Benburb Priory Library and Museum has a taken a significant step forward this week in realising its exciting and ambitious plans for the restoration of the old and prominent Victorian Stable block into a new state-of-the art visitor attraction.
This remarkable £1.2 million development, which is being generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (NI) and match funded by a cocktail of other funders, will see the derelict Stable building become the home to the rare, valuable and unique Servite Collection and Archives, some of which date back to the 16th Century.
The restoration of the Stable building, originally built by Mr James Bruce in 1888, immediately following his purchase of the estate from the previous owners the Powerscourts of Benburb (1610-1886), will guarantee the conservation and opening up of the collection, archives and an important and prominent feature of the local villagescape to visitors from near and far into the future.
Speaking at the signing of the contract with the appointed building firm J.J. Rice at the offices of Patrick O’Hagan and Associates Architects Newry (Project design Team Lead), Professor Gerry McKenna MRIA, chairman of the Benburb Priory Library and Museum Project Management Board, said: “Today marks a significant milestone in what has been a significant and exciting journey by all involved with the project over the past six years.
“We are delighted to have signed the contract between the Servite Trust (NI) and J.J. Rice, and that this will see physical work start on the Stable restoration immediately, enabling the realisation of a purpose designed, environmentally controlled and safe environment for the rich Servite heritage and history contained within the library collection and archives, as well as breathing new life into a building that was at serious risk of being condemned.”
Fr Colm McGylnn OSM, Provincial Prior of the Order of the Servants of Mary – the Servites – speaking after the signing of the contract, said: “I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank everyone involved in bringing this fantastic project to this stage.
“We look forward to opening the doors to the restored Stables in the very near future and having the opportunity to welcome visitors from near and far into what promises to be a wonderful, rich and inspiring visitor experience.
“We will bring to life the stories, history and heritage of the Servite Collection and Archives, as well as the rich heritage and history of the estate itself, drawing on the influences of the O’Neill, the Battle of Benburb, Sir Richard Wingfield (Powerscourt family), Mr James Bruce the Victorian Landlord, WWII and the use of the Manor House as a Military Hospital for American, British and Belgium troops, through to the arrival of the Servites from Chicago in 1947 through to the present day.”
Fr McGlynn OSM continued: “On behalf of the Servite Trust (NI) and the Benburb Priory Library and Museum Project Management Board, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund (NI) and the many other funders who have shown great confidence and trust in this project.
“Not only will this project make this wonderful collection and built heritage available for present and future generations, but we also very much hope that it will contribute positively to the wider economic, social and cultural regeneration within our rural community.”