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*All Dalton Heritage Trail artworks** including the logo, leaflet, map, signage art, films and photographs are copyrighted to the artist Rachel Capovila and Barrowfull. Permissions are granted for the use of the Dalton Heritage Trail and educational resources relating to the trail ONLY under the administration of DACH. Any other use or reproduction must have permissions from the artist.

**Except where stated and the copyright remains with the named eg photographer or writer.

Trail artwork for the Old Drill Hall


This building was completed and opened in July 1928 as a home for the West Lancashire Territorial Army Association, later R [Furness] Battery, 380 Light Regiment, R.A. King’s Own TA, and contained the three official requirements for a “Drill Hall” as they became known: an admin block, a large open hall with target range alongside and accommodation for a caretaker.

The TA continued to use the Hall until World War Two when Drill Halls became bases for recruitment and training, plus the new “Home Guard”. We know that the Durham Light Infantry, the Black Watch and Cameronians used the hall when camping nearby.

Also during the war the Willcox family moved into the Hall; Lieutenant Willcox was serving abroad but his wife became caretaker of the Drill Hall and their young daughter, Bette, was there too. Today, Bette, now Mrs Parkin, who still lives in Dalton, remembers her time in the Hall especially flying the flag every day.

There are many other stories of Dalton during WW2, some of which are recorded in “From Drill Hall to Centre for All”. One was the Hall’s use as the base for the doctor; one day Bill Hope, just 18, was an ambulance driver driving from the Hall to Barrow when his vehicle was lifted off the road by an explosion near the Abbey Road baths. Luckily he was not seriously hurt but there were other casualties.

After the war the Home guard was disbanded, the TA was reduced in number and so the Drill Hall gradually became less busy. However, the Army Cadets started using it and into the 1950s more social and sporting groups made it their home – a judo club for example and occasional dances. By the end of the 50s the TA moved out completely and the building was taken over by Lancashire Education Committee.

Just opposite the Hall [the building that is Trafalgar Court now] was Nelson Street Girls’ School and they started to use the Hall for assemblies, lunches, music, country dancing and exams. There were also school music and drama productions there plus Christmas parties. Gymnasium equipment was added [you can still see the end of a beam used to fix bars] and the school became responsible for the upkeep for the hall. Into the 1960s Dowdales School also used the Hall at times, for the “creative arts” and PE, even some discos. There are tales of teenage lads, while playing table tennis in the old rifle range, finding and taking home some .22 cartridges!

In the 1970s the Furness Youth Orchestra used the Hall for rehearsals too, but it was still mostly the domain of Nelson St School who used in more and more for meetings, rummage sales, chess tournaments etc. The army Cadets were still using it regularly, however, and the school staff often complained about the cadets’ treatment of “their hall”.

When Nelson Street closed in 1980 [the new George Romney school had been built] the Drill Hall no longer had a clear function.  Apart from the Army Cadets and occasional uses by Dowdales or shows, Cumbria County Council seemed to have no new purpose for it and it started to deteriorate. The 1980s was the time when the building could well have been sold off for housing or even demolished.

However, the committee running the hall kept things ticking over, cleaning it and running discos to raise funds. Then in 1998 an extraordinary public meeting was held, called by Cllr Margaret Martindale, to discuss the future of the hall. A new committee was formed and Dalton Community Association [version one] was formed with constitution, policies, officers, etc. They took on the lease on a peppercorn rent and started work restoring the building.

Gradually other users came along: Jack and Jill playgroup and City of Joy church, especially, but many others too. They were keen on youth activities especially and detached youth workers came to meet teenagers and run events. A magazine, the “Spirit of Dalton”, was set up and distributed and things were looking up.

But by 2008 more changes were needed and a new Chair of the DCA, Barry Doughty, set about raising funds as major refurbishment was needed. Over the next ten years well over half a million pounds was raised and the Centre changed dramatically with new rooms, new users, structural improvements, solar panels, computer and film facilities. The upper floor was improved for the Army Cadets and “Dalton Youthy”. When the old Carnegie Library opposite closed a room in the Centre was transformed into a small public library and similarly the police moved their local base into the Centre.

By 2018 up to 5000 people a month used the Centre [Age UK, Film Club, u3a, mother and baby groups, etc] and the new DCA was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award for voluntary service groups and recognised as a “Community Champion” in South Cumbria. They employ a part time Centre Manager and cleaner/key holder. The old Drill Hall was now a modern “Centre for All”.

For more information see “From Drill Hall to Centre for All” by Ron Creer – copies available in the Hall.

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About us

Dalton is the ancient and historic capital of Furness and has approximately 8,000 residents at the current time. Ideally located less than thirty miles from the Lake District and close to the Irish Sea coast and nature reserves, Dalton is home to one of the Counties largest tourist attractions, South Lakes Wild Animal Park.