Today sees the start of this year’s National Heritage Week, the aim of which according to the Heritage Council (which coordinates the event) ‘is to build awareness and education about our heritage thereby encouraging its conservation and preservation.’ This is a laudable aspiration and merits everyone’s support. Heritage Week has encouraged some valuable initiatives. As of today, for example, St Lawrence’s Gate, a thirteenth century barbican originally built as part of the defences of Drogheda, County Louth (seen above) is to be permanently closed to vehicular traffic – something which should have happened many years ago – thereby ensuring its better protection. All counties in Ireland participate with enthusiasm in Heritage Week but once the seven days are over, many of our historic buildings revert to a condition of vulnerability. Below is a photograph of the former Church of Ireland church at Castlehyde, County Cork. Originally constructed in 1809 it further benefitted from the attention of George Pain in 1830. Having been closed for services, it has sat empty for some time and is now in imminent danger of collapse. This building is as much part of our heritage as St Lawrence’s Gate, and although likewise listed for protection has been allowed to slip into its present state. It would be beneficial if the goodwill engendered by Heritage Week were put to advantage to ensure more historic properties were given the support required to ensure their long-term future. Obvious ways to do so would be to use this high-profile annual event to highlight specific buildings at risk, and to campaign that local authorities enforce the law regarding protection of listed structures, something that with rare exceptions they currently fail to do so. As the state of the church in Castlehyde shows, until our legislation is matched by implementation every week needs to be Heritage Week.
Bravo. I of course heartily concur.
I only partially agree with you about closing St Lawrence’s Gate to vehicular traffic. It may lose its status and atmosphere as a vehicular entrance which it has been for such a long time..
On another note, I could never understand why the owner of the fabulously restored Castlehyde house, for whom the church serves as an eyecatcher at the end of a walk in his formal garden, could not have assisted in funding some emergency repairs to this delightful building.
I’m all for putting Nelson back on his Dublin pillar.
Sadly, there seems to be a global practice of owner-authorized deferred maintenance–if one ignores the small repairs needed, eventually it snowballs until demolition can be argued for with a straight face. On top of which, pop culture encourages an ahistorical approach, where a fictional castle in Game of Thrones will have more name recognition than this worthy barbican. It always comes down to economics, doesn’t it–where sometimes the best scenario is the arrival of an economic downturn that eases development pressure on worthy survivors.