Wolseley Barracks, A Block

Classified Federal Heritage Building

London, Ontario
Wolseley Barracks Classified Federal Heritage Building (© Canadian Forces Base London | Base des Forces canadiennes, 1989)
Exterior photo
(© Canadian Forces Base London | Base des Forces canadiennes, 1989)
Address : CFB London, London, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 1991-09-30
  • 1886 to 1888 (Construction)

Other Name(s):
  • Block A  (Designation Name)
  • Wolseley Barracks, Block A  (Other Name)
Custodian: National Defence
FHBRO Report Reference: 89-039
DFRP Number: 10869 00

Description of Historic Place

The Wolseley Barracks is a distinctive landmark situated within the Canadian Forces Base London. It is a large, substantial, horizontally massed, two-storey brick structure, U shaped and symmetrical in plan, consisting of three wings arranged around an interior courtyard or parade square. The distinguishing features of the composition are the central entry points and the regular openings. The interior courtyard features a porch roof, supported by large wooden brackets, extending along all three elevations between the first and second storey. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Wolseley Barracks is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value:
The Wolseley Barracks is one of the best examples of a structure associated with the theme of the federal government initiatives in the 19th century create a permanent military force within Canada. It was originally constructed to provide quarters for ‘D’ Company, Infantry School Corps. In 1899 British Field Marshal Lord Wolseley was appointed honorary Colonel of the regiment and the Barracks were renamed in his honour. The Royal Canadian Regiment later occupied the building and in 1923 it became the regiment’s headquarters.

Architectural Value:
The Wolseley Barracks is a very good example of a classically inspired Italianate style with simplified detailing used for military architecture. The building’s good functional design, its large drill square and the three wings are its distinguishing characteristics. Its construction of solid materials, its specialized features, and its construction techniques express its good craftmanship.

Environmental Value:
The Wolseley Barracks is a distinctive landmark situated within the Canadian Forces Base London. It has maintained an unchanged relationship to its site, which reinforces the present military character. It is a familiar landmark in the neighbourhood.

Shannon Rickets, Wolesley Barracks, A Block, Canadian Forces Base London, London, Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 89-039.
Wolesley Barracks, A Block, Canadian Forces Base London, London, Ontario. Heritage Character Statement 89-039.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Wolseley Hall should be respected, for example:

Its classically inspired Italianate style with simplified detailing used for military purposes using good quality materials and craftsmanship as evidenced in:
The U shaped, symmetrically organised design with strong horizontal massing the regular grid of fenestration and central entry points.
The roof covered with slate tiles attached with copper nails. The polychrome effect of the buff coloured bricks of the exterior walls contrasting with the windows and doors trimmed with a reddish sandstone. The south facade composed in the manner of a domestic terrace with separate
entrances anchored at each end by three-storey, hip roofed pavilions. The west facade distinguished by its troop door under a round arched window. The less elaborate east facade with its simple row of regularly placed windows marking each storey and all its doorways exiting to the inner courtyard. The inner courtyard which is surrounded on three sides by the similar regular,
symmetrical inner wings of the Barracks and further unified by the porch roof
supported by large wooden brackets extending along all three elevations. The decorative details including brickwork patterning in the gables of the south wing, fish-scale patterning in the slatework on the tower, iron cresting on the tower and the south pavilions, the stone quoins on the south elevation and the carved stonework on the tower.

Heritage Character Statement

Disclaimer - The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.

Wolseley Barracks was constructed in 1886-88 to designs by Henry James, the first Chief Engineer of the Department of Militia and Defence. The building was renamed Wolseley Hall in 1899 and designated a national historic site in 1963. Today the building serves as a multi-use facility of CFB London. The Department of National Defence is custodian of the building. See FHBRO Building Report 89-39.

Reasons for Designation
Wolseley Barracks was designated Classified because of its long-standing association with the Royal Canadian Regiment, its fine architectural design and because of the integrity of its environment.

Wolseley Barracks is directly associated with a significant stage in the history of the Canadian Armed Forces - the creation of a permanent military force in Canada. As the first purpose-built infantry training school in Canada, it was originally constructed to provide quarters for "D" Company, Infantry School Corps. The building was later occupied by the Royal Canadian Regiment. In 1923 it became the regiment's headquarters, a role which continues.

The building was designed to give an impression of importance and sophistication. This is reflected in its substantial construction and traditional organization and massing which are typical of British military architecture and in its High Victorian and Italianate characteristics.

Designed to provide comfortable healthy accommodation for the men, the building included sanitary conveniences and space for recreational activities. The three wings of the building express, in their designs, the range of functions they house.

The grounds are relatively unchanged. The open area of the parade square and trees planted at the time of construction are in place.

Block "A" is the oldest building at CFB London.

Character Defining Features
The heritage value of Wolseley Barracks, "A" Block resides in the whole of its exterior composition, design and fabric.

"A" Block is an outstanding example of military architecture in Canada. It is a large structure, U-shaped in plan, which consists of three wings arranged around a courtyard. Consistent with the classical tradition of military architecture,
"A" Block is organized to a rational, symmetrical scheme with strong horizontal massing a regular grid of fenestration, and central entry points. This scheme is elaborated by an eclectic mix of pavilion, massing, central tower, truncated mansard roof, elliptical arch and oriole windows, slate roofing with fish-scale pattern, corbelled chimneys, iron cresting and polychrome buff brick and sandstone masonry representative of the richness and texture of the High Victorian taste. These elements, all applied with restraint and a careful eye to composition, reflect the influence of various stylistic trends, most importantly, the Italianate.

On the exterior the three wings are somewhat different in character. The composition of the south wing identifies its function as officers' housing; a series of separate entrances each marked by a steeply pitched gable above, gives the character of a domestic terrace. The wing is terminated at each end by a three storey projecting pavilion. The west wing is more institutional in character, stemming from its regular, symmetrical composition and central, hip-roof tower. The east wing is the least elaborate of the three, appropriate to its original function as an enlisted men's barracks. It consists of a simple elongated block with a row of regularly placed windows at each storey and a hip roof. Similarly, at the inner courtyard, ornament is minimal. Here the design of the three wings is more consistent - regular and symmetrical - and is further unified by a bracketed porch roof which extends along all three elevations. All doorways from the east wing exit to the courtyard. This pattern should continue.

Generally the three wings comprising "A" Block retain a high degree of historic integrity. The original features and materials of these wings should continue to be protected and respected in the future. Some alterations, particularly incompatible because of the regularity of the building's design, have occurred - for example the entry porch to the Museum at the north end of the west wing and the closed up middle door on the south wing.

The interior of "A" Block has been considerably altered. However, some early woodwork, window and door frames and, in the south wing, staircases and fireplaces remain. These are significant remnants. Architectural investigations should be carried out to identify architectural elements and details for protection and incorporation in any future design scheme.

Having been kept free of intrusions, the interior courtyard has undergone very little change. This area, and the entrance arch to it, are important heritage features of the building and should be protected.

"A" Block is the predominant building on the Wolseley Barracks site. This characteristic should continue.

Continued association with military activity, in particular as a residential and administrative facility for the Royal Canadian Regiment, would be the most favourable use for the building.