Belfast Telegraph

Thatched Summer House in Fermanagh destroyed by arson

By Claire Williamson

The beautiful and unique Summer House structure situated within the Florence Court National Trust estate in Fermanagh attracted visitors from near and far.

But on Thursday, at around 8.30pm, it was destroyed in an arson attack. Three fire engines attended the blaze.

Four teenage boys, one aged 14 and three aged 15, were arrested. They were later released on bail pending further enquiries.

Located in the grounds of the 18th-century property which was the former home of the Earls of Enniskillen, set against the dramatic and idyllic backdrop of the Benaughlin mountain and surrounding forests, it holds fond memories for both locals and tourists who flocked to get their photograph taken at it.

A short walk past the historic home and you were ready for a sit down in the charming Summer House. Perhaps its most well-known visitor was in April 2014 when Prince Charles included it in his visit to Florence Court.

On Friday, visitors to the tourist attraction were met with a sign stating the facility would "rise again as a beautiful feature in the garden."

National Trust manager at Florence Court, Jim Chestnutt, said: "This is a very sad event for National Trust staff and volunteers at the property, and for the thousands of visitors who visit Florence Court annually.

"The thatched building surrounded with its heather-clad walls sat on a high area overlooking the Pleasure Gardens and was a favourite destination for the beautiful views across the gardens to Benaughlin and distant mountains.

"This news is devastating for the staff and volunteers who love and care for Florence Court, one of our most beautiful places in Northern Ireland.

"However, as a conservation charity we are committed to looking after these special places forever and the team at Florence Court is confident that the Summer House can be fully restored.

"Florence Court remains open to the public this weekend, and our team will continue to provide a warm welcome to our visitors."

People took to social media sites to express their sadness at the fire, with some sharing photographs of their time at it.

One posted a photo and said: "So sad that someone could mindlessly destroy it."

Ulster Unionist MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Tom Elliott, said the attack showed a "disgusting disregard" for the local community.

He said: "This is a very unique feature and what is in anyone's mind that they would want to burn and destroy such a feature, I do not know.

"In time I would like to see this prominent feature of Florence Court replaced and the perpetrators of this arson attack brought to justice."

Background

  • The Summer House in the grounds of Florence Court was built in 1993.
  • It was a replica of an earlier 18th century building on the same site, removed during the 1930s.
  • Located a short walk from the historic home, it was a favourite with visitors and locals.
  •  In 2014, Prince Charles visited the Summer House.

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