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Heritage Angel Awards Northern Ireland 2021
Category One: Best Maintenance of a Historic Building or Place
This award recognises volunteers, professionals, individuals and groups who have maintained a historic building, place, landscape or site. This awards does not recognise dramatic restoration projects, rather the hard work, day-to-day commitment to prevent buildings or places falling into disrepair.
US Consulate- Danesfort
Danesfort is one of the finest and most impressive High Victorian mansions in Ulster, if not Ireland. It has been the home of the US Consulate since 2003, who have taken the utmost care to ensure the building is perfectly preserved. Essential security measures are sensitive and reversible. Built in 1864 by Newry born Architect J. W. Barre, the belvedere tower and numerous architectural features inside and out make the building unique and of local and national importance, leading to its listing in 1978. The maintenance is overseen by a dedicated management officer, J Reid Macdonald, and the ongoing cycle of care which ensures the building maintains its impressive appearance also ensures a constant cycle of employment for heritage building specialists.
Raymond Kitson- Gracehill Moravian Church
Raymond Kitson has been nominated as the heritage angel responsible for the maintenance of Gracehill Moravian Church, Ballymena. Raymond is the volunteer property Steward for the church. He oversees a cycle of works that ensures the maintenance of the unique building, as well as providing continuous employment for craftspeople skilled in historic building techniques. The church is a Grade A listed building, built in 1765, which sits at the heart of the Gracehill Conservation area, Northern Ireland’s fist designated conservation area. Raymond has overseen the replacement of the clock face, the regular painting of the entire interior and the recent overhaul of the original organ. Raymond’s dedication to the building and maintenance manual will ensure the church remains in perfect condition for the next 250 years.
The Coulter Family- Killymoon Castle
Killymoon Castle was rebuilt on the original site by renowned architect John Nash. It is an asymmetrical structure with both round and square towers and Regency Gothic interiors. After a turbulent history, John Coulter bought the castle and grounds in 1922 and it remains the home of the Coulter family to this day. The family have overseen many stages of the castle, from family home, to military base during WWII and now a highly regarded tea room and wedding venue. Over the years, the family have carried out many complex maintenance projects, such as the restoration of the original library and the rescue of the cupola of the double staircase after it sustained major damage in the Cookstown golf course bomb attack in 1992.
Category Two: Best Rescue of a Historic Building or Place- Under £1Million
This award recognises volunteers and professionals, individuals and groups who have undertaken a heritage-led conservation or restoration project up to the value of £1Million. This could be a building, a graveyard or an archaeological site or scheduled monument.
Billy McNeilly- Greenwood Cottage
Billy McNeilly has been nominated as a Heritage Angel by his grandson, Wills McNeilly, in recognition of his lifetime of restoration work. Greenwood Cottage was purchased by Wills in a state of extreme disrepair, and worked with his grandfather to fully restore it. Modern amendments were removed, and Billy, Wills and a host of local craftspeople worked to ensure this 18thC cottage was completely restored. Billy was the Clerk of Works for the National Trust at a time of many restorations, such as Mount Stewart, Castle Ward and the rescue of Patterson’s Spade Mill. Sadly, Billy passed away in November before the work was completed, therefore Greenwood Cottage is both a perfectly restored traditional cottage, but also a testament to the legacy of one of Northern Ireland’s great heritage professionals.
Nigel Brady- 21 Ballynahinch Street and 1 Arthur Street, Hillsborough, Co. Down
Situated in Hillsborough and occupying a prominent corner site in the conservation area, 1 Arthur Street and 21 Ballynahinch Street were built around 1825. By 2017 only four grade B2 listed walls were left of the original blacksmith’s forge and associated blacksmith’s house. In 2017, the Brady family purchased the properties at 21 Ballynahinch Street (the village Forge) and 1 Arthur Street (the Blacksmith’s adjoining cottage). The buildings contribute so much to the distinctive style of the Hillsborough conservation area, and the Brady family, have successfully restored unique features such as the lattice windows, creating work for local craftspeople in the process. Following the work, the buildings are now rented out for purposes that benefit the local community, namely a deli and a 2 bed cottage.
Cushendun Building Preservation Trust- The Old Church Centre, Cushendun
Cushendun Old Church is situated on the Antrim coast, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is a beautifully proportioned simple red sandstone building, built in 1842 and now Grade B1 listed. Although a prominent feature in the village, it was deconsecrated in 2003 and it then fell derelict and was placed on the Buildings at Risk register. As a result, a cross-community group, Cushendun Building Preservation Trust was formed to preserve the building and give it renewed purpose. After obtaining funding, the building was fully restored and an annex was added to the entrance. The result is a sympathetic restoration complemented by a modern kitchen and related facilities which is now in regular use by the whole community for classes, workshops, a meeting space and a venue for weddings and other events.
Category Three: Best Major Regeneration of a Historic Building or Place- Over £1Million
This award recognises projects that have seen large scale investment of over £1Million, put into saving, rescuing or regenerating a building or place. This is to award best practice and could be awarded to a team or individual that has given a new lease of life to a building by innovative or sympathetic reuse.
