HC Deb 07 May 1912 vol 38 cc356-7W

asked the Undersecretary of State for War if he will explain why various inquiries as to obtaining the Swindon Drill Hall, Cheltenham, for the purposes of the Cheltenham National Reservists, over 700 strong, addressed to-the War Office, remained unnoticed until the sale of the hall to a laundry company was announced; and whether, in view of the pecuniary interest, amounting to two-thirds of the estimated value of the hall, held in it by the town of Cheltenham, the War Office will assist the town in providing another building to be used as a drill hall and miniature rifle range for the National Reservists, the Boy Scouts, and the Church Lads' Brigades?

Colonel SEELY

This hall was advertised for sale by auction in Cheltenham in June, 1910; it was sold on February 24th last. A letter was received on the 25th January last from the Gloucestershire County Association suggesting that the sale should be delayed in order that the hall might be handed over to the association for the use of National Reservists. The prospect of the War Office undertaking to provide the National Reserve with drill halls was too distant to justify the postponement of the negotiations for sale, but I regret that while the general question involved was being discussed the secretary's letter remained unanswered. No other communication was received until after the sale. The financial history of this property—so far as War Office records show—is as follows:—It appears to have been bought in 1893 by the Officer Commanding the Volunteer unit and to have been vested in him personally. The unit paid him a rent of £160 a year until 1896, when he applied for permission for the property to be transferred to the unit at the price of £3,200. He stated that a sum of £288 had been raised from private sources so that £2,912 required to be borrowed. As the property was not considered good security for more than £2,200 that sum was offered to and accepted by the officer commanding in 1897; a further loan of £690 was made for additions in 1898. Of these loans £2,080 was outstanding in 1907 and that sum was paid by the War Office; the sum realised by sale of the property is substantially less. There is no record in the War Office of any interest in the building on the part of the town of Cheltenham. I regret that I can hold out no hope that the War Office will assist the town in providing another building for the purposes indicated.