BANBRIDGE District Council has just completed a £830,000 restoration and refurbishment project aimed at injecting new life into one of the district’s oldest and most historic buildings and preserving the district’s rich built heritage.
The Old Town Hall was looking a little the worse for wear until the Council came to its rescue, giving the 180-year-old building the mother of all makeovers.
The Grade B1 listed building has been restored to its historic grandeur and now closely resembles its original façade. The bulk of the restoration work involved replacing the roof and upgrading the clock tower, repointing the external stonework, replacing the ground-floor windows and installing a modern heating and electrical system.
The entire ground floor now has an open plan design to accommodate a new tourist information office in a prime town centre location and the large function room on the first floor has been refurbished so that local groups can continue to use it for exhibitions, conferences and meetings.
Speaking at the official opening, Council Chairman, Councillor Joan Baird, said: “This landmark building has been an important part of the Banbridge townscape for nearly 180 years and hopefully it will be for many more as a result of this restoration project.
“Together our appointed conservation architect and contractor WDR & RT Taggart and Hugh J. O’Boyle have done an incredible job bringing this architectural gem up to 21st century standard without losing its original character and uniqueness. We are also indebted to our funders for their considerable grant support and our Tourism Manager who managed this project so magnificently.”
A total funding package of £126,000 was secured to support this project - £85,000 from the NI Environment Agency and £41,000 from the NI Tourist Board.
The building was originally constructed in 1833 as a new Market House for the town and was built on the site of the Bunch of Grapes inn. In its long history it has been used for a variety of purposes including housing the Electricity Board offices to being the home of the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Source Youth Club.
The building suffered greatly with bomb damage on two occasions during the Troubles. Although extensive repairs were carried out, the building began to visibly show considerable deterioration in recent years. A major condition and structural survey, carried out in 2010, confirmed that the building was in a poor condition due mainly to its age.
The new Tourist Information Office will open on Monday 2 July 2012, providing a one-stop-shop where local people can go to get advice on a wide range of Council services.