The history of Artillery Terrace

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In the Jottings of three weeks ago, in a article on street names, mention was made of “Artillery Terrace”. If this caused a few Johnshaven brows to furrow it would be no great surprise because the terrace consisted of only one building, was of short duration and today there are no visible clues left, even to suggest, where it might have been.

Artillery Terrace, in its day, was that very short section of Castle Street now occupied by numbers 19 and 19a, was in place for only 25 years and clearly must have had some military connection.

However, to find out why the street took its name and why its life was so short we need to go back a long way - to 1859 in fact.

In that year France’s quixotic Emperor, Napoleon III, was at the height of his powers. While it is true that he had co-operated with Britain against Russia in the Crimean War of 1854-56, he had then gone on to support the Italians in their war of unification against Austria, eventually winning two great battles in 1859.

The French army was being regarded as the best in Europe and fear arose in Britain that Napoleon III might be temped by his imperialistic ambitions to try and succeed where his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, had failed and take his troops across the Channel.

Such a possibility caused many to query Britain’s defensive capabilities and there was a growing newspaper campaign in support of establishing a volunteer military corps.

This idea proved poplar with the government for two reasons: it would avoid an unpopular rise in taxation to increase the size of the regular army and such a body would imbue the nation with discipline and military knowledge and so, on 12 May 1859 the War Office sanctioned the formation of a Volunteer Corps. Almost immediately Lord Elcho set the movement going in Scotland and thousands of men across the land answered the call.

Although a meeting was convened in Johnshaven, initial enthusiasm was followed by little action and it was not until the following year that agreement was reached to form both an artillery corps and a committee to promote its objectives.

Even then, few followed Hercules Scott’s example of donating £50 and paying an annual subscription of £10.10s and only 25 men took the oath.

Still, a site for a battery was found on the shore just outside the entrance to Wairds Park where the short built-up section of wall still shows where the magazine was located and the Volunteers of the 2nd Kincardineshire were in uniform.

As time wore on the corps prospered and at the start of every year a shooting competition was held at the battery and, although it was not long before the need for a drill hall to cater for winter practice became evident, it was the 1880s before there was a serious move to build one and finally, due largely to the fund-raising efforts of the Corps Commander, Major Beattie, the “Artillery Volunteer Hall” of the 8th Battery 1st Aberdeen Artillery Volunteers was opened on 30th March 1887 and “Artillery Terrace’s” brief presence in the history books began.

Sixty four feet long, thirty one feet wide and 14 feet high, and with two entrance doors surmounted with pediments and fronted by a parapet with ornamental railings, the Volunteer Hall, as it came to be known, was generally considered to be an elegant and dignified building.

It was designed not only for carbine practice but also, with a seating capacity of 400, for social occasions and it was not unusual for that number to be present at the annual New Year Ball.

This was the event at which the gunners who had been successful at the Auld Yule Day competition received their prizes, subscribed by friends of the Battery, and the winners were numerous and the prizes impressive, ranging from dinner sets to lamps, shoes, sheets and most intriguingly a goose and fifteen shillings.

For a further 25 years the Battery maintained their practices and their competitions, the Hall continued to fulfil its purpose and Artillery Terrace kept its place. However, just as military minds had put it on the map, so were they responsible for removing it.

Although Britain had won the Second Boer War, neither the government nor the army had covered itself with glory and, after the war ended in 1902, far-reaching military reforms were introduced culminating in 1912 with the amalgamation of the Volunteers, the Militia and the Yeomanry and the creation of a new Territorial Force.

Consequently, the 8th Battery 1st Aberdeen Artillery Volunteers was disbanded, the Volunteer Hall sold as a store to the owner of the Johnshaven Mill, Edwin Gibb, who had also been the Battery’s last Captain, and Artillery Terrace was no more.

As for the much admired Volunteer Hall? Well, it’s short life came to a very distressing end: a widened entrance was created to allow entry of mill machinery and the interior later gutted during a coal strike, both actions much to the chagrin of the villagers.

It continued as a store until the mill ceased the production of flax at the end of 1938, was soon demolished and, in the course of time, replaced by local authority housing.

Artillery Terrace is, of course, not the only street name to have disappeared but it was unique to Johnshaven not just because it was graced by only one building but also because it was an important link in a chain connecting local history with that of the nation.

Mearns Coastal Guild

President, Mrs Jean Cook, welcomed members of the Guild to their opening meeting of the New Year in the Church Hall on Monday and introduced Mr Iain Gray from Montrose who gave an interesting talk on how his working life has been affected by his Christian faith. The Bible reading was given by Mrs Isabel Blease and he was thanked by Mrs Cook.

The next meeting of the Guild will be held in Church Hall on Monday, January 24 at 2.30 p.m. and will take the form of a Scottish afternoon.

Horticultural Society

One way or another the weather is pretty grim just now but, with each passing day, better times lie ahead and no organisation is more aware of this than the Horticultural Society.

At their committee meeting last week arrangements were made to hold both a repeat of last year’s very successful Spring Seed Sale in the Village Hall on Saturday, February 5 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and the ever-popular Plant Sale on Saturday, May 21 also in the Village Hall. Full details of those events will be published nearer the time.

How well do you remember 2010?

We are already into the second week in January and the events of 2010 are slowly fading into the distance, but before you get too settled into the old routine here is an opportunity to see how much you remember of the year gone by.

1. Who provided the music at the “alternative” New Year’s dance in the Village Hall?

2. Can you name the company which created the dazzling fireworks display at the end of January?

3. Do you know what the acronym SHARK stands for?

4. Who conducted the annual Thinking Day service in Johnshaven Church in February?

5. Who was re-elected Chair of the Wairds Park committee in February?

6. Do you know the name of the firm who began work on the new houses at Golden Acre in March?

7. The new minister of Mearns Coastal Parish, the Rev Colin Dempster, was inducted to his new charge in April but do you know where he previously ministered?

8. Who had the honour of throwing the first jack at the opening of the bowling green in April?

9. Can you name the Johnshaven-based artist who had two paintings unveiled in May to mark the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship at St Andrews?

10. Do you remember the name of the group who held an art exhibition in the Lifeboat House in May?

11. Why did ten year-old Blair Dunbar, accompanied by the other members of his family, spend a fabulous weekend in London in May?

12. What did the “Johnner Mail” successfully deliver early in June?

13. Who had the best kept pensioner’s garden in the Horticultural Society’s gardens competition in July?

14. Which father and son putting partnership won the Major L. Kerr Thistle Trophy for family foursomes for the ninth consecutive year in July?

15. Can you recall the name of the pipe band which performed at the Fish Festival in August?

16. Why was Kate MacKenzie delighted to have been invited to a prestigious ceremony at Haddo House in September?

17. Two local groups organised café days at Wairds Park during the week-long NEOS event in September but do you remember who they were?

18. Which anniversary was celebrated in Johnshaven Church in October?

19. What was particularly unusual about the actors who performed in the production of “A Christmas Carol” in the Village Hall in December?

20. Can you name the Project Manager at the Mill of Benholm?