Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Haul of historic artefacts found in fort restoration

Rare coins, bracelets and axe heads dating back to the 16th century are among a number of artefacts unearthed at one of Ulster’s oldest buildings.

The discovery, which also includes flints, embossed pottery and clay pipes was made by archeologists at the White House in Newtownabbey.

A number of features such as stone hearths and beam slots from 1524 are believed to be from a building which pre-dates any existing structure known to have stood on the site.

A £1m restoration project to transform the former fortified farmhouse into a cross community centre complete with lecture rooms, civil ceremonies centre and exhibition space for a permanent Williamite/Jacobite European Exhibition is expected to be finished by early next year.

In 1574 the White House was gifted to Major Brunker by Elizabeth I in recognition of his efforts during the Spanish wars. At that time the Grade B listed building was thought to have been a tall, square townhouse of four or five storeys.

The walls are three feet thick and the original house was of a robust linear design. At some point during the Plantation period in the 16th and 17th centuries almost circular turrets were added.

Until 1840 the building was used as a residence, then found use as a stable and barn, but by 1923 it had become largely derelict and today it stands as little more than a shell.

Dame Jenny Abramsky, chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which has awarded a £425,000 grant, said: “Once fully restored the history of the building, its archaeological heritage and the significance of the people that came here will be opened up and preserved for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

“I'm looking forward to visiting several more of the one thousand local projects that have benefited from HLF funding, which has helped to transform local landscapes, townscapes and communities.”

Chairman of the White House Preservation Trust Billy Webb added: “Without funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, Ulster Garden Villages, Biffaward NIEA and Architectural Heritage Fund this building would have continued to decline.

“But with the assistance and funds from these organisations, the skill of our professional team, the patience and forbearance of our neighbours and the dedication of the volunteers who work tirelessly for the trust, this seemingly impossible task is becoming a reality.

“The trust is truly delighted to welcome Dame Jenny to show her the artefacts found by the archaeologists and to thank them and their teams at HLF and Biffaward for their invaluable help and funding.

“When finished in January next year this building will be a cross community centre with conference facilities, permanent exhibition and genealogy service.”

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