The history and archaeology of the former St John’s Wood Barracks
Archaeologists from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) are exploring the site of the former St John’s Wood Barracks ahead of its redevelopment. In conjunction with the City of Westminster and Historic England, a programme of archaeological work has been devised which encompasses historical research, historic building recording and targeted archaeological excavation.
Before building recording or archaeological excavation could commence on site, archaeologists first had to investigate the historical background of the site and the potential for survival of archaeological remains.
Research revealed that until the Roman period (c. AD47) the area was almost certainly covered in woodland. By the medieval period the forest had been cleared to make way for farmland and remained so until the early 19th century. It was in 1812 that the site was developed into a barracks for the Corps of Gunner Drivers. The Corps was replaced by the Cavalry Riding Establishment in 1823 and in 1825 a Riding School was constructed on the site. The Cavalry moved out in 1832 and the Recruit Depot for the Foot Guards moved in.
They built barracks to the south of the Riding School. The property was continuously occupied as a barracks until 2012, when the King’s Troop relocated to Woolwich. In its 180 years of use the barracks had a number of occupants, including: the Infantry Battalion, the Life Guards, the Brigade of Royal Horse Artillery and latterly the King’s Troop.
The different residents all modified the buildings to fit their requirements and old maps indicate how they were reconfigured over time. By the mid-19th century an open area used as a parade ground was established to the south of the Riding School. Ancillary buildings, including the Officers’ Mess building, were built to the south and east of the site in 1921. A final round of improvements was made from 1969-1972 when nearly all of the existing buildings were demolished and replaced with modern barracks and stable blocks.
Historical research also explored the Queen’s Terrace, a residential block constructed in 1862 and which included within it the Knights of St John public house, which closed its doors in 1993. The south end of Queen’s Terrace was redeveloped in 1935 as a block of flats known as Jubilee Buildings.