Ian Wilson, Chief Executive & Grand Opera House Trust- Grand Opera House, Belfast
The Grand Opera House, is one of the jewels in the catalogue of Frank Matcham theatres dotted across the UK. To mark the theatre’s 125th anniversary, the Grand Opera House Trust embarked on the biggest restoration project since the 1970s to return this matchless heritage asset to its former glory. Work began in January 2020 to conserve the auditorium and reconfigure earlier modifications to fit the needs of theatre productions today. Decowell led the restoration and conservation of the ornate auditorium plasterwork and detail, the seats were replaced and new carpets were laid. The outdated auditorium equipment was also upgraded, now the sound, lighting and stage equipment is ready for modern theatre productions. The Grand Opera House is an iconic building in Northern Ireland and the restoration project has secured the future of the building for future generations.
Peter Acheson & Charles Sheils Charity- Charles Sheils Charity Almshouses, Killough
The Grade B1 listed Charles Sheils Almshouses situated in Killough were built in 1868 by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon through the benevolence of Charles Sheils. The terraced almshouses were constructed in 1868 by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon. At the beginning of the 21st century the houses were added to the Heritage at Risk Register. The Charity invested just under £3 million pounds into the restoration of the 31 houses so the Charity could maintain the ethos of Charles Sheils’ original bequest. The restoration aimed to preserve as many of the original features as possible, as well as conserving the grounds, saving the listed trees and preserving the original water system. The historically and architecturally significant buildings have now been saved and the houses again fulfil their original purpose of providing a place of refuge to those in need.
Michael Dunlop- The Merchant House, Donaghadee
The Merchant House, built between 1760 – 1779, became derelict in the 1970’s. The building secured grade B+ listing in 1976 and came to reflect the declining fortunes of the town. In 2017 Michael Dunlop of Urban Property Solutions Ltd bought the property and sought to explore options for its long term restoration, eventually partnering with the Townscape Heritage. The project has resulted in apartments within the original historic building, as well as a collection of new build cottages in the rear courtyard which retain the Georgian style. Throughout the restoration, Michael Dunlop persisted in the aim for quality craftsmanship, materials and finish to respect for the building’s heritage. Overall the project acted as a catalyst for stimulating regeneration and has become a symbol for the reversal of fortunes within the town.
Category Four: Best Contribution to a Heritage Project by Young People
This award recognises the contribution to heritage projects by young people up to the age of 25. The award can be for individuals or groups. Groups may include projects led by school or volunteer groups, social clubs or historical societies. Individuals, including young volunteers, university students and young apprentices are also eligible.
Niamh Kelly- Reimagine, Remake, Replay
Reimagine, Remake, Replay is led by a consortium of NI museums, and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project creatively engages young people with a range of heritage projects where participatory engagement and youth-led activities occur regularly.
Niamh Kelly joined the project in October 2018 as a participant who impressed with her response to the ‘youth-led’ ethos of the project, her infectious enthusiasm and creative input. secured a full-time paid role as the project’s Youth Ambassador in January 2020 her contribution since has been monumental. Niamh has represented the project on numerous showcases, organised youth-led online events, and has been instrumental in the creation of project steering groups which address specific interests of young people. As a culmination of her work, Niamh developed a Youth Manifesto for museums to commit to youth engagement, ensuring young people remain engaged with our heritage into the future.
Jade Thorne- YEP! Portrush
In November 2019, Portrush Heritage Group were awarded funding under the 148th Open Legacy Fund to create a resource that would allow children to explore the heritage of Portrush. The project, named ‘Young Explorer Portrush or YEP’, was led by Heritage Group committee member Jade Thorne, a teacher at Carnalridge Primary School. Jade recognised that classes could draw on Portrush’s own natural and man-made assets to contribute to learning as part of the NI Curriculum. Jade approached all four local Primary Schools to work together to develop the YEP! App as a tool to implement this learning into the classroom.
The YEP! App works to create a full and interactive heritage adventure across Portrush. The adventures cover History, Geography, Science and Technology and the intention is to educate our children in Portrush’s history and stories to foster a passion for heritage from an early age.
Armagh Townscape Heritage Initiative- Armagh Townscape Heritage 3D project
Armagh Townscape Heritage 3D Project was conceived to bring an appreciation of the unique architectural identity of Armagh to local primary schools as part of a five year regeneration programme. Peter McNeil, a former head of technology, developed a creative learning programme for P6 and P7 students.
The first activity used sketching to enhance knowledge of heritage and the environment. In a hope to inspire future architects, engineers and historians, the children sketched Georgian doors, fireplaces and houses. The second activity used Minecraft to recreate Armagh’s iconic 7th House, which has also received funding as part of the project. The project has passed on the legacy of Armagh’s built heritage to a future generation, while also developing their critical skills and contributing to their wider education.
