Project to unearth history of Dobbins Inn

Council Education Officer Laura Patrick, Duty Officer Paula Sands, HED Advisor Paul Logue, and Deputy Mayor Cheryl Johnston.
Council Education Officer Laura Patrick, Duty Officer Paula Sands, HED Advisor Paul Logue, and Deputy Mayor Cheryl Johnston.

A lost medieval castle is braced for a new lease of life as work begins on uncovering a Carrickfergus hotel’s incredible history.

At first glance, Dobbins Inn on Carrick’s High Street appears to be like many other modern, family-run hotels.

But the owners, the Fallis family, along with experts from the Historic Environment Division (HED), suspect that beneath the modern exterior of the popular hotel are the remains of a castle dating back to the 1400s.

A joint project to investigate the building’s history has begun, with the family, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and HED teaming up to examine just how much of the castle still survives.

This will involve the removal of plaster from the front of the building and selected places throughout the interior.

The scheme is being delivered through the Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), facilitated by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and co-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Cheryl Johnston, who is chair of the town’s THI, said: “This scheme shows our commitment to working with locals and HED to further heritage and economic opportunities within Carrickfergus across Mid and East Antrim.

“The Dobbins research will provide an excellent platform to promote the importance of our local built heritage, with school groups and towns people seeing investigation and conservation in action. It’s like vertical archaeology!

“We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident this project will capture the imagination and bring our proud history back to life.”

Hotel owner Derek Fallis added: “Most Carrickfergus people consider the building to be a key landmark in the town, but no one is just quite sure just how old it is.

“We are very excited to be working with the experts to find out how old the building could be and what we can maybe open up for visitors in the future.”

The Townscape Heritage Initiative focuses on the regeneration of historic town centres, preserving and enhancing existing buildings.

This not only includes supporting property owners through grant assistance for physical works, but also provides training in building conservation and traditional building skills.

Council is confident the exploratory work at the Dobbins will be just the beginning, and over the next three years Mid and East Antrim Council will encourage everyone to learn a little bit more about our local built heritage.

Activities will include traditional building skills workshops, education workshops for primary and post-primary, as well as exhibitions, reminiscence evenings and family fun days.