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Globe under new cover at Former Police Barracks

Hard hat and hi-viz jacket donned, Project Manager and Secretary of the Hornet Services Sailing Club ‘Arty’ Shaw gave Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas a guided tour…

THE Grade II* Listed Former Police Barracks is barely visible from Haslar Road – even as you descend the southern end of what is still known locally as ‘Pneumonia Bridge’ in Gosport.

It has stood for 160 years mainly hidden at an entrance in the brick wall which was built to protect Haslar Gunboat Yard.

But after years of disuse, the Hornet Services Sailing Club – as part of its lease from the MoD – is ensuring it is restored and becomes a fully functioning building once again.

And the first phase of the work has just been completed.

‘We had scaffolding up for three years’

Project managing the restoration is the club’s secretary, Paul Shaw – known from his Navy days as ‘Arty’ – and the former commander said: “The building was sodden with water having had an impact. We had scaffolding up with a temporary metal roof over for three years to dry it out.”

A new roof is now in place with the working having, “had to be done quickly because we had to spend the grant funding”.

The objective has been to preserve the integrity of the building by leaving, “as much as possible in situ”, and he gave as an example that, “some of the original beams remain but with new wood alongside” to provide additional support.

Historic England pitches in with money and advice

The grant of just under £400,000 from Historic England was for the first phase of project with the rest of the half-million-pound cost of making the building watertight, carrying out surveys, and other work, being provided by the club.

The Former Police Barracks is still on Historic England’s ‘Heritage At Risk Register’ but whereas it had been given Priority C status – “slow decay; no solution agreed” – it has been reclassified as Priority E which recognises it is: “Under repair … but no end user identified”.

The Grade II* listing is due to its historic interest and also the architecture of the building which is an example of the work of William Scamp who was Deputy Director of the Admiralty Engineering and Architectural Works in 1861.

Recently, the Chief Executive of Historic England Duncan Wilson and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage visited the site as part of a tour of the historic buildings in Gosport which have received support from the organisation.

Mr Shaw is very complimentary about the advice received from Historic England and the, “pragmatic approach adopted” by it and by Gosport Borough Council.

Bringing in expert advice

There has also been other expert advice and guidance particularly from Fiona Hudd, Associate Director of specialist conservation architects Seymour & Bainbridge based in Winchester.

She told The Globe they had been involved, “with the conservation of the Guardhouses at Haslar since 2016, when we were appointed to prepare a Conservation Management Plan for the Guardrooms, Gatehouses and Walls at Fort Blockhouse, funded by Historic England.

“We have been delighted to work for Hornet Services Sailing Club on the subsequent 2021 Historic England Heritage at Risk Repair Grant funded urgent repairs project for the Police Barracks building; this has been a fascinating project to work on, with excellent work on site by contractor T Coleborn and Son Ltd of Portsmouth.”

As well getting the roof on and a conservation management plan prepared, various surveys required by the local authority had to be carried out, and there was the delicate matter of moving a family of badgers which had taken up residence inside the building.

One particular aspect of importance to Arty Shaw is the reinstatement of the original entrance through which people will eventually come into a spacious reception area.

Attention now turns to the interior

He is now focussing on restoring the interior and a tour of the building made it is obvious that a large amount of TLC will be needed.

Originally, it accommodated an inspector, three sergeants and a dormitory for the constables, though this was later changed when other police became involved in guarding the site.

Negotiating the inside is not easy and several times the hard hat came in useful. The flooring is non-existent in most of the rooms and it meant walking on planks or on the uneven ground and stepping over joists.

The entrance to the former badger sett is still evident and the walls are all back to bare brick. Window frames are being constructed and put in place though there are no glass panes as yet.

As he moved nimbly around, Arty  was able to point out how the rooms will be arranged for offices and meetings.

He said: “There have been changes since it was built but we want to get it back to its original state.

“We are not proposing any significant changes and will keep what is there – some of the fireplaces are original but others were added in the 1950s.”

The estimated cost for getting the inside of the building back into use is at least another £500,000 and Arty Shaw is talking to what he calls ‘stakeholders’ about the funding. He indicated the stakeholders would be future users of the building but added: “Any occupant must have some affiliation to sailing because that is part of the lease.”

Historic England will not be funding this second phase of restoration but Fiona Hudd is still very much involved.

She said: “Now that the urgent repairs to secure the building shell are nearing completion, we are developing proposals for the refurbishment of the Police Barracks building with HSSC, and continue to value Historic England’s and Gosport Borough Council’s supportive approach to the development to bring the building back into full use.”

There is undoubtedly a long way still to go before the building is functioning once again with people meeting and working in the restored rooms.

It is not going to be plain sailing but the vision is in place, the route to achieve it is being developed, and the expertise needed to navigate to a fully functioning building is on board.


PICTURED (top): the Former Police Barracks. Hornet Services Sailing Club, reproduced with permission