Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is entering the final stages of a six year programme to restore and regenerate some of the many historic buildings which the town centre is fortunate enough to possess. The THI is an ambitious regeneration scheme for the town’s conservation area supported by £1.788 million in funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and £0.628 million from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. The Housing Executive has also awarded funding through the Heritage in Housing Programme to the THI, to introduce residential accommodation in vacant floorspace.
10 High St is one example of a historic building supported through the Townscape Heritage Initiative and is revealing some exceptionally rare finds. Behind its traditional Victorian style frontage, the professional team have uncovered a considerably older building than its street front would suggest, with evidence pointing to a late medieval structure dating back to the 1600s. Of particular significance is the presence of a rear stair tower containing part of a 17th century (possibly Jacobean) staircase leading from the first to the second floors.
Ciara McManus, of Farrimond McManus, project archaeologist has been on site this week excavating two test pits to try to piece together the clues. Fragments of animal bone and a couple of sher of pottery of potentially medieval date have been found and will be examined by experts.
Chair of the THI project Board, Councillor John McDermott said: “What’s great about this project is that we are preserving Carrickfergus’s heritage by bringing new life to these historic buildings. This scheme will create two new two bedroom apartments in empty floorspace in the heart of the town centre, while introducing traditional shopfronts and recreating the historic character of architectural features, which will greatly enhance the streetscape of High St.”
Stephen Salley, project architect from HBK architects explained: “Urban buildings that can be demonstrated to have pre-1700s origins are rare in Northern Ireland, with those of late medieval or Tudor-era pedigree virtually unknown. As such therefore, 10 High Street is a structure which despite not inconsiderable alterations in recent decades, is of considerable archaeological and architectural importance with its setting also largely intact.”
Paul Mullan, Director, National Lottery Heritage Fund NI said: “We are delighted to see this rare survival of Carrickfergus’s built heritage being conserved and brought into sustainable use for future generations. Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re able to support important projects like this, which contribute greatly to our knowledge of Carrickfergus’ history, which continues to be discovered through the Townscape Heritage Initiative.”