A handsome old Rathfriland building, Chandler’s House, has been officially reopened after a £750k refurbishment and adaptation by Rathfriland and District Regeneration Company to enhance the village.
The Grade B1 listed Chandler’s House was originally a pair of mid-19th-century dwellings, remodelled at the beginning of the 20th century to form a bank and manager’s house. A soap and candle-making factory existed on the site in the late 18th century, which gives the project its name. It now provides a ground-floor space for community and cultural activities with a focus on music events. There are plans to start a drama group and the venue will also host a pop-up cinema. There are also four affordable first-floor apartments now available for rent and an outdoor space which will be developed for other activities.
Chandler’s House was one of four projects included in the Village Catalyst pilot programme, an innovative partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Department for Communities’ (DfC) Historic Environment Division (HED), supported by the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF). The pilot sought to tackle rural poverty and social isolation, as well as revitalise disused historic buildings.
This is the only pilot project to include a housing element and it attracted investment from the NI Housing Executive.
Chandler’s House received funding from DfC, DAERA, the Housing Executive, Ulster Garden Villages, the AHF, Garfield Weston Foundation, and private investment via Rathfriland & District Regeneration Company Ltd (a company limited by guarantee with the NI Charities Commission).
The opening was attended by representatives from funders, the local council, MLAs, and community groups.
Pat Rafferty, Chairman of the regeneration group, said: “The repair and adaptation of the building provides the community with much-needed arts and cultural facilities, bringing life and vitality back to the heart of the village. This historic building has been in use for nearly 200 years. The restoration took two years, including delays caused by Covid."
Pat continued: “It is fantastic to see the work completed and we are so pleased to see the building ready to play a central role in community life again. Local people are delighted with the result. We have already held a number of musical evenings here. We have capacity to seat one hundred people and our concerts have been sold out. I would like to thank everyone who has helped bring about this wonderful transformation.”
DAERA Rural Affairs Director, Teresa O’Neill, commented: “DAERA is delighted to have contributed £200k to this significant development at Chandler’s House which had breathed new life into a disused building.
“It is one of four projects DAERA has supported through the Village Catalyst Pilot Scheme and funded through our Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRSPI) Programme.
“The provision of a multi-functional cultural and arts community facility and social housing within Chandler’s House has addressed local identified needs and will benefit the local rural community in the Rathfriland area.”
Teresa continued: “Building on this successful pilot project, a cross-departmental Village Catalyst Programme was launched in 2022. Applications are invited from charities, social enterprises, and other not-for-profit groups in rural villages of less than 5,000 people.
“The aim of the Programme is to tackle rural poverty and social isolation by developing a sustainable use for disused historic buildings in rural villages. The Programme will award up to £4.2m over five years with DAERA contributing up to £2.7m from the TRPSI Programme budget.”
Elma Newberry, the Housing Executive’s acting Director of Regional Services, said: “The Housing Executive contributed £50k towards this project which increases the housing available in this high demand rural location and complements new social housing in the area.
“Such a distinctive building also gives people a sense of pride in their environment and helps promote regeneration.
“This community-led housing project, working in partnership with other agencies, is a very good news story for Rathfriland.”
DfC Historic Environment Director, Iain Greenway, said: “Through public, private and third sector collaboration, an historic building has been brought back into public use and created a new community focal point. The aim of the Village Catalyst partnership is to use historic buildings to create positive change in the lives of rural communities and of the people living there. This is a great example of the approach and I look forward to Rathfriland and District Regeneration Company building on the success of this initiative.”
Concluding, Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund, stated: “We are very pleased to have supported Rathfriland and District Regeneration Company with the Chandler's House project. Not only is this scheme regenerating a key building within the village, but the project is also delivering significant social impact within the local community. It is a fantastic example of the potential of the Village Catalyst scheme and Heritage Impact Fund to deliver both heritage and community impact across Northern Ireland”.
For further information on the Village Catalyst programme, please contact: Villagecatalystsupport@communities-ni.gov.uk
Details of the Programme are also available at: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/village-catalyst-grant-scheme
Notes to Editor
Rathfriland and District Regeneration Company was set up in 1994 to promote urban and rural regeneration in the area through the creation of training and employment opportunities, and the provision of housing for those in need.
Village Catalyst Programme
Applications are invited from charities, social enterprise, and other not-for-profit groups in rural villages of less than 5,000 people who want to tackle rural poverty and social isolation in their area by developing a sustainable use for a disused historic building in their village.
The programme builds on a 3-year pilot, which resulted in four projects being developed, highlighted in a short film.
To be eligible, the building must be listed or within a conservation area. The three available funding routes and details on how to apply are listed below:
- Project Viability Grant – To carry out viability work, with support offered up to £10,000. Please complete the enquiry form prior to making an application. This is a rolling scheme. For more information on what this grant can fund, click here.
- Project Development Grant – To further develop your plans with support offered up to £20,000. For enquiries and applications for this scheme, please contact Villagecatalystsupport@communities-ni.gov.uk. Please note, this scheme will close once our available budget has been expended. Therefore, early application is recommended.
- Delivery Grant – To deliver your project, with capital funding offered up to £200,000. For enquiries and applications for this scheme, please contact Villagecatalystsupport@communities-ni.gov.uk. Please note, this scheme will close once our available budget has been expended. Therefore, early application is recommended.