Gracehill gets visist from Department of Environment
SECRETARY at the Department of the Environment Mr Leo O’Reilly, visited the historic village of Gracehill, Northern Ireland’s first designated Conservation area and the only complete Moravian settlement in Ireland.
The award-winning village has received many accolades over the years including a European Europa Nostra award. The village has been involved with other Moravian settlements from around the Globe in a joint bid to establish a World Heritage trail.
The local building regeneration charity known as “GhOST” have already brought the villages historic old school building back to life in a very successful project that was given the Royal seal of approval last year when the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited.
The building is now home to an after school club, an award winning Restaurant, several small businesses, community space and an exhibition area detailing the unique history of the village and the international connections as well as a restored eighteenth century classroom that is proving popular with visitors.
GhOST now plan to turn their attention to the Old Village Shop which is a purpose built shop constructed for the settlement in 1787. The building is two storey with attics and basement and the layout is much as it was when originally constructed. The central shop area still contains many original features including shelving built into the walls
and counters. The storage areas and living accommodation are constructed around the shop and also contain many original features including an unusual large wooden winch wheel for drawing stores up to the attic.
The building has not functioned as a shop for approximately 30 years and has been uninhabited for several years following the death of its owners.
In response to the community’s desire to retain the village’s strong architectural heritage and enhance the potential of the conservation area, GhOST have developed a scheme to regenerate this unique building
in a meaningful, viable and sustainable manner. The first step was to secure ownership of the building and thanks to funding provided by Ballymena Borough Council and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency this has now happened.
Mr O’Reilly presented the key of the Old shop as ownership symbolically transferred to the charity.
Speaking after the event, David Johnston, chairman of GhOST said, “This important and historic building could so easily have been lost. The physical, psychological and social benefits in terms of community spirit, regeneration, job creation and tourism of regeneration projects such as this are self-evident. Such is the power and potential of our built heritage in this Province.
Happily I believe this message is not lost on members of the Northern Ireland Assembly who in a debate a few days ago endorsed the findings of a recent report entitled “A study of the economic Value of Northern Ireland’s Historic Environment. Minister Attwood, we thank your department for the acquisition grant funding of the old shop project and we congratulate you for recently enhancing the financial commitment to the built environment which we believe is evidence of your sincere and ongoing commitment to our heritage.
I would also like to pay tribute to Ballymena Borough Council who have been very supportive of the old shop project from the outset. They have been quick to recognise and encourage the potential benefits of the old shop scheme. Ballymena or “the middle town” as the name literally means lies halfway between the Titanic Belfast Attraction and
the Giants Causeway World Heritage site. It is also halfway between Belfast and Derry Londonderry. As such the rich patchwork of attractions in this area are likely to be increasingly important. I would therefore like to thank Ballymena Borough Council for their foresight and vision in supporting such projects. We look forwart to taking this project to fruition.”
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Weather for Ballymena
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North west