Belfast Telegraph

Historical Lagan Canal house saved from wrecking ball

By Linda Stewart

It was destined for the wrecking ball - but now a historical building on the banks of the Lagan Canal has won a new lease of life.

Navigation House, once the home of the Lagan Canal manager in the days when coal lighters plied our waterways, will be the new headquarters of the Lagan Canal Trust.

The Trust, which hopes to reopen the disused Lagan Navigation, has found the perfect headquarters in the house which sits beside Lisburn's four Union Locks, the only staircase lock on the island of Ireland. The historic home was built in 1866 for the Lagan Canal Manager, but was sold in the 1950s when the last superintendent, Michael Wallace Kidd, moved out.

In 2012, the house and stables were spot-listed by the then Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, after a planning application proposed to demolish them and build six units in their place. In 2014 the house was acquired by Hearth Revolving Fund through Ulster Garden Villages. The Lagan Canal Trust leased the site and is now transforming it into its new headquarters.

Chief officer of the trust, Brenda Turnbull, said the house was in good condition but the garden was totally overgrown.

"Our aim would be to open the site to the public. The Trust would work on the first floor and our longer-term intention is to look at having digital interpretations of Lough Neagh on the ground floor.

"The house used to be connected to the Union Locks - the manager would go up and down the stairs to open the lock. We hope school parties could come to Navigation House and learn about the Lagan Navigation and why it was built, before walking down the garden into the Union Locks. It's perfect."

One option might be to restore the vegetable garden that once supplied the kitchen.

"The manager would have had a vegetable garden and we're only one generation away from that, as the house was sold to the last owners in the 1950s," Brenda explained.

The Trust is working closely with the previous owners and the granddaughter of Mr Kidd to put together a picture of how the garden would have been laid out.

On February 23, between 6pm and 8pm, the Trust will be holding a public consultation event at the Island Centre showcasing proposals for Discover Waterways Lisburn, a regeneration area covering the waterways in the Lisburn stretch.

They are asking local people to come along and make suggestions for the waterways, including the Lagan Canal spur which is home to the Union Locks and Navigation House.

The plans for the publicly-owned land include a walking and cycling path from Navigation House to the Maze site, new paths linking the river to the Moira Road, and opening the river up to more communities and ultimately reopening the navigation to provide new canoeing, boating and fishing opportunities.

Factfile

The Lagan Navigation was one of the most successful commercial navigations in Ireland and boasts the only flight of four locks (Union Locks) in the Irish waterway network.

Its remnants pass through Belfast and Lisburn, traverse countryside and villages to enter Lough Neagh.

Opened in 1963 and travelling from Belfast to Lough Neagh, the Lagan Navigation travels 27 miles with 27 locks, 20 road bridges, 12 footbridges and one railway bridge.

It passes through 102 settlements, which are home to 300,000 people. It was closed in 1958.

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