PALACE BARRACKS, Holywood, County Down, was constructed between 1894 and 1898 by various contractors and was probably designed by the War Office Architects department, London.
The officers' mess bears the date 1899.
The building was reputedly completed in two phases: the contractors for Phase One being Lowry of Belfast, and for Phase Two, Campbell, also of Belfast.
From the mid-1880s, the Army established the Kinnegar camp at Holywood, County Down, as a training ground for regiments stationed in Belfast.
The camp could accommodate more than 400 personnel under canvas.
The Bishop's Palace in Holywood, Ardtullagh, formerly the official residence of the Lord Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, fell vacant on the succession of Bishop Reeves in 1886, who resided at Dunmurry.
Attempts were made to sell the Palace and grounds but these proved fruitless until, in 1890, an offer of £1,000 from the War Office was accepted.
By 1891 the palace and grounds were being used for training by the Royal Irish Rifles.
In 1893, work began on officers' quarters; and in 1894, the construction of barracks.
The barracks were almost completed in 1896 and the old palace had been demolished.
Four blocks which comprised accommodation for the men were already finished.
The Belfast Newsletter described the scheme, which was pioneering in its day,
In all there will be nine blocks, constructed to quarter one regiment of infantry. Each block will afford accommodation for 84 men and two unmarried sergeants. A recreation establishment of the newest type is in course of construction which will contain lecture-room, coffee-room, billiards-room, and a canteen, with separate accommodation for corporals.
The usual cook-houses, baths, and workshops, which appear to be very numerous, are in the course of erection. A sergeants' mess establishment and guardhouses are being erected near the site of the central lodge of the old palace. The commanding officer's quarters is a separate building and is situated at the south-west angle of the grounds.
The officers' quarters will accommodate twenty-seven officers, with mess establishment ... a hospital is almost completed, with a medical officer's residence adjoining, which is the first time in this part of the country that accommodation for a medical staff has been constructed in conjunction with a military hospital.
There is also in course of construction quartermaster's and warrant officers' quarters and there will also be erected several blocks of buildings for the accommodation of married men. These houses will be erected at the north end of the park, along the side of the road known locally as Jackson's Road.
The buildings are lighted throughout with gas, supplied by the Holywood Gas Company Limited. The water is supplied by the Belfast Water Commissioners. The sanitary arrangements are perfect. Nothing has been left undone for the comfort and health of the men, who seem well pleased with their new quarters".The records of a parliamentary debate in 1907, in which improving the accommodation at Holywood barracks was discussed, noted that,
"There is much more difficulty in recruiting in Ireland than in any other part of the UK and therefore it is important to make the barracks in Ireland as attractive as possible".Palace Barracks has been the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Irish Regiment since 2008 and the home base of several squadrons of the 152 (Ulster) Transport Regiment (Volunteers).
First published in January, 2015.