Arborfield Cross first became a Military Station in March 1904 when part of the land on which Arborfield Garrison now stands was released by the Walters family of Bearwood and was occupied by the Remount Depot which was part of the Aldershot Command. Land on lease was purchased by the War Office in 1911 and the Remount Depot was expanded in 1914, and in 1932, when further enabling land was bought. The Depot was disbanded in 1937.
At the time of acquisition in 1904, the land was worked by three farms; Bigg’s Farm, Old Bigg’s Farm and Ellis’s Farm. These farms provided much of the accommodation needed by the Remount Depot; stabling for the horses, barns for storing forage, and for garaging wagons and farm implements, and quarters for most of the staff. Some additional building was necessary to furnish a full range of facilities.
The Moat House was constructed in 1906, as a residence for the Superintendent who lived in the Village. Additional stabling was erected for newly purchased sick horses, it had to be isolated from the rest of the stock; these buildings were officially described as the Reception Stables, and the Infirmary Stables. The old wooden reception stables were demolished some 40 years ago, but the Infirmary Stables still exist virtually unaltered from their original construction.
In early 1914, in anticipation of a considerable increase in the animal population of the Army on the outbreak of the First World War, the Remount Depot was expanded. Several huts were built to accommodate the additional military staff who would arrive on mobilisation, and several blocks of temporary horse shelters were constructed. This additional stabling allowed the Depot to accommodate upwards of 600 horses. Additional land was also purchased for grazing. In the event, it was inadequate to cater for the influx of requisitioned horses, and further pasture land had to be leased from neighbouring farms. As part of the major reduction in the Standing Army in the years which followed the First World War, three of the five Remount Depots in England were disbanded. Only the Depots at Arborfield and Melton Mowbray were retained as part of the permanent establishment. Improvements were made to the Depot at Arborfield to ensure that it was appropriate for its enhanced role. Much of the wooden stabling was replaced by permanent brick built structures and further land was acquired. This included Whitehall Farm, the farmhouse of which is a listed building. The infirmary stables were in their original use from c. 1912-1920; from about 1920 onwards the use of the stables changed from infirmary to stable accommodation for returning horses from the conflict. Post-war the stables were used to accommodate officer’s horses and the immediate environs were used to introduce officers to their new mounts.
By the mid 1930’s, the pace of mechanising the Army had gathered such impetus that the days of the horse were strictly numbered and a further reduction in the Remount Services was dictated. The Depot at Arborfield was closed in June 1937 and its commitments were transferred to Melton Mowbray. Since that time a variety of military units have resided in Arborfield Garrison, primarily the REME. Each modified the premises at the old Remount Depot to its own peculiar needs, and two major rebuilding schemes have removed most of the original buildings. The two Infirmary Stables are the last remaining vestige of the Remount Depot. The current setting does not reflect the original (or the developed surroundings) of the former infirmary stables. The asset is now located in a much changed and ‘degraded’ setting from a heritage perspective.
As part of the implementation of the planning application proposals, the stables will be safeguarded and then carefully restored to their original condition utilising appropriate materials and detailing. The Applicants will undertake the agreed refurbishment works following grant of the planning permission (and appropriate Scheduled Monument Consent) and will accept a planning condition covering this requirement. They are a simple stables complex and will be re-utilised in that simple cellular format. There are nineteen discrete and distinct spaces together with the boiler house and the forage store in the western block. The stable units create a very serviceable and substantial space of approximately 5.7m x 4.3m wide, typically 24.7mÇ, which lends itself to a wide range of community activities and usage, subject to protecting the structural integrity and fittings in the buildings. The possible uses set out in this document are options which need to be explored in more detail, in terms of viability within the structure of the stables themselves as well as to assess their commercial viability. Detailed discussions will take place with English Heritage, Wokingham Borough Council as well as local stakeholders to determine the most appropriate future use of the stables.
Appropriate new uses for The Stables
The stables could potentially accommodate the following uses:
• Community training and employment;
• Workshop space;
• Employment training space for apprenticeships;
• Storage of equipment for estate management purposes);
• Gardening and produce store for the community servicing the walled
garden allotments to the rear and the community orchard to the east;
• Community initiatives.