Between the older villages and Road Weedon stand the early nineteenth century Stores Buildings of the former Royal Ordnance Depot. Surrounded by a high brick wall, the eight original Stores are arranged in two lines on each side of a branch of the canal. The cut between the main channel and the Depot has now been filled, but the line can still be made out.
The Grand Junction Canal reached Weedon in 1796, the year in which Napoleon defeated Austria. After several years of war, in 1802 the Treaty of Amiens brought a short period of peace. However war again broke out in 1803 and there was great fear that England would be invaded before the other nations of Europe could come to her aid. Napoleon's plans for an invasion were no secret.
The English government made considerable additions to the Army and Militia and large bodies of volunteers were raised. It was realised that the storage of military supplies near to the coast was no longer prudent and plans were made to set up a depot for the storage of arms and ammunition near to the centre of the country. A site in Weedon Bec was chosen, due to the proximity of the canal and Turnpike and in 1803 an Act of Parliament provided for the acquisition of 53 acres of land. The government later extended their estate to about 150 acres.
The military branch canal entered the Depot under a portcullis, set in a building known as the East Lodge, forming part of the surrounding wall, and still standing. At the west end there is a similar Lodge and the canal originally extended beyond to serve the Magazine, used in the early days to store gunpowder, delivered by canal boat. The Magazine storage buildings, each separated from the other by a building filled with earth, can still be seen from the high ground within the Trading Estate off the Daventry Road (A45). From here can also be seen a ninth Storehouse standing isolated to the west of the main enclosure. Intended to relieve pressure on the existing Clothing Depot at Pimlico, brought about by the South Africa War, it was completed in 1900, just as that war ended.
The Royal Army Ordnance Corps moved out of Weedon Depot on February 16, 1965. Following a period of use by the Ministry of Supply the surviving Depot Storehouses passed into private hands in the 1980s and are currently occupied by a number of small companies for stores and workshops. These buildings and the perimeter wall are Listed Grade II.
In late 1995 the Depot was purchased by Cavalry Centre Ltd who applied for planning permission to change the use to an integrated heritage, tourist and commercial centre. Following a Public Enquiry permission was granted in May 2000.
The Trading Estate stands upon the site of another of the former military establishments of Weedon, the Barracks. Built at the same time as the Depot, this comprised a group of buildings arranged around a Barrack Square. Some of these had stables on the ground floor, for the purpose of the Barracks was to house a Troop of Artillery and in those days guns needed horses to pull them. Between the two World Wars the Barracks became the Army School of Equitation, when an extensive indoor riding school and further stables were constructed. The Barracks was demolished during the winter of 1955-6.
The other Government buildings in Weedon have given rise to one of the local legends. Constructed to house the Storekeeper and other principal officers of the Depot, these were three well-proportioned white brick buildings with connecting garden walls, presenting an imposing frontage to the east, resembling a single structure. This gave rise to the name The Pavilion. Two of the buildings were divided into two dwellings, so that provision was made for five officials in all. These were civilian appointments of the Board of Ordnance.
At some time it became popularly understood that these buildings were intended to house the King in the event of a Napoleonic invasion. There is ample evidence that this story is a myth. They were later used for the Officers Mess of the Riding School. During the Second World War, together with the Barracks, they formed part of the Royal Army Ordnance Depot, when all parts of the military estate, together with a number of other buildings in surrounding parts of the county were dedicated to the provision of weapons to the Army in all theatres of war. The Pavilion buildings were demolished in the 1970s, to be replaced by the Regents Park housing estate.
Reproduced with permission from Mike Rumbold of the Weedon Bec History Society from a document of April 2003