An historic building in Sion Mills is about to undergo a massive restoration programme, it’s been revealed.
Five years ago, the distinctive Stable Block building - a B+ listed 19th century property - was vested by the DoE.
The charities behind the restoration scheme - Hearth Revolving Fund and the Sion Mills Building Preservation Trust - have raised funds from a variety of trusts to carry out the restoration of the iconic roof and belfry of the building.
Consultations with local people and schools will take place before work begins on the full restoration of the building.
The draft restoration proposals are for a visitor centre which will include a museum, gift shop and cafe.
Marcus Patton, of Hearth, said: “We are delighted that the restoration of the Stables is about to get under way. We regard the project not as an academic exercise in restoring a historic building for its own sake, but as a process of bringing the building back into daily use.
“We hope and believe that it will also stimulate a sense of pride in the village and will lead to the creation of new jobs and businesses”.
On Monday next, January 23, a week-long community consultation event will take place at Sion Mills Primary School. Stephen McNamee, who has just been appointed as the Education and Activities Officer on the project, said: “Anyone interested can come in, have a cup of tea and look at the plans for the Stables block and the different proposals developed down through the years for the redevelopment of the larger old flax mill site.
“The week long event will end on Friday night with an open community meeting in Sion Mills Primary School at 7pm, which will be addressed by heritage and restoration experts and there will be a chance for everyone to ask questions and make suggestions.
“We hope that people will want to participate in the shaping of the village, tell their friends and come out in large numbers on the night.”
Celia Ferguson, a trustee of Sion Mills BPT, added: “For year,s people from all over the country worried about the Stables Block prior to its collapse.
“To many, it seemed beyond repair and its restoration should be a revelation to them as to what can be done when will and expertise come together.
“The North West has never really seen a building restored from such a ruinous state. Many such buildings have been rescued in the UK but this will be a first in this part of Ireland where it has been customary for buildings in such a state to be demolished.
“It will give the village hope and I see this as a first step to bringing Sion Mills back to its former glory. This project will show people the added value that can be achieved through restoration.”
Over the next eighteen months, anyone passing through the village will see the Stable Block rise from the ruins to take on a new lease of life.