Site Records

SiteName: Weedon Royal Ordnance Depot

Harmans Way
Weedon Bec, Northants.
OS Grid Ref: SP627596

Sub Brit site visit 28th May 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]

An act of Parliament was passed in 1803 for the purchase of 53 acres in Weedon, Northamptonshire, 'for erecting buildings thereon for the service of His Majesty's Ordnance'; subsequent purchases later increased the estate to about 150 acres. The Royal Military Depot as it became known, stretched out along the Nene valley above the village of Lower Weedon, with a barracks for 500 men overlooking the depot to the north, close to the Coventry Road.

Photo:Weedon Depot from the air in September 1983
Photo by Northamptonshire County Council

Initially the depot had eight storehouses and four magazines. The storehouses were of brick construction and faced with stone, each of two storeys and 160 feet long by 35 feet wide, divided into four rooms. One of the buildings was, at a later date, converted into a Military prison with three storeys and containing 121 cells. The adjoining building was used as the hospital and one of the adjacent buildings housed a chapel. The eight buildings cover a distance of approximately a quarter of a mile with the magazine buildings some three hundred yards to the west in a separate walled enclosure. The depot was used for the storage and issue of small arms and ordnance as early as 1809.

The East Lodge and depot entrance about 1915
In order to move goods quickly into the depot, a canal cut from the nearby Grand Junction Canal, which formed the eastern boundary of the estate, was constructed between the two rows of storehouses. At each end of the main enclosure, two lodges built over the canal, each equipped with a moveable portcullis. These lodges are each surmounted by cupolas, that on the East Lodge containing a clock which still chimes and keeps perfect time. The canal cut continued into the magazine passing through a further smaller building and portcullis.

At the western end of the there is a fourth portcullis leading to a barge turning area outside the perimeter wall. Barges were also able to turn in a canal basin within the magazine enclosure but this was infilled in 1915

Photo:The 8 storehouses and branch canal seen from the fire escape of the 1902 clothing depot
Photo by Nick Catford

The depot is surrounded by a high wall, at each corner of which are bastions, obviously built as lookouts for sentry purposes with patrol walks along the top. These bastions were adapted during the 2nd World War for machine gun posts to be used against air attack.

There is little recorded history of the depot between 1810 and 1858 although it is known that it functioned as a General Stores and Clothing Depot before 1858. Some troops were quartered in the depot as well as the barracks up to the time of the Crimea War.

The magazines which were built at the same time as the depot consists of brick buildings with very thick walls and a small high window at each end. Each block of buildings that was used to store gunpowder was separated from the next by a wide earth bank. Over 1000 tons of gunpowder was stored in the magazine at any one time.

Photo:6" Ordnance Survey map of the depot in 1899

Gunpowder was delivered to Weedon by barge, where it was packed into barrels and boxes and re-issued. The coming of the railway brought a standard gauge rail connection into the depot but it also posed a problem as the new main line ran between the depot and the Grand Junction Canal, severing the branch canal into the depot. To overcome this, a portion of the line had to be bodily removed, fish plates, rails and chains; to allow the barges to pass into the depot. This was made more dangerous by the fact that this was one of the busiest stretches of line in England with hundreds of trains passing through at speed during the day and sharp curves leading away from it in both directions.

Three spacious white brick buildings, later known as the Pavilion, were built at the same time as the depot, they were for the Governor and two Principal Officers, but were later earmarked to be used as a residence for King George III should the threatened Napoleonic invasion take place.

The Main Ordnance Office was built in 1885 to conform with the other buildings on the site.

The Pavillion in about 1910

In March 1889 one of the buildings used as a Small Arms Store was destroyed by fire. A large brick receiving shed complete with railway lines and turntable inside was built just after this period for the storage of wagons.

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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