Category Five: Best Craftsmanship or Apprentice on a Heritage Rescue or Repair Project
This award recognises volunteers or professionals, including individuals and groups, who have demonstrated the application of craft skills that have been key in repairing or rescuing a historic site. For example, it could be someone who has carved stone gargoyles for a church, repaired a historic window, or learned how to recreate bricks for a particular rescue.
Martin McKenna- St Macartan’s Church (Forth Chapel), Augher
St Macartan’s Chapel was constructed between 1838-46 and is grade B+ listed. The Chapel is notable for its stained glass windows, designed in the workshops of Joshua Clarke & Sons. The windows commemorate local writer Rose Kavanagh and Archbishop Hughes who founded St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
Martin McKenna is a member of the Parish committee who led the restoration. The parish committee commissioned Chris McCollum to complete a conservation study for the church in 2019, following which Martin researched the best wood and storm glazing to ensure the glass is protected. His heritage building expertise was integral to ensuring the glass was cleaned correctly, in order to show the brilliance of the signature blues of the Clarke studio windows. The restoration work has insured the lasting legacy of this church, that is important not only in the community, but on a national scale.
Paul Collins- One Shore Street, Donaghadee
One Shore Street, Donaghadee dates to the early 1800s. It had retained the original shop front, but was in severe need of total restoration work. Paul Collins of Marlfield Joinery & Construction Ltd was contracted to undertake the restoration work in 2018. One Shore Street was Marlfield’s first large heritage restoration project.
Working with support from The Heritage Lottery, the main aim of the project was to restore the original building as possible in order to protect its architectural heritage. Damaged roof timbers were replaced and finished with original Bangor blue slates, the walls were re-plastered using hydraulic lime and the original skirting, architrave and wall paneling were replicated in the original Georgian style. The building is now a flourishing Bed and Breakfast, which retains its original character and restores the heritage of the building and town as a whole.
Peter Scott- RPSI, Whitehead Railway Museum
Peter Scott was a founding member of the RPSI in 1964 and has been a railway enthusiast all his life and was awarded an MBE in 2006. His experience with NIR helped to hone his skills and his innate talent for innovation meant he was a natural to head up the restoration and maintenance teams at Whitehead. He built up a huge resource of engineering equipment from foundries, something that is now invaluable to the RPSI in the development of heritage engineering skills.
No. 131. was built in 1901 and arrived at Whitehead in 2003 in scrap condition It has now been restored to working order, passing for use on Northern Ireland Railways. Peter sourced original drawings and the remaining engine parts, the rest had to be forged by the team themselves. No. 131 has helped to keep Northern Ireland’s train heritage alive, as well as enabling skills to be passed down to future generations of engineers.
Category Six: Best Research, Interpretation or Recording of a Historic Building or Place
This award recognises those who have helped people better understand and engage with an historic building or place. It is open to everyone who has researched, or recorded heritage and also those who have worked to better present information relating to historic buildings or places to widen audience engagement. This may be an individual or group.
Isobel Hylands- Friends of Shankill Graveyard
Isobel was inspired to create the Friend’s of Shankill Graveyard after a spate of anti-social behaviour caused severe damage to a number of headstones. Shankill Graveyard is an important site within Lurgan, containing the Brownlow Mausoleum with links to the Brownlow House and the founders of Lurgan, as well as mass famine graves and war memorials. Isobel recognised the importance of conserving and repairing the site, and has been a driving force behind its restoration, in collaboration with ABC Council. Security fences have been erected, some of the most significant headstones have been protected, and a condition study has been carried out on the Brownlow Mausoleum. Future works include securing the structural integrity of the mausoleum, installing security cameras and continuing their programme of walking tours.
Sean Barden- Bishops and Buildings, A Pictorial Celebration of Armagh’s Architecture
The book originated in Armagh County Museum as part of ABC Council’s response to ‘2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage’. Sean Barden worked with heritage sites across Armagh and the focus became buildings associated with Armagh’s Primates. The book is illustrated with images drawn from the collections of the Armagh Observatory, the Cardinal O Fiaich Library, the County Museum and the Robinson Library; all four collaborated to create the text. Only material held in Armagh was used, which has resulted in a unique archive which is accessible online and which also safeguards the collections for the future.
The book is seen as a way of taking a fresh look at Armagh’s built heritage; the focus on how the Primates steered the development of the city underscores the distinctiveness of Armagh, whilst also demonstrating it as a centre of learning and culture.
J.A.K. (Dixie) Dean- The Plight of the Big House in Northern Ireland
J.A.K. Dean’s book, The Plight of the Big House in Northern Ireland, is the result of a life’s work of research. Thanks to his intrepid work in the field, Dean has thrown a light on a history of buildings that have been lost. Nearly 200 buildings, lost or at risk, across all of the six counties of Northern Ireland are recorded. Each entry in the compilation combines research and field notes with copious references and a comprehensive bibliography. In addition, pictures and photographs, most taken by the author, have been sourced for nearly every entry. By describing the architecture of the houses and relating this to family history, Dean has brought little known buildings to the attention of a wider public. Through highlighting the perilous state of the remaining big houses, his work should help to ensure that more care is taken of those that remain.