A police cell, a bomb alert button and an out-of-bounds room thought to have been used by the army for observation purposes are the unlikely features of new premises acquired by Dungiven Presbyterian Church.
Thankfully, however, like most of the new premises they’re not operational.
The features belong to the former PSNI station in Dungiven bought by the Church last December.
The former station is on a massive site, which the Church says will solve its problem of parking on the narrow New Street, where their church is located. They also see the potential of using the station for Sunday School classes and, possibly, a creche, but that’s down the line.
One of the things they want to do soon is to remove the corrugated walls surrounding the station to normalise it to the public. The sangar and communications mast were removed last year during decommissioning of the site.
In the meantime, the Church is holding an open day fundraiser at the former station tomorrow. Church Committee member Ian Buchanan said it’s an exciting time for the church.
“We see so much potential for what we could use the building for. I suppose the main reason we became interested in this site was for a car park,” Ian told the Journal.
“We have no car parking at the church. We bought this site for a car park, the building was an extra bonus, but it was the 0.6 acre we were interested in for a car park. We spent considerable money to buy this so we’ll do minimal work just to make it a serviceable building. We’ll take our time to see what we have to do to make best use of the facilities for our purposes.”
Ian hopes that for the next generation the former station will be known as just another building along Main Street in Dungiven.
“There has been a station on this site since 1923, and this building opened in 1992, so there have been massive changes, even in the short time it has been operating in less than 20 years. It’s amazing to think the whole thing has turned around and it’s not now required,” said Ian.
“There would have been 30 full-time officers stationed in this station, which is massive for a small place like Dungiven. Things have moved on now and we want to normalise this location as quickly as possible. I think a generation now will always thinks of it as a police station, but for the next generation they’ll think it just a building along the street.”
Those who attend the open day tomorrow will get to tour the warren of corridors and dozens of rooms that include the reception area, the one cell in the former station, five bedrooms, a kitchen, locker and recreation rooms, and other offices. There is also a room that is thought to have been used by the British Army and is understood to have been out of bounds to police.
“We want to see as many people through the doors on Saturday to see what was inside this building,” said Ian. “This is a great opportunity to see all that before we alter anything. Come and see what the station was like in its raw state. It’s definitely exciting times ahead.”
The open day takes place from 12 until 3pm tomorrow.