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'It deserves a better legacy than this': Blaze causes significant damage to listed building

Local TD Noel Rock told TheJournal.ie that it’s a “disaster” that the building has been left idle.

EARLIER THIS WEEK, six units of Dublin Fire Brigade attended the scene of a fire at a vacant building on St Mobhi Road in Glasnevin.

That vacant property was actually the listed building of Balnagowan, also called Saint Mobhi Boithirin or Wendon.

It has a storied history, but in recent years has been left derelict and has fallen into disrepair.

Fine Gael TD for Dublin North West Noel Rock told TheJournal.ie that anti-social behaviour has been common around the building and its grounds in recent times and that the site “deserves a better legacy”.

Listed building

Balnagowan is listed as a protected structure by Dublin City Council, which includes buildings of “architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, social, scientific or technical importance”.

Built in 1931, the architect behind the manor was Harold Greenwood, a pupil of Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens who was considered one of the finest English architects of the 19th and 20th centuries.

balnagowan In the top right of the picture, Balnagowan is close to the Bon Secours Hospital in Glasnevin. Source: Google Maps

Research on the building has highlighted how it retains much of its original features.

Brendan Madden wrote: “All the original light switches, concealed radiators, wash-hand basins and many other original features are left intact exactly as they were in 1931.

These original features emanate a refined elegance through a combination of minimal detailing and high quality materials, just like the building itself.

Madden also said that the building was significant in that it marked a “complete departure from precedence” in terms of luxury Irish homes, as it was designed in a style unique to Ireland at the time.

A luxury family home until 1971, it was also the headquarters of the Inland Fisheries Trust for a period of time before it was left vacant for the last few years.

The actual state of the building is poor, according to Madden. He said: “The house is in a very poor state of repair with broken windows, leaking pipes and peeling paint”.

Anti-social behaviour

Rock said that the current state of the building had made it ripe for anti-social behaviour.

“I regularly get reports on this,” he said. “I suppose it’s a kind of disaster that nothing is being done with this building.”

A spokesperson for Dublin Fire Brigade told TheJournal.ie that its units had attended incidents at Balnagowan “a number of times over the last three/four months”.

The Fine Gael TD said that its current state has made Balnagowan become a “magnet” for such behaviour.

“About two months ago,” he said, “a sort of squatters’ collective moved in”.

The owners went to court to ensure that they were moved out but the fire this week is a further blow to hopes that the building could be restored.

It’s a genuinely interesting building, and it’s very sad to see something like this happen. It deserves a better legacy than just being burnt down. It’s imperative we try to get it active again.

He added he had petitioned for the owner of the site to be subject to the vacant sites levy, which is 3% of the market valuation of the site.

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