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AHF helps to bring new life to 'The Old Church', Derry City

29 May 2018
Northern Ireland

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has recently awarded a Project Development Grant to An Gaeláras to support the development phase of An tSeaneaglais, ‘The Old Church’, Derry.   

An Gaeláras’ purchase of the former Great James Street Presbyterian Church in 2014, thanks to a substantial acquisition grant from the then Northern Ireland Environment Agency (now Department for Communities’ Historic Environment Division), administered by the Architectural Heritage Fund, helped to secure the future of this landmark ‘At Risk’ Grade B+ listed building.  The project will see it brought back into use as a vibrant arts and cultural venue with space for music, education, performance, and promotion of shared heritage in a Neighbourhood Renewal Area.  The history of the building as a Presbyterian church will also be celebrated.  

Completed in 1837, the church was designed by noted architect, Stewart Gordon, and was one of the first buildings to be constructed during the Victorian ‘New Town’ expansion of the city; it is one of the finest examples of Georgian neoclassical style architecture in the area. Previous grants from the AHF have assisted the organisation to carry out essential structural surveys.  The most recent award of a Project Development Grant will allow the organisation to commission specialist conservation and interpretive plans, which are instrumental to the future of the HLF supported project and restoration of the church itself.   

Commenting on the award Pauline Gardiner, An tSeaneaglais Project Development Officer, said:  “This seed funding comes at a crucial stage in our development phase.  The AHF Project Development Grant will allow us to work with specialist conservation architects and interpretive planners to produce a number of essential documents that will help shape the future of the building and ensure its long term sustainability.  We are extremely grateful for the continued support of the Architectural Heritage Fund; their advice and guidance has been invaluable and we are very excited by the opportunities the development of An tSeaneaglais will provide for all sections of our community.”   

Matthew Mckeague, CEO of the Architectural Heritage Fund, commented: 

“This is a highly significant, but ‘at risk’, church and this project offers the opportunity to find a solution to its future through the creation of a major new cultural asset. We have been supporting the project for a number of years and the conservation and interpretation plans will be further essential building blocks in the project’s realisation.”

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Notes to Editors: 

1)    The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans

2)    An Gaeláras is Derry’s primary Irish language, arts and cultural organisation. Established in 1984, the organisation is now one of the most dynamic, innovative and award-winning Irish language organisations anywhere in the country, delivering a wide range of cultural initiatives. 

3)    Funding for this project was generously provided under the Department for Communities Historic Enviornment Fund  Growing ‘Community Enterprise through Heritage’ programme.

4)    For press enquiries please contact Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive, on 020 79250199 /

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