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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

Ever wanted to sleep in a lighthouse? Cutbacks might make it impossible

Restored buildings managed by the Landmark Trust are in danger following funding cuts.

Image: via Landmark Trust

IF YOU’VE EVER wanted to spend the weekend in a lighthouse, castle or tower, then the Irish Landmark Trust has you covered.

Since 1992, the trust has been renovating and renting out some of Ireland’s most historically significant smaller buildings, but now funding cutbacks are threatening their ability to preserve some of Ireland’s most significant smaller buildings.

The Irish Landmark Trust is a not-for-profit organisation and a registered charity, and the need for it to find new funding sources is now extremely pressing.

In recent years funding support from the Heritage Council’s Building at Risk funds alongside local authority Conservation Grants have evaporated entirely. The main stipend provided by the Heritage Council has also reduced by 30 per cent.

“Historically, our grant funding would have made up 60-70 per cent of the total cost of the conservation projects”, Diana Molohan of the Landmark Trust told TheJournal.ie.

While the funding for projects has all but disappeared, The Irish Landmark trust says that without the core operational funding supplied by the Heritage Council t could not have survived the recent difficult years.

While the organisation’s ability to maintain its current portfolio is not in doubt, funding shortfalls mean that the Trust has had to down tools at sites, including Goggin Cottage in County Limerick.

“We started Goggin Cottage five years ago, and we managed to get it re-thatched and re-rendered, but because in the last four years all our grant aid has been stripped, we’ve had to walk off site.”

The trust hopes to return to the site once its funding situation improves.

Front Elevation 300dpi

Colourful history

What started as a brainwave in founder Terry Kelly’s sitting room has blossomed, and the trust now rents out 25 properties, both north and south of the border.

Many have colourful histories, like Russborough House, which used to be the part time residence of aristocratic pair Lord and Lady Beit. Most of the year, they just used it to store their art collection.

Ever wanted to sleep in a lighthouse? Cutbacks might make it impossible
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  • Drum Gatelodge in Antrim before restoration

    Drum Gatelodge in Antrim before restoration
  • Interior of Drum Gatelodge in Antrim after restorationSource: DH Davison
  • Drum Gatelodge, Bushmills Co. AntrimSource: DH Davison
  • Merrion Mews before restoration
  • Merrion Mews exterior restoredSource: Davison & Associates Ltd
  • Internal shot of the restored Merrion Mews
  • Salterbridge Gatelodge in Waterford before restoration
  • Salterbridge as it looks nowSource: Davison & Associates Ltd
  • Interior of SalterbridgeSource: Davison & Associates Ltd
  • The Annaghmore Schoolhouse, pre-restoration
  • The Schoolhouse as it looks now
  • The interior of Annamore Schoolhouse

The buildings they work on aren’t usually big enough to come under the remit of the Office of Public Works.

Back in the eighties, many of them were falling into disrepair. As Landmark Trust member Diana Molohan says, “Much of the smaller stuff was falling into rack and ruin.”

“When we took on the Wicklow Lighthouse, it was covered in seagull droppings, dirt and debris, and it was completely hollowed out. It was an empty cylindrical tower.

At the moment, all the trust can afford to do is pay for the upkeep of the buildings already in its portfolio, and is turning away projects that will continue to fall into disrepair.

Molohan said: “With 25 old, hungry buildings that need a lot of love, care and attention, it doesn’t leave a whole lot in the pot for new buildings.”

The Landmark Trust is often called in by state bodies that end up with a lot of property on their hands but don’t have the resources to keep it up or need to use it in any way. The Commissioners for Irish Lights, for example, have turned over several abandoned lighthouses and keeper’s cottages for renovation.

Molohan said that the Trust has a loyal and “wonderful group who support and love us”, but that current income from the rental of properties is not enough continue with restoration work.

However, she warns: “The other side of the story is that if people don’t come and stay in them, they might not be there for much longer.”

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