Priceless military heritage to be protected at Ripon development site
Last updated Mar 26, 2023
Rare huts at Deverell Barracks Ripon
The huts on Ripon's barracks development site. Picture Ripon Military Heritage Trust

Fears that priceless elements of Ripon’s rich military heritage could be flattened to make way for the 1,300-home Clotherholme scheme have been allayed.

Jane Furse, a trustee of the Ripon Military Heritage Trust, which has plans to create heritage trails on the development site, told the Stray Ferret:

“We were concerned that some extremely rare huts on the Deverell  Barracks part of the site, and other historically important structures, would be demolished, but I’m relieved to say that this will not be the case.

“These huts are among the few surviving of their kind in the UK and help to tell the story of the vital national and international role that Ripon’s Royal Engineers played in just about every aspect of World War II and subsequent conflicts.

“This included training British and allied troops in the erection and use of Bailey Bridges in theatres of war such as Sicily and France and bomb disposal, that saved the lives of civilians and military personnel around the world.”

Minutes of Harrogate Borough Council’s February 23 planning meeting at which Homes England was seeking outline approval to progress development of the huge Clotherholme scheme, confirm that the huts and other structures will have protection.

Under the provisions of a Section 106 agreement the developer is required to put in place a strategy to ‘secure military heritage within the site.’

Jane Furse Ripon Military Heritage Trust

Jane Furse of Ripon Military Heritage Trust pictured at the barracks site

The planning meeting minutes also say:

“Prior to the commencement of works to each phase of development, a record (including photographs, drawings and summary of historic analysis) shall be made of a representative selection of buildings with military heritage on site and shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority. Copies of this record shall be placed on the North Yorkshire Historic Environment Record.”

Ms Furse, an architectural historian and former inspector of historic buildings with English Heritage (now Historic England) pointed out:

“Inclusion within the S 106 agreement means that the significance of military heritage assets at the site has been formally recognised and that is very welcome news.

“It means that we can go forward, in liaison with Homes England and other parties, to progress plans for military heritage trails at Clotherholme that alongside other heritage attractions, will add to the city’s development as a tourist destination.”

Bomb disposal and the American connection

The wooden huts at Deverell Barracks are of heritage importance, because they are identical to ones that were located at the nearby Harper Barracks which became the home of the Royal Engineers’ School of Bomb Disposal in 1941.

Setting up of the national school in Ripon, soon saw Royal Engineers based in the city providing vital training and passing on know-how to the Americans, in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour, the USA naval base.

Ms Furse said:

“The Royal Engineers sought out examples of every known enemy bomb and developed countermeasures to defuse them. The School developed a rigorous training programme in bomb identification and disposal methodology.

“The Americans, although aware of the threat of unexploded bombs, had no proper procedures for safe disposal and the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 7 1941, meant that for the first time, they were faced with unexploded bombs scattered throughout their bases and the harbour.

“On December 9, the British Military Attache’s office in Washington received a request for a joint personnel exchange – an early example of the ‘special relationship’ between ourselves and the USA.

“A group of eight hand-picked American soldiers headed by Major Thomas J Kane, travelled to Ripon to train with the Engineers, arriving on February 1 1942.

“After six weeks of attending lectures and demonstrations, all of the U.S. Army ordnancemen passed the course and were made honorary Royal Engineers – they were even given official RE patches and allowed to wear them on the sleeves of their American uniforms.”

The expertise gained from the Royal Engineers in Ripon subsequently saw Major Kane set up the USA’s first Bomb Disposal School in Maryland.

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