I have should have sub-titled these ‘three buildings that most people see, but few people notice’. St Michael’s Church, the old school buildings (now a mosque and social centre) and the drill hall are all part of a Surrey Heath Conservation Area but most people are forced, by the hurrying traffic on the A30, to pass by without so much as a glance.
St Michael’s is built on land donated by the army to provide a church for the civilians of the town (the students in the RMC being already provided with a chapel). Originally, people living in Newtown Blackwater (as the first settlement on the east side of the Blackwater was called) had to attend church in Blackwater itself or they faced a long trek down to St Peter’s in Frimley (which, confusingly was in a different parish – Ash).
When the new church opened in 1851 it was a simple affair, although designed by the architect Henry Woodyer in a Gothic Revival style. Aisles were added later, designed by the same architect as the school next door, when the population increased. The delicate and prominent spire was added by the vicar, the Rev Middleton, and his wife, in memory of their daughter Ellen Frederika (known as Freda) who had died in 1888 at the age of 25.
The school was also built on army land and this time because of the urgent need to educate the massively increased population (who often worked for the army). The first Yorktown school site, across the road (now housing, appropriately, a baby gear shop) was sold to an ironmonger and an appeal launched for a new National School in 1869. The National Society** gave £100 towards the cost but the eventual cost was just over £1,440 (according to Ken Clarke). Charles Buckeridge*, the architect of the church extension next door was called in to create a building for children from infancy up to age 10. The Bishop of Winchester opened it in November 1870.
The population of Yorktown continued to grow, and the school was added to in 1885, and again in 1888 with a distinctive tower. A completely new Infant School was provided in 1906.
In 1971 there was a re-organisation of Camberley schools and this building became St Gregory’s School until 1996 when St Augustine’s School was set up in Frimley to provide First and Middle level (or Primary and Junior, the labels/ages have been changed) for Catholic children on the same site.
The site then became the M A Kharafi Islamic Centre, primarily for the Bengali community locally.
* For other churches by Buckeridge see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Buckeridge
**For more on the National Society see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_school_(England_and_Wales)
And lastly, we come to the Drill Hall, next to the schoolmaster’s house. This was built in 1896 for a volunteer battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment – the Sandhurst Company. The money was raised by public subscription and the opening was mentioned in The Times. At the start of WW1 ownership was transferred to the government. I have found mention of three apparently different units that used it at this time – and I would be grateful if someone could tell me if they are one and the same:
Surrey Territorial Army ‘B’ Company of the 5th Battalion of the Queens Regiment
Surrey Yeomanry (B Squadron) drill station
5th Battalion, Royal West Surrey Regiment (B Company)
At the start of WW2 it was used by the 1st Surrey Battalion of the Home Guard. Currently it is the Territorial Army Centre.
Although built for military use it was always intended to be used by the public for dances, concerts and adult education. In 1897 the council rented a room to give a series of lessons and lectures on carpentry, joinery and nursing. During the 1920s and 30s performances were given in the Drill Hall by the Choral and Orchestral Society, the Camberley Music Society and The Operatic Society. There was even a miniature firing range in the grounds which was used by members of the Frimley, Yorktown, Camberley and District Rifle Club at one point.