Watch: 18th century Antrim mansion gutted by deliberate blaze
An historic 18th century mansion in Antrim town has been gutted by a deliberate fire.
The blaze ripped through Steeple House in the early on Tuesday morning and burned for around seven hours before firefighters were able to bring it under control.
Three fire engines attended the fire at 5.20am and firefighters with breathing apparatus battled the flames.
A fire service spokesperson said the blaze was extinguished by 12.15pm and the cause was determined to be deliberate.
Steeple House, a Grade B listed building, was originally owned by Antrim's Clarke family and was later headquarters of the old Antrim Borough Council.
It has been vacant since 2007, however it is understood the council has plans to redevelop the site.
Alliance councillor Ne Kelly said he hopes the building can be restored.
"It is very sad to see such a great building up in flames, especially a listed building with such great connections to the council," he said,
"But it is even sadder to learn that the fire may have been started on purpose."
DUP MLA Pam Cameron commended the work of the emergency services and urged anyone with any information about the fire to contact police.
“The sight of Steeple House in flames is one that will bring a sense of sadness to all local people who cherish this historic local building," she added.
"For many they will have memories of this place in its former glory, and to see it now all but a shell is truly devastating."
Craig Hogg of the Steeple Community Association said the inside of the building has been completely gutted, however the structure remains standing.
"It's sad to see the building gutted, it's such an icon piece of Antrim town," he said.
"We have had hopes it could one day become a community hub, so it can be used by all Antrim residents, so I hope the building can be restored to its former glory."
Ulster Unionist MLA Steven Aiken called for a full investigation into the cause of the fire.
“I was shocked to hear of this fire and see the aftermath. The building has a long history within the Steeple and Antrim area and to see it in the state it is in after this major fire is clearly upsetting for many local people," he said.
"I, along with my colleagues pay tribute to NI Fire and Rescue Service for the manner in which they tackled this blaze.
“The Ulster Unionist Party want to see a full investigation into the fire to establish how it happened and encourage anyone who can assist in establishing the facts to come forward at once.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital