Cowley Barracks Postcard

In 1876 a new and very fine set of barracks was built in Cowey, Oxfordshire. The centre point of the complex was a large keep and it is a view of this that we are looking at today:

A period map shows the full extent of the barracks complex. The keep is circled in red, and my best guess at the direction the photographer took the photograph in is marked by the arrow:

The centre of the image is the four story keep, which was made of stone and held the armory, guard-house, prison cells etc:

On either side of the keep were blocks that housed married quarters, officers quarters, library, school room etc:

Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported on the building of the barracks in November 1874:

The site of the Barracks is about two miles and a half from Magdalen Bridge, on the high land lying to the left of Horspath road, and between it and Shotover Hill. The position is a most healthy one, and the prospect from it most extensive, embracing as it does an unbroken view of open country for about 15 miles. The space bought by Government for the buildings, drill ground, &c., covers an area of 20 acres, and cost £120 per acre. The Barracks are being erected by Messrs. Downs, of Southwark, by Contract, for £45,000, and are to be of stone, a great quantity of which has been already brought from Charlbury. The two blocks of buildings for the accommodation of the men will be lined with bricks. The rooms will be lofty, well lighted, ventilated, and warmed. Each block will contain accommodation for 112 men, 56 on the ground floor and 56 on the storey over. One block will be occupied by the Depôt (i.e., two Companies) of the 52nd Regiment (Oxfordshire), and the other by the Depôt of the 85th Regiment (Buckinghamshire). Besides these there will be the Officers’ Quarters, Married Soldiers’ Quarters, Canteen, Library and Recreation Rooms, Sergeants’ Mess, Orderly Room, Quartermaster’s Stores, Workshops, Straw and Coal Sheds, Hospital, Chapel, School, &c. &c. There is also (already erected) a commodious Drill Shed, for Recruits, in wet or inclement weather. When the whole building is completed it will form a perfect garrison in itself, and have a most pleasant appearance. The Married Soldiers’ Quarters are now on the plan of the “Peabody Cottages”, and will be most comfortable and compact. The entrance to the Barracks will be through a handsome “Keep”, in which will be the “Armory”, “Guard-house”, “Prisoners’ Cells”, &c. Although the Water Works’ Company have laid down pipes to the Barracks, there is no doubt that an ample supply of well water can be obtained in the Barracks; as, during the past exceptionally dry season, a good supply of pure water was found at a depth of less than 50 feet; this, on such an elevated position, warrants the belief that a plentiful supply can always be relied upon within Barracks, should the Water Work Company’s service be insufficient or at any time break down.

The barracks held the 43rd and 52nd Foot Regiments and later the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Sadly the barracks were shut down in 1966 and the keep demolished and today the site is used by Oxford Brookes University for student accomodation.

One comment

  1. When I started college in 1964, it was required to take military courses as part of the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps. The ROTC department has their own building called the armory, which was of brick and styled like a little castle, but without particularly high towels. Castellated armories were apparently the only way to build such things in those days. A student parking garage is now located in that space.

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