleetwood post! So far you've talked endlessly on the summertimes, which is understandable, with those sunny shores and all. Would be nice to see some horse drawn sleighs jingling their bells through town.

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

The walls were just left in situ when the new houses were built. The effectively became people's back garden walls.

As for the Christmas post...possibly 2015.