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Book launch and blue plaque honour for tucked-away military hub

PUBLISHED: 13:19 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:35 22 November 2017

A new booklet tracing the history of the Artillery Drill Hall has been produced thanks to Patricia Page. Photo: Liz Coates

A new booklet tracing the history of the Artillery Drill Hall has been produced thanks to Patricia Page. Photo: Liz Coates

Archant

A booklet tracing the history of a “poor relation” drill hall has been produced to help spread the word about its important role.

Patricia Page hopes that by informing people about the Artillery Drill Hall in Artillery Square, Great Yarmouth, it will find itself on a pedestal for everyone to admire and appreciate alongside other town landmarks with a higher profile.

The former borough councillor of Shrublands Way, Gorleston, said she had a special affection for the building, currently home to the First Move Furnishaid charity of which she is chairman, and had commissioned the book to redress the balance in the poignant anniversary year of the First World War,

She said the impressive building was often confused with the Drill House in York Road whose fortunes had taken a different turn under Seachange which has commandeered it as its base and circus school hub.

However the Artillery Square building was also important and continued to serve the town well in its current role, she added.

The booklet written by local historian Colin Tooke traces the building’s history and the stories of some of the people involved over the years.

One of them Major Percy Wiltshire, who trained in the hall, was killed in northern France on April 25 1917.

His grandson, retired Yarmouth solicitor Hugh Wiltshire, will unveil a blue plaque on Friday December 1 at 11am when there will also be a small exhibition and open day.

Ms Page said her uncle was killed in the Second World War aged just 27 and her father was a bomber pilot, meaning that like most people she had tragic family links to conflict.

She said: “I love the hall. It was built by local men for local men. Everybody that ever goes inside always says what a warm and friendly place it is.

“It is such a poor relation. It deserves to be known.”

The hall was built in 1880 and served the town as a military drill hall for over 70 years.

When its military use finished, replaced by a more modern drill hall in Southtown Road, the building passed to the borough council and was finally sold to Furnishaid for £1 in 2010.

Its grooved floor and shallow gullies echo an era when artillery was hitched to requisitioned horses. The booklet is £2.95, all profits to Furnishaid.

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