St John's Wood Barracks 1804-1900

early beginnings

St John’s Wood farm and the military

The barracks at St. John’s Wood contains some of the oldest buildings in the borough and was built on the site of St John’s Wood farm. The first military occupants of the farm were the Corps of Gunner Drivers, in 1804.  The farm was a simple Board of Ordnance hiring, used only for the purpose of quartering and stabling the Drivers and their horses.  In those far off days, London was a distant metropolis; smoke filled and congested, it barely reached, what is now, the Marylebone Road.   The Boroughs of St. Marylebone and St. Pancras consisted of large dairy farms leased by tenants from a variety of landowners, amongst them the Eyres, who owned St. John’s Wood. By 1810, the Board of Ordnance proposed to base the whole Brigade at the farm and, to this end, they secured the lease of a piece of land just north of the farmyard: the present day barrack site. On this site, the Board built a long two-storeyed barrack block, running north to south in a line roughly parallel with the present day Ordnance Hill, designated ‘New Artillery Barracks’, and completed in 1812.  During the rundown of the Army after Waterloo, the Brigade at St. John’s Wood was ordered to Woolwich, and not replaced.  The Barracks stood empty for the next three years.

Cavalry Riding establishment

After much deliberation, the vacant site at St. John’s Wood was chosen as the new home for the Cavalry Riding Establishment and Treasury approval for the building of a new Riding School was granted.  The School was designed by the Royal Engineers and is now one of the oldest buildings in St. John’s Wood. By 1835, the original barrack block had been demolished and a new, more spacious (sic) block built with London Stock Brick and running west to east, parallel with the present-day Acacia Road. Though this building was demolished in 1969, the back wall is still visible.

In 1835, the Cavalry Riding Establishment was moved to Maidstone.  The Wood stood empty once more. Yet again, a re-organisation of Household Troops was to bring new occupants to the ‘Wood’.  On this occasion it was the Guards Recruits Depot which stayed for little more than a year. For the next two decades various detachments of Foot Guards and sometimes Infantry of the Line were in residence. By 1870, the Guards had departed and the Wood became the temporary home to the various regiments of the Household Cavalry whilst Knightsbridge Barracks was rebuilt.

Arrival of Royal Horse Artillery 1870

In early 1880, Knightsbridge Barracks was ready for re-occupation and on 5th May the 1st Life Guards left the ‘Wood’.  Six weeks later, on 24th June, A Battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery, arrived from Aldershot. With only a few interruptions, successive Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) batteries were stationed at the ‘Wood over the next twenty years, culminating with V Battery at the turn of the century.


Copyright (where applicable) for all the images contained in this article has been cleared through Bill Clarke, the author of the book ‘Royal Salute’, from which they have been reproduced here.   All enquiries regarding their origins should be addressed to him.

This page was added on 15/12/2012.

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