The museum is housed in historic Fulwood Barracks, Preston, which has been the literal and spiritual home of The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment and its successor and predecessor regiments for nearly 150 years.
Fulwood Barracks was the last and largest of a chain of barracks built in the North West in the wake of the Chartist riots of the 1830′s.
Not only is it now the sole remaining example, it is today the finest and most complete example of mid-Victorian military architecture left in the country. It is also the only one of the seven major barracks built across the country in response to Chartism which is still in use for its original purpose.
In medieval times the land now occupied by the barracks was a royal forest, a moorland waste crossed by the Roman road (Watling Street) from Ribchester to the coast. The old road ran across the north end of what is now the Infantry Square. Later the area became known as Fulwood Moor and was used as common land by the burgesses of Preston.
Although the Battle of Preston, on 17th August 1648, was fought mainly on Ribbleton Moor, Cromwell’s right wing extended as far as the present barracks’ sports field. In 1715 civil war came again to Preston and, following fierce street fighting in the town centre, General Wills’ dragoons picqueted this area to block the Jacobites’ escape routes to the north.
With the return of more peaceful times, in 1786 the Earl of Derby laid out a racecourse on the moor, part of which ran through what is now the north-east corner of the barracks and playing fields. Race meetings were held there until 1833. In 1817, when most of Fulwood Moor was enclosed, the Duchy of Lancaster retained 960 acres, and it was on this land that the barracks was later built.
Building the Barracks, 1842-48
In the mid-nineteenth century, civil unrest associated with militant Chartism caused a concerned government to routinely station troops near to the northern industrial towns. Permanent barracks were required and twenty acres of the available Duchy land at Fulwood were eventually selected and staked out in 1839. Preparatory work on the barracks site began in July 1842 and the first stone was laid on 28th August 1843. The characteristic sandstone was quarried at Longridge and was brought by railway to Fulwood, where some three to four hundred builders laboured for the next five years. The barracks was completed in June 1848.
Early Military Occupation
The barracks was originally designed to accommodate a full battalion of infantry, about 900 men, together with two troops of cavalry and a demi-battalion of artillery. As the barracks neared completion troops began to arrive, usually for brief periods or in transit, the first being two companies of 2nd Battalion 60th Rifles on 7th January 1848.
By happy coincidence the 81st Regiment (Loyal Lincoln Volunteers), who had arrived on 17th May 1848, were stationed at Fulwood when the barracks was completed, starting a regimental connection which lasts to the present day. Their stay on that occasion was quite short as, following a deployment to Liverpool from 5th August to 28th September in aid of the civil power, the Regiment moved on again on 7th December. A variety of units were stationed at Fulwood in those early years, from complete battalions to depot companies and detachments. In the 1860s a principal occupant of the barracks was the 11th Depot Battalion, comprising the Depots of the 11th Hussars and of the 1st/10th, 2nd/10th, 1st/11th, 32nd, 41st and 55th Regiments of Foot.
A ‘Fearful Tragedy’ – and McCaffery’s Ghost
Perhaps the single most noteworthy incident in the long history of Fulwood Barracks occurred in 1861 when 19-year-old Private Patrick McCaffery murdered the Commanding Officer and his Adjutant with a single shot from his musket.
His trial and subsequent public execution before a vast Liverpool crowd resulted in a mildly subversive penny ballad which found a sympathetic ear within the large Irish Catholic population of North West England. Despite – or perhaps because – it was rumoured to have been banned within the Army, it continued to be sung by folk singers for over 100 years, and and can still be heard occasionally in Folk Clubs.
And just to complete the legend, McCaffery’s ghost is said to haunt the old Officer’s Mess
For the full story, including the lyrics of the “banned” ballad, click HERE.
The Regimental Depots
In 1873 a new scheme was introduced for the localization of the Infantry. A system of brigade depots was set up and the old numbered battalions of the Regular Army were linked, for the most part in pairs, for recruiting purposes. Fulwood Barracks became the 12th Brigade Depot, training recruits for the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment and the 81st Loyal Lincoln Volunteers, to whom the Preston-based 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia and certain units of the Lancashire Rifle Volunteers were also affiliated. The Depot Companies of the 47th and 81st did not arrive at Fulwood until June 1877 as their accommodation was not immediately available.
On 1st July 1881 this reorganisation was brought to a logical conclusion when the 47th and 81st Regiments were redesignated as 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and Fulwood Barracks became the 47th Regimental Depot.
On 5th December 1898 the Depot of The East Lancashire Regiment moved into Fulwood from Burnley Barracks, which was in a poor state of repair, and occupied the block on the west side of the Infantry Square (the present Brigade Headquarters building), while the Loyals concentrated on the east side. Around the Cavalry Square to the rear a Royal Field Artillery Depot was established. The 30th/47th Regimental Depots remained together for over forty years, their main function in peacetime being to train recruits and then post them to the home service battalions of their respective regiments, while through the Boer War and the Great War they received and equipped many thousands of Lancashire recruits.
On the outbreak of World War II the Depot of the East Lancashire Regiment moved out to form an Infantry Training Centre at Squire’s Gate Camp, Blackpool, while the Loyals remained as an Infantry Training Centre at Fulwood until 1942. Then, until 1946, the Barracks was occupied by many units, particularly RA, RE and RASC, and a small Loyals cadre.
In 1946 the 30th Primary Training Centre moved into Fulwood Barracks, but in April 1948 this was replaced by the reopened Depots of The East Lancashire Regiment and The Loyal Regiment who over the next eleven years trained many thousands of Regular and National Service recruits for those Regiments.
A further reorganisation in 1959 closed the individual Regimental Depots and centralised recruit training for The King’s Own Royal Border Regiment, The King’s Regiment, The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers) and The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) at Depot, The Lancastrian Brigade, Fulwood Barracks, where it continued until August 1971, when adult recruit training was transferred to Strensall in Yorkshire. The Junior Infantryman’s Wing remained at Fulwood until March 1974 when it too moved to Yorkshire, ending over a century of recruit training at the Barracks.
Today a link with Fulwood’s past as an Infantry Depot is maintained by the presence in the Barracks of the Regimental HQ of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and the Museum of The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, successors to the Preston-based East Lancashires and Loyals, and to the South Lancashires.
In 1993 Fulwood Barracks once again became the home of an operational unit of the Field Army when 5 Armoured Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, moved in on redeployment from Germany. The unit, reformed and renamed as 5 General Support Medical Regiment, is always in constant demand for operations and has seen active service in the Balkans, almost continuously in Iraq, and Afghanistan.
A Regional Military Headquarters
Fulwood Barracks has throughout its history been the main focus of military activity in the County, and has often had wider regional responsibilities. Before the Second World War, HQ 42nd (East Lancashire) Division was stationed here. More recently, HQ North West District moved into the Barracks in 1976 and, in 1991, HQ 42 (North West) Brigade re-formed at Fulwood and became the regional military headquarters for North West England. The Barracks also houses the HQ and training facilities of the Lancashire Army Cadet Force.