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Hundreds back call to restore Belfast’s Wilmont House to former glory

Wilmont House deserves to be saved, says campaigner behind new petition

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Historic: Wilmont House in its prime

Historic: Wilmont House in its prime

Wilmont House in south Belfast

Wilmont House in south Belfast

Wilmont House in south Belfast

Wilmont House in south Belfast

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Historic: Wilmont House in its prime

A petition has been launched to save a stately home in Belfast from falling into ruin.

Wilmont House, in the grounds of Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park in the south of the city, was gifted to the council and the people of Belfast in 1959 by Lady Dixon in memory of her late husband, a former Lord Lieutenant.

Over the decades, it has fallen into a poor state, with the windows broken or boarded up.

When the council held discussions on the future of the property a number of years ago, it was suggested that the Dixon family be approached for an opinion. However, no progress has been made.

A petition calling on the council to take action and restore Wilmont House to its former glory has been signed by more than 500 people so far.

It was launched by local woman Sharon Marks, who said she had noticed the poor state of the building while taking walks in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park during lockdown.

“About a year ago, I contacted the council to see what the plans for the building were as it was gifted to the council and the people of Belfast,” she added.

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“For such a beautiful building to fall into such a state of disrepair is just so sad.

“The council said it was planning on carrying out an expression-of-interest exercise in early 2021 to find someone to bring it back into use, but the pandemic has delayed this.

“That really hacked me off, so I got in contact with local politicians to bring things forward, but that didn’t get very far.

“One or two people in the council shouldn’t be gatekeepers of Wilmont House.

“It was gifted to the council and all the people of Belfast. People should be able to enjoy it.

“It is such a beautiful building and for that amount of heritage and history to be lost would be terrible.”

Donal Lyons, a member of Belfast City Council’s growth and regeneration committee, agreed action should be taken.

“There’s not many buildings like Wilmont House left in Belfast, let alone ones in such a setting, and we need to ensure that they are protected for future generations,” he said.

“We’re lucky to have them. Each one of them captures a moment in the city’s history and everyone has their own personal stories in which these beautiful buildings play a role.

“We need to do more than just let them sit in decay.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “Wilmont House at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park is a Grade B-plus listed building owned by Belfast City Council. 

“We are in the process of preparing an invitation for expressions of interest to go to the market later this year, seeking a suitably qualified developer to restore the building and bring it into a new use.”

Wilmont House, which dates back to 1859, served as the headquarters of the US Army in Northern Ireland during the Second World War.

It was later used as a nursing home and a parks office for the council. At one stage, it was also the headquarters of the Belfast Marathon.

 

The petition calling on the council to restore Wilmont House can be found at change.org


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