Belfast Telegraph

Clean slate for Carrickfergus Castle as work gets under way on new roof

Dr John O’Keeffe from the Department for Communities and James McNicholl from JPM Contracts Ltd, which secured the contract to build the new roof
Dr John O’Keeffe from the Department for Communities and James McNicholl from JPM Contracts Ltd, which secured the contract to build the new roof
The new roof
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Work on a new £1m roof at historic Carrickfergus Castle will get under way over the coming months following the awarding of a construction contract.

The fortress was built by Norman knight John de Courcy in around 1177 as his headquarters after he conquered eastern Ulster.

During the First World War it was used as a garrison and ordnance store, and during the Second World War as an air raid shelter.

The castle was transferred to the Northern Ireland Government in 1928 for preservation.

The new roof will be in keeping with the late-medieval architecture of the historic building and will replace the existing flat one, which has been in place for the past 80 years. It will be made from Irish oak, and oak-pegged without the use of nails or metal fixings.

The roof will be a series of open trusses and rafters carrying oak boards.

Externally, it will be finished in Cumbrian stone slates and lead.

The outside appearance of the castle will not look significantly different from ground level, as the roof will be behind the battlements.

However, internally the Great Hall at the top of the tower will be transformed into a higher, brighter and more historically resonant space. The castle keep will also be warmer and drier, allowing the full use of the space for historic artefacts, displays and functions.

The work, to be carried out by JPM Contracts Ltd of Dungiven, starts this month and is expected to last approximately six months.

Colum McNicholl from JPM Contracts Ltd said: "The new roof, which draws from medieval architecture, will be a showpiece of good conservation, practice and skills. The work, involving stonemasons, carpentry and lead workers, will ensure the integrity of the keep for generations to come."

The project will be managed by the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division. Director Iain Greenway said: "The works, which are now moving into the construction phase, will safeguard and enhance this internationally important castle and ensure that heritage delivers for the social and economic prosperity of the whole area."

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