Belfast Telegraph

Historic Georgian home in Northern Ireland gutted following early morning blaze

By Brett Campbell

Plans to restore a landmark 18th century Georgian home have been put in jeopardy after the building was gutted in a deliberate blaze which 'could have cost lives'.

The derelict property on High Street, which previously belonged to the Cuppage family of Lurgan, was set alight shortly before 4.30am yesterday morning.

It was reported that a bin or rubbish was set on fire and quickly spread to the roof, which was completely destroyed in the arson attack.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Group Commander Max Joyce said the flames spread quickly through the complex layout of the old building.

"The people who set the fire put firefighters' lives, and the lives of the public, at extreme risk," he said.

Appliances from Dromore, Banbridge and a support unit from Lisburn were dispatched in a major operation which required 33 firefighters to stop the flames spreading to neighbouring buildings.

Aerial platforms from Belfast and Portadown also assisted in tackling the "devastating" blaze which has dealt a major blow to council plans to restore the building to its former glory.

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart praised fire crews for helping to prevent lives being put at risk.

"As well as being a commercial area there are people living in flats above some of these shops and if the fire had spread it could have been a risk to life," she said.

"Many business owners have suffered stress as a result of this and I appeal for anyone with information to contact police."

The Upper Bann representative also said the destruction of the historic home beside the old Orchard County Hotel - formerly known as Silverwood House - will disappoint many residents.

"It's a very historic building which has been derelict for many years," she said. "It belonged to the Cuppages who were very involved with the Army. The council was in the process of trying to secure funding from the lottery's heritage fund to repair the building and regenerate the area."

The house, which was built by former bank owner Adam Cuppage, was known as Bengal Place due to family's strong links to India, with several members of the family serving in the Indian Army.

A former resident of the adjoining Silverwood House in Lurgan, Cuppage once saved a besieged garrison from starvation by creeping through the enemy lines under the cover of darkness to bring back provisions.

A decorative urn made from all the silver given up by his grateful fellow officers was brought back to Lurgan and kept in Silverwood House until it passed out of the possession of the Cuppage family.

Alexander Cuppage, who had previously emigrated to the 'New World', inherited the property shortly after the end of the First World War and returned from Canada to live there.

Mrs Lockhart and other representatives will meet today to discuss the future of the lottery funding application and attempts to salvage the property.

Belfast Telegraph

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