Thanks to my colleague in the William Carleton Society Frank McHugh (Fermanagh Family History Society) for alerting me to the new project at Enniskillen Castle. It involves the demolition of a former health centre, now derelict, at the entrance to the Castle. This also featured in a recent report by Julian Fowler on BBC Northern Ireland.
Exciting plans for the refurbishment of Enniskillen Castle Museums were unveiled at a recent series of information sessions. The project has received generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), the European Regional Development Fund, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Fermanagh District Council. Speaking about the plans, Chairman of Fermanagh District Council, Councillor Bert Johnston said:
“This is an exciting time for Enniskillen Castle Museums. Plans include a new visitor centre, improved amenities and a café as well as tourism, genealogy and heritage services. Four new galleries will interpret Fermanagh’s rich heritage, enhancing the Castle as the main introduction and gateway attraction for the region.”
Aine Kearney, Director of Product Development at NITB said:
“The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is delighted to announce part funding towards the development of this world class visitor centre within the historic grounds of Enniskillen Castle. Upon completion this project will provide the visitor with a unique and exciting experience.”
Enniskillen Castle was built in the 15th century by the Gaelic Maguires who ruled Fermanagh. Situated next to the River Erne and guarding one of the few passes into Ulster, it was strategically important throughout its history. The Castle is within easy walking distance of the town centre and contributes greatly to the unique character of the area.
The new project will involve the restoration and refurbishment of many of the historic buildings contained within the Castle complex for reuse as exhibition space. New visitor welcome and orientation spaces will be created to provide a more cohesive experience, hosting services such as a heritage, tourism and genealogy information point. A digital film archive and history hub will also be created to provide access to the museum’s archives, photographic records and library. Four new galleries will create additional space to showcase the Museum’s collections which consist of thousands of objects, images and oral histories relating to the region.
Commenting on the award, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, said: “Museums have an invaluable role to play in helping us to learn more about our past by using their collections to engage and inspire local communities, which is why HLF has already invested £31million in establishing and transforming our network of local and national museums.
“We are delighted to make this latest announcement of support for the museum sector which will see this hugely important heritage asset become the heritage gateway to the area. Having been awarded a first-round pass, Fermanagh District Council can now further develop the project to achieve its full potential and go forward to secure the full £2.47million grant.”
Mark Knight, of Kriterion Conservation Architects commented:
“We are delighted to be involved in sensitively transforming this significant heritage asset into a world-class visitor facility which will protect and enrich our built and cultural heritage. Conservation of the iconic buildings and integration of the new visitor centre will give new long-term sustainable uses to the Enniskillen Castle Museums and enhance the region’s rich heritage and tourism offering.”
Speaking about the long term plans of Fermanagh County Museum, Sarah McHugh, Manager of Museum Services said:
“This is a real boon to Fermanagh and will enable the museum service to be even more ambitious. My hope is that we are building an inspirational space where locals and visitors can explore the unique heritage of the region, gain more access to our museum collections and enjoy bigger and better events and activities. During refurbishment, which has now begun and is due for completion in 2016, visitors will still be able to enjoy Fermanagh County Museum’s Medieval Maguires display and The Inniskillings Museum.”