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In the 1950s and 1960s the kitchen wing of Townley Hall collapsed and disintegrated. Since the turn of the Century it has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes. The latest phase of development will be completed in July and provide a new floor, together with lift and stairs linking it to the main house, writes DERMOT CONWAY.

With a completion date projected for early July 2019 the Townley Hall Phase II development is now in the final stages of construction. Phase II builds on the successful completion of Phase I which involved the restoration and refurbishment of the kitchen wing, an annex to the main house, derelict since the 1950s.

Phase I was completed in 2014 and primarily directed to the full restoration of the original annex façade and the provision of a large dining/multifunctional space at basement level. Phase II completes the envelope of the building with a new low-pitch zinc roof which is designed for future accommodation. It also incorporates a new stairs and lift linking the basement to the first floor.

The provision of the new lift and stairs will also help to alleviate wear and tear on the historic fabric of the main house, especially Townley’s iconic central rotunda staircase.

A new toilet with ground floor disabled access is also included in this phase of the development. All these improvements are intended to address current safety and access issues while providing for future accommodation requirements.

GENEROUS

For those not too familiar with the origins of the current development some historical background might help:

Purchased by the School of Philosophy in the 1980s, through the generous donations of students, Townley Hall has served the needs of the School as a national venue for over three decades.

Acknowledged as one of Ireland’s most significant Georgian buildings, Townley Hall was designed by the great Irish architect Francis Johnston (1760 – 1829). Johnston was responsible for many of Ireland’s most distinguished buildings of the time, including Dublin’s GPO, the Chapel Royale in Dublin Castle, and St. George’s Church, Hardwicke Place, Dublin, to name but a few. Townley Hall was built for the Townley-Balfour family in the 1790s and is situated on an elevated site overlooking uncluttered natural landscape with views of the majestic Boyne Valley. It is widely considered to be Francis Johnston’s domestic masterpiece.

RUIN

When the School acquired Townley in the 1980s the kitchen wing lay in ruin. As the kitchen annex roof was low in comparison to the main house and easily accessible from ground level, it’s quite probable that at some stage in the 1950s the lead flashing was removed from the roof leading to its rapid decay and subsequent collapse.

As the School's usage of Townley Hall increased over time, accommodation demands increased also. At peak, typical residentials were frequently exceeding 90 people, thus an ambitious plan to restore the derelict kitchen wing was devised. The proposal envisioned a dining and refreshment room at lower ground level, combined with bedroom accommodation at ground floor level and a lift linking three floors. Construction began in 2002 but was abandoned shortly thereafter largely due to heavy and competing demands on the School's finances.

With the aid of a generous 'Louth Leader' grant, matched by equally generous student donations, the original proposal was revived in 2012 and substantially redesigned to comply with current planning and safety standards. Given the national heritage status of the house considerable care has been exercised in both the design and choice of materials for the new building.

RESTORED

The new design allows the restored extension to function as a seamless addition to the main house, while at the same time being capable of autonomous operation by virtue of a separate entrance on the north side of the house.

The successful completion of Phase II now lays the foundation for the third and final phase of the overall development. Phase III will consist of an attic conversion to Phase II providing quality accommodation for up to 10 people, accessible from ground floor level.

School members can take justifiable satisfaction in the successful restoration and modernisation of one of Ireland’s most treasured national monuments.

We wish to acknowledge with gratitude the generous support of School students throughout the years without which this project would not have been possible.

For more information on the history of Townley Hall please visit the Townley Hall website:

www.townleyhall.ie