Heritage Register

713 Bay Street
Bay Street Armoury & Drill Hall

Built: 1913-15
National Historic Site 1989
(not on City of Victoria Heritage Register)

For: Government of Canada

Architects: William Ridgway Wilson
Contractors: Parfitt Brothers

713 Bay


The impressive brick armoury mimics a medieval castle, with a square outer defensive wall, pierced by massive doors guarded with twin towers and a portcullis. (No drawbridge!) Inside, offices and other facilities face into a central covered “courtyard” --the vast parade square. The ancient “keep” is replicated with an octagonal 4-storey tower, just behind the entrance, with flagpole and substantial chimney. The entrance is recessed and quoined, with a keystone dated 1915, and the outer and inner arches are separated by the portcullis. Above the entrance arch, connecting the corner bays, is a bracketed balcony. Both bays have turrets at the corners. The front of the keep has a triple arched window with colonettes. Further highlighting the keep is a corbelled cornice supporting a row of quoined arches. The entire building has crenellated parapets, with contrasting cement caps. In a further show of strength, all corners at the base have tapered buttresses with rusticated joints to match the stone block effect of the foundation. First floor windows are multi-paned double-hung wooden sashes. Most other windows are arched, some with keystones, and much fine brickwork is in evidence.


The military community of Victoria in the early years of the 20thC was preparing for war, and needed a replacement for the Drill Hall on Menzies St (421-31 Menzies St, James Bay). Although it is one of many similar armouries built across the nation at that time, the Bay Street Armoury is much bigger than was originally intended. The ”standard” plan of the period, from the Dept of the Militia in Ottawa, was considered inadequate by the local military and after some negotiating a revised plan by Major Ridgway Wilson (of the 5th BC Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery) was accepted. Ridgway Wilson also designed the Church of St. John the Divine (1611 Quadra St, North Park) and Wilkinson Road Jail in Saanich. The latter, built a year earlier, is similar in style to the Armoury. Parfitt Bros completed construction of the Armoury late in 1915, at a final cost of $237,000, more than twice the original estimate.

The scale of the building, providing room for both an infantry and an artillery regiment, reflects the burgeoning militarism of the era, after Canada’s involvement in the Boer War. Features of the revised plan included living quarters for officers and other ranks, band rehearsal space (in the tower), and recreational facilities - swimming pool, gymnasium, bowling alley and miniature rifle range - in addition to a large drill hall, offices, meeting rooms, a canteen, mess rooms, reading rooms and caretaker’s quarters.

The drill hall was soon a popular venue for social and sporting events, the $100 rental going to BC Returned Soldiers’ Commission (now the federal Dept of Veterans Affairs). Events included a 1924 championship boxing contest for the lightweight title of Canada between Joe Bayley of Victoria and W. Woods of Work Point Barracks, and the annual Victoria Police Mutual Benefit Association dance; in 1921 the Association paid for a new floor in the drill hall. After World War II the Armoury sponsored professional wrestling matches. Recently it has hosted the annual Robert Burns Night, and the 5th Regiment’s St. Barbara’s Day celebrations in December. The Canadian Antiques Roadshow was filmed here in 2005.

The Armoury is the headquarters of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) in the Army Reserve, the Militia, and the 5th BC Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery. Both regiments maintain museums here. The Royal United Services Institute of Vancouver Island is also based here. Princess Mary the Princess Royal visited the facility in 1955 and again in 1962. Princess Alexandra of Kent subsequently became honorary Colonel-in-Chief of the Scottish Regiment; she visited in 1980 to open the regimental museum and again in 1989 to present the new Queen’s Colours to the regiment. During a 1971 royal visit to Victoria by the Queen and Prince Phillip, the Prince presented Duke of Edinburgh awards and reviewed the cadet corps at the Armoury.

The Bay St Armoury is not yet on Victoria’s Heritage Register.


• Map of Victoria Heritage Register Properties

• Burnside History

• Burnside Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Three: Rockland, Burnside, Harris Green,
Hillside-Quadra, North Park & Oaklands

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