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Former Co Antrim schoolhouse to begin a new chapter as a tea-room

By Rachel Martin

A historic former Co Antrim schoolhouse, set up in response to the Great Famine, is to get a new lease of life as a tea-room.

It's hoped plans to transform the former Dundrod National School into a 30-seat cafe will take shape this year.

The single-storey schoolhouse was built in 1847 as one of the first agricultural schools in Ireland.

Dundrod woman Jennifer Campbell (38) is behind the latest project. Her husband, Ian, is a former pupil of the school, which is based in the grounds of Dundrod Presbyterian Church.

The building is still owned by the church but has been disused for around 20 years.

Jennifer said: "My children go to the school nearby and I go to the church, so I was always in the area and just wanted to see it used for something.

"As a farmer's daughter I was always used to feeding other people, I've always thought it was a lovely building and opening a tea-room is something I've always wanted to do."

She hopes to call the business Peace of Cake.

The building on the Leathemstown Road was given B2 listed status in 2001 because it is of special architectural and historic interest.

Azman Khairuddin from Big Design Architecture said he was excited to work on the listed building.

He explained: "The idea is to retain a lot of the original character. The outside of the building will be restored to its original finish with white painted walls and black windowsills."

The former school was built in 1847 as Dundrod Ordinary Agricultural School.

Agricultural schools were set up in the aftermath of the Famine to pass on skills such as crop management and animal husbandry.

Landlord, the Marquis of Hertford, supplied a plot of farm land and helped pay for the construction of the schoolhouse itself.

The facility opened on May 1, 1848, with Isaac Lowry as master, and became a National School five years later.

The Dundrod school continued to operate until the mid-1970s and was later used as a church hall for the neighbouring Presbyterian church.

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