This week, the 1st Battalion Irish Guards depart Cavalry Barracks, Hounslow, bringing to an end more than 300 years of military history in the Borough. The Irish Guards, affectionately known as 'the Micks', are moving to a new home in Aldershot, home of the British Army, while the barracks, acquired by Hounslow Council will be developed as a sustainable living project which will include new homes and green spaces.
In 2016, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the site was no longer needed and that the battalion would be relocating. The Irish Guards, formed on 1 April 1900 by Queen Victoria frequently deploy on operations overseas and, as members of the Household Division, have a ceremonial role, as Queen’s Guards at the Royal palaces and on state ceremonial events such as Trooping the Colour.
The closure of the barracks marks the conclusion of 229 years of the Army's presence in Hounslow West and will be marked by a small reception followed by the Band of the Irish Guards performing a Beating Retreat. This is in recognition of the important military and civic contribution of the Barracks and the Regiments that have occupied it.
The British Army has a long tradition in Hounslow and, over three centuries, it has built solid relationships within the community. Our departure brings those physical connections to an end but we have made many friends in the borough and we are grateful for the unstinting support the community has offered to our families and soldiers. We anticipate that we will remain part of the fabric of the society here well into the future. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Money, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion Irish Guards
The history of the Cavalry Barracks
Cavalry Barracks is an important part of the borough’s heritage and the conurbation of Hounslow West evolved around the military camp, located on the north side of Hounslow Heath. The site on the Heath had notably been used earlier by Oliver Cromwell to house his troops at the end of the Civil War in 1647.
Hounslow, chosen for its proximity to London, Windsor Castle and Hampton Court, was the first of 40 barracks established to guard against the threat of Napoleonic French invasion in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Since then multiple regiments have occupied the barracks in an unbroken line, helping to defend Britain. These included the Middlesex Regiment, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the Grenadier Guards, Scots Guards, Welsh Guards and Irish Guards.
The historic site consists of 14 grade II listed buildings and provides examples of innovative designs from key periods of British military history, including the legacy of Florence Nightingale. It is thought that Florence Nightingale, one of Britain’s most celebrated nurses, famous for introducing hygienic care methods, was influential in the design proposed by hospital reformer Captain Sir Douglas Galton in 1862.
The future of the Cavalry Barracks and the Irish Guards
In July 2019, Hounslow Council gave the green light for an ambitious plan for a sustainable future which will deliver new homes, jobs and green spaces and make provision for school places, health centres and transport infrastructure in the wider locality. The Council saw an opportunity to unlock a hidden piece of Hounslow West’s history, while creating an affordable and sustainable new community.
The Irish Guards are relocating to a barracks in Aldershot where they will continue to conduct training and operations.