Ballyskeagh Lockhouse, Lambeg, Co Down
Restored after twenty years
Although Drumbeg Lockhouse was the
first project carried out by Hearth Revolving Fund, its sister
building at Ballyskeagh was being investigated by Hearth in the
early 1970s, and was surveyed in 1979 with a view to possible
restoration. At that time, its owners were not interested in selling
as they wished to demolish it to put a bungalow on the site, but
listed building consent was refused by the DoE. Eventually it
was possible to re-open negotiations, but by the time work commenced
on site, nearly twenty years had elapsed since the first contact
Ballyskeagh was built at the same time as Drumbeg, and Omer's
distinctive cuboid design with arched recesses on each elevation
and Gibbsian doorcase is unmistakable; however their locations
could hardly be more different, with Drumbeg down by its weir
and Ballyskeagh up on a hill above the Ballyskeagh High Bridge
commanding a view northwards across the river valley. It was also
built of different materials, being of soft local red sandstone
with brick gables, mostly covered in a thin cement slurry. This
was the Number Eight Lockhouse, and was last occupied by a retired
lock-keeper, William McCue, who bought it in 1955. On his death
it lay empty, became vandalised, and was a burnt-out shell for
about fifteen years.
The lack of original timber in the building would have made restoration
difficult had it not been for the experience gained at Drumbeg,
and details of doors and windows were derived from the other building.
A modern fireplace on the eastern gable was removed and the original
fireplace in the SE corner of the living room reinstated; however
a steep staircase on the south wall was not replaced, a new right-angled
staircase being inserted at the NW corner. The original roof truss
was retained, but virtually all other timbers had been burnt out.
Electricity and drainage were brought in for the first time, the
latter involving a complex series of drop-manholes to negotiate
the steep change in levels down to the road. It was decided to
replace the brick gables, which had decayed badly and did not
appear to be original, in stone. Historic Monuments and Buildings
Branch architects were also keen that the building should be limewashed,
and when the old render was removed a colour-wash was applied.
In 1998, Hearth was presented with an Award of Merit from the
Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland for the scheme.
Client: Hearth Revolving
Main Contractor: Annadale Building Contracts, Belfast
Accommodation: One two-bedroom house.
Assisted by loans and grants from: N I Housing Executive, Historic
Buildings Branch DoE, Architectural Heritage Fund and own capital.