The Architectural Heritage Fund is delighted to announce that it has awarded a Project Viability Grant to Clonduff Development Enterprise to help them secure a long-term future for St. John's Parish Church in the heart of Hilltown, County Down.
The Church of Ireland was completed in 1766, and was the first building to be erected in the planned village of Hilltown, developed by the Earl of Hillsborough. It is situated on a prominent crossroads within the small rural village, forming one of its most important architectural elements, and has some very fine Neo-classical internal timberwork and original pews. Vacated in 1983, the building has remained empty ever since, and features on the Built Heritage at Risk register managed by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.
AHF's grant of £3,500 is helping the Enterprise to explore the feasibility of creating a community hub which addresses local needs, and a tourism facility in the gateway to the Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Dr Marie Cowan, Chair of Clonduff Development Enterprise Limited (CDE) said:
"CDE, on behalf of its shareholders and the wider Clonduff community, is delighted to receive this grant and support from the Architectural Heritage Fund. The project viability grant will enable CDE to conduct a detailed building condition survey of the former Church of Ireland, and also initiate a community needs survey, both of which will inform the viability of a planned restoration and community enterprise project.
Such a project would enhance and protect this Grade B2 listed building, the architectural centerpiece of Hilltown. This grant creates a platform from which to pursue an opportunity for a mixed-use community space and local enterprise."
Matthew McKeague, Chief Executive with The Architectural Heritage Fund, said:
'This is a really important project, for both the church and Hilltown. We're pleased to be supporting the project at this vital stage, and the assessment of community needs will be an essential building block in delivering a sustainable use for St John's.'
The Department for Communities, through its Historic Environment Division, and the Pilgrim Trust, have provided funding the AHF to help deliver a two year programme of advice and seed funding to grow community enterprise through heritage across Northern Ireland.