The Guard Room to open in Carrickfergus town centre

A new attraction is to open in Carrickfergus town centre as part of a £2 million heritage initiative.

Friday, 14th August 2020, 11:39 am
Warrant Officer's House in Carrickfergus.
Warrant Officer's House in Carrickfergus.

Mid and East Antrim Council is marking National Heritage Week by announcing plans for a makeover of the former Warrant Officer’s House and Guard Room at Antrim Street.

Old gaol cells are to get a new lease of life, re-interpreted to reveal their original purpose – as holding units for disobedient soldiers.

The Guard Room, as it is to be known, will also tell the story of the Antrim Artillery militia as well as 800 years of history on this significant site in the town.

Antrim Artillery parade c1883.

The Grade B1 listed is the latest to benefit from the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), an ambitious regeneration scheme for the town’s Conservation Area, supported by £1.5 million in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and £0.55 million from council.

The new visitor attraction will complement the nearby history museum.

Paul Mullan, director NI, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to see another project progress under the Townscape Heritage Initiative programme.

“The launch of this project within the Heritage Council’s National Heritage Week is especially poignant, given the project will bring to life the fascinating history of the Guard Room and develop associated learning and education.

“The project will add another heritage asset to the story of Carrickfergus and it is this local heritage on our doorstep that is most relevant for people and communities to enjoy and celebrate”.

Carrickfergus has always been militarily significant, having been a garrisoned town since the days of John De Courcy and the building of the castle in the late 12th century.

The Antrim Artillery Militia was initially based at the castle, but took over the old courthouse (now Town Hall) and jail in 1856. By the end of the century, they had demolished the old gaol and erected their own buildings, including militia barracks and ordnance store – as well as the Warrant Officer’s house and Guard Room.

They were a part of the fabric of Carrickfergus for over 60 years, from its formation in 1854 until demobilisation in 1919. This unit was responsible for the defence of Belfast Lough, first at the castle and later, during the First World War, at Kilroot.

Thanks to the Heritage Council’s Irish Walled Towns Network, which is funding the interpretative fit-out of the Guard Room, visitors will be able to see the small building partially recreated to show how it looked at the turn of the last century and learn about the story of the men who were based here, including recruitment, training and the active service they saw.

Multi-award winning interpretative designers, Tandem Design, whose previous work includes Titanic Belfast and the Seamus Heaney Home Place, have been appointed to carry out the work.

However, the site was in use long before the Antrim Artillery arrived. From the establishment of a Franciscan Friary, to the erection of Sir Arthur Chichester’s mansion, Joymount House; from the austere County Antrim Gaol, where convicts were executed, or transported away to Australia, to the opening of a new Town Hall, Carrickfergus’s latest heritage attraction will reveal hidden histories of those who lived and worked on this site over the centuries.

Another previously hidden element of the town’s history has already been revealed through a THI-supported scehme at High Street - read here

For further information on the Carrickfergus THI scheme, visit www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/CarrickfergusTHIor E: [email protected]

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