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Milford community joy as funding secured for phase-one of old school-house renovations

"This will do a lot of the preliminary work, for example; ripping out floors, taking down walls and doing comprehensive damp-proofing treatments"

Milford School-House

After almost a year-long battle, the Milford Community Development Association have secured funding to carry out the first phase of much-needed renovations to their Old School House.

It is hoped the grant of over £220,000 will aid the restoration of the grade-two listed building – located at the bottom of the village’s Hill Street – back to its former glory.

The old schoolhouse in Milfordwhich underwent a major facelift in 2013, suffered rapid decline in the years following its initial renovation, so much so that the facility has been unusable for a number of years, closing in 2018 due to structural defects.

As the prime base of operations for the community group’s activities, they argued the community spirit in the village would be lost if funds weren’t obtained to restore the iconic listed building once again.

In March, they received a grant from The Community Ownership Fund, supported by The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, meaning that phase-one of the renovation work can hopefully begin at some point between April and September.

The works will involve essential internal structural changes to the building, alongside roof repairs. It will also undergo comprehensive treatment to prevent the spread of damp in the groundworks.

When Armagh I visited the school-house last year, the building was in a great state of disrepair

Kevin Powell, the chairman of Milford Community Development Association (MCDA), told Armagh I the battle to restore the building has been a “long haul”.

He explained: “This will do a lot of the preliminary work, for example; ripping out floors, taking down walls and doing comprehensive damp-proofing treatments. That’s really where the problem started as there was no damp-proofing in the building.

“In addition, structural work will take place to remedy a wall that has a significant external crack extending its height. Alongside these works, a new roof design (at rear) has been approved and will be installed so as to remove standing water on existing flat roof and to stop water-ingress via existing gable wall.

“These works will help ensure that the building will be water-tight for the future. Also, it will enable the building to ‘dry out’ before additional works will take place.”

He added: “On the back of that we’ve made an application to Heritage Lottery and they’ll be able to give us feedback in the next two months whether or not we’ve been successful. That would allow us to do phase two, which would be a complete renovation, including roof works, and make all of the building fit for purpose.”

MCDA are continuing to engage with funders in order to source the cash needed to renovate, refurbish and restore the much-needed community facility back to the people of the village and surrounding area.

They say however the process is very methodical and requires extensive consultations with building consultants and architects. The community group remain confident their hard work will pay off in the long run.

“The building had been the beating heart of the community for several years and its loss had been keenly felt by everyone who frequented it. We are hopeful that the building will be fully restored and that it will once again play an integral part in community life in Milford.”

When Armagh I visited the property early last year, we were met with uneven flooring, clutter and even had to step on a wooden plank on entering to avoid falling through the welcome mat.

Mould and fungus adorned many of the walls of the building, with the flooring ripped up in one room and kitchen appliances sinking into the floor in another.

It was a far-cry from the days when the building hosted dances, fundraisers, seasonal events, toddler groups and all manner of activities that can be found in the typical village community centre.

Built in 1861 by Robert Garmany (RG) McCrum, who was responsible for building the linen village of Milford, it had remained as a school up until it witnessed a drop in attendance.

Following the school’s closure in 1983, it was taken over and used as a parish hall under the ownership of Aghavilly Parish.

The building was then acquired shortly after the formation of the Milford Community Development Association and used as a community hall in the 1990s.

Read more: Historic Milford schoolhouse falling apart 10 years after major £300,000 renovation

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