Restoration works are nearing completion on the long standing establishment in Carrickfergus known as The Dobbins Inn.
The project has been funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Mid and Antrim Borough Council, through Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), in partnership with Dobbins Inn.
The THI is an ambitious regeneration scheme for the town’s Conservation Area, supported by £1.55million in funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and £0.55 million from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Dobbins Inn is the second building to have been awarded funding from Carrickfergus THI, with several further schemes under development.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Maureen Morrow, said: “I am delighted to see the works The Dobbins Inn nearing completion.
“Very soon we will be able to see the building restored to its former glory.
“With such a prominent place in the town the work will allow future generations to enjoy it to its full potential.”
Carrickfergus THI Project Board Chair, Cllr Cheryl Johnston said: “The building has now taken on a new “old” appearance following research and discussion with heritage experts.
“We are delighted that this project has been able to reveal some of the medieval history of Carrickfergus, which once would have had several tower houses along the High St. Throughout the restoration Dobbins Inn has continued in use as hotel and restaurant throughout.
“The completion of the project will ensure that Dobbins Inn continues to be kept in good repair, used and enjoyed for generations to come. The THI scheme remains open for expressions of interest for future heritage led restoration schemes from eligible properties”.
The THI Education staff were involved in detailed research and investigations into the historic fabric, collaborating with Dr Dave Brown of Queen’s University Belfast and Department for Communities: Historic Environment Division Archaeologists and Listed Building Experts.
The external façade changed following investigations that revealed the building used to be a medieval Tower House.
Following timber dating analysis, it was established that the building was as old as c1530, and at that time it was a residence for the Dobbin family. The building later became the main bakery for the town, and following its conversion to an RIC Barracks, a new frontage was erected causing it to lose its appearance of a tower house for over 150 years, which has now been restored.
Angela Lavin, Senior Investment Manager, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “This fantastic project has returned a small piece of medieval Carrickfergus to the present-day, and gives visitors and local people a real sense of what this place would have been like five centuries ago.
“Uncovering and sharing the history of the building has increased our understanding of the past and will undoubtedly bring others to learn about and enjoy the heritage of Dobbins Inn and the town. We are delighted to support this project and congratulate everyone involved in its success.”
Kirsty Fallis of Dobbins Inn, said: “We are delighted to see the results of this joint project emerging.
“We believe that the design approach which recreates the medieval frontage of the building really enhances the historic character of the building and will encourage residents, and our customers alike to imagine life in a medieval tower house, of which Dobbins Inn is a rare survival.
“We would encourage visitors and residents to come and take a look and experience for themselves an authentic medieval building on our doorstep.
“Without the THI funding, the personal investment of the Fallis family, and the expertise of the local tradesmen and contractors, under the guidance of Samuel Wilson, we could never have taken on this innovative restoration of a medieval Tower House or achieved the quality of materials and workmanship that we have in this project. We are looking forward to completing the scheme in the near future and welcoming all to Dobbins Inn”.
The refurbishment of the building is expected to complete by November 2019.
For those wishing to find out more about the heritage research undertaken, a report will shortly be made available on the THI website online.