St Columb’s revamp startsWork begins on £1m upgrade to historic manor house
A massive £1m revamp of one of Londonderry’s most historic buildings begins today in preparation for the city’s UK City of Culture year.
Work is now under way at the 18th century St Columb’s Park House in the Waterside.
The expansive manor house is currently Derry’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre and is visited |by around 15,000 people each year.
Of these, around 2,000 have taken part in residential activities at the centre.
Centre director, Brian Dougherty, said he hoped the work will be finished by November and the new-look facilities will be ready for the City of Culture activities in 2013.
Centre staff have moved off-site to facilitate the building upgrade.
They are now operating from temporary buildings in the car park and at the nearby Ebrington site, where they are being facilitated by Derry’s regeneration company Ilex.
“We have been given the use of the ballroom at the officers’ quarters and we're able to offer our usual facilities to voluntary and community groups and statutory bodies,” Mr Dougherty said.
“The only thing we can't offer is the dormitory accommodation.”
Under the new plans, however, all the dormitory accommodation at St Columb’s Park House will be upgraded, some with ensuite facilities, and will be opened up as accommodation to backpackers and travellers.
Groups using the newly revamped centre will also be able to make use of a new cafeteria which will be built in the courtyard.
Mr Dougherty said that once finished, the centre will further enhance the Ebrington/Peace Bridge/St Columb’s Park regeneration package for visitors.
He said: “These plans will bring us into the 21st century yet retain the unique fabric and structure of the house.
“The new facilities will be a great asset for the city during 2013 and will be available for backpacking tourists.”
Aideen McGinley, the chief executive of Ilex, said: “St Columb's Park House provides an extremely important service to the community and we are happy to support them over the coming months”.
The redevelopment programme is being funded by the International Fund for Ireland, the Department for Social Development, the Northern Ireland Environmental Association and Derry City Council.
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St Columb's Park House is an 18th century manor house on five acres of woodland and gardens within the Waterside. It is believed to have been constructed by naval officer Lieutenant John Rea, whose daughter and co-heir Elizabeth married into the powerful Hill family of Brookhall in 1831. The house was renovated in 1994.