Our Aim

Hearth Historic Buildings Trust’s mission is to rescue and restore historic buildings at risk for the enjoyment and benefit of all.

We believe that valuing and maintaining our distinctive built heritage is vital to our sense of identity and that restoration of historic buildings promotes environmental, cultural and economic sustainability.

Our aim is to demonstrate the art of the possible by restoring buildings to high conservation standards and inspire others to follow our example. We believe that historic buildings are a common heritage which can be used and enjoyed by all helping to create a healthy and stable society.

Our History

Hearth was established in 1972 and is the largest and most experienced building preservation trust in Northern Ireland. It has consistently carried out projects that were groundbreaking or challenging.

Click on the arrows to see a timeline of significant landmarks in our history.

Who we are

Hearth’s management committee includes members with a wide range of experience in conservation, housing, architecture and the legal and accountancy professions.

Alastair Rankin, MBE
Chair

Alastair Rankin, MBE

Chair

Alastair practised for over 40 years as a solicitor with Cleaver Fulton Rankin in Belfast, retiring in 2015. He was president of the Law Society of Northern Ireland in 1997 and represented the Society for 15 years on the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of Europe. He sits as a fee-paid judge in the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) and as a legal chairman of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal Northern Ireland. He retired as chair of Belfast Philharmonic Society in 2020; is a board member of Chamber Choir Ireland; Hon Secretary of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Hon Treasurer of McCracken Memorial Presbyterian Church, Belfast. In 2020 he joined the newly-formed Northern Ireland Grants Committee of the National Churches Trust. He was awarded the MBE in the 2021 New Year's Honours.

Marcus Patton, OBE
Vice Chair

Marcus Patton, OBE

Vice Chair

Marcus is an architect who worked with historic buildings in Glasgow and Edinburgh before returning to Belfast in 1978 to run Hearth Housing Association. Through Hearth he was involved in the restoration of some fifty historic buildings, many of them having been derelict buildings at risk. He has been on the committee of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society for many years and chaired the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland for seven years till retiring in 2020. He was awarded the OBE in 1995 and is an Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy.

Tony Hennessey
Treasurer

Tony Hennessey

Treasurer

Tony was in practice for over 30 years as a chartered accountant , retiring in 2013. He was also for many years a member of the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber), retiring in 2018.

He currently sits on the board of a number of charities, predominantly arts and families related, and joined Hearth in 2019.

Verity Faith
Committee member

Verity Faith

Committee member

Verity is an architect originally from Eglinton, Northern Ireland. She studied architecture at Queen’s University Belfast and has developed an interest over the years on how design impacts wellbeing. She has a background in research and completed her PhD in architecture in 2014 with a thesis entitled “Designing for Dementia: An Assessment of the Impact of the Physical Environment on Wayfinding Success in Long Term-Care Settings.” During her secondment to Rome, Italy, in 2011 she was responsible for completing a report on how European Union (EU) policy considers the dignity of older people in regards to the design and inclusion of technologies. She has a love for the built environment, its history and fabric and how it impacts on our wellbeing and has a role in enhancing our lives. Verity currently works as a senior architect for van Dijk architects and is based in their Belfast office.

Rita Harkin
Committee member

Rita Harkin

Committee member

Rita is NI Support Officer for the Architectural Heritage Fund. From 2000 to 2013 she led on planning campaigns for the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and developed its education programmes. Prior to that she was employed as Heritage Officer with Belfast City Council; researcher with Rachel Bevan Architects; and Northern Ireland Development Officer for the Ecology Building Society. She currently serves on the board of the Irish Landmark Trust, which saves and restores historic buildings to provide holiday accommodation across the island of Ireland. She has an MA in Town Planning from Edinburgh College of Art and a Royal Society of Ulster Architects’ Diploma in Historic Building Conservation. Rita was awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to study best practice in universal access to historic buildings in Scandinavia and the United States.

Karen Latimer, OBE
Committee member

Karen Latimer, OBE

Committee member

Karen has over 40 years’ experience in the architectural heritage sector in Northern Ireland. A previous chairman of Hearth Housing Association and Revolving Fund, she has also served on the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland, The Irish Landmark Trust, the Ulster Architectural Heritage committee and is currently a Trustee of the Architectural Heritage Fund. Karen is a member of the UK Designing Libraries Advisory Board and the European Research Libraries Architecture Forum. Karen had a 45-year career in university libraries and currently works as a library building consultant. She has served on judging panels for the UK RIBA awards, the IGS Conservation Awards, the Australian Library Design Awards, and library building design competitions in Europe and China. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, an Honorary Member of the RSUA and was awarded an OBE for services to architectural heritage.

Geoff Sloan
Committee member

Geoff Sloan

Committee member

Geoff is a Chartered Architect with extensive experience in both private practice and central government. Geoff was responsible for conservation and new-build projects on several major buildings in the Northern Ireland government estate. As Head of the Design Unit in Planning Service, part of his role involved engagement and negotiation with agents and developers on design issues associated with major development proposals to ensure successful outcomes. At this time Geoff also contributed to the commissioning and direction of identified conservation area and supplementary planning guidance, and policy. Latterly Geoff worked in Northern Ireland’s Historic Environment Division as Assistant Director responsible for identifying, and listing, buildings of special architectural and historic merit.

Richard Williamson
Committee member

Richard Williamson

Committee member

Richard is a retired Housing Manager. He was heavily involved in the redevelopment programme of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in South and East Belfast. He also worked in the area rehabilitation programme that ran in tandem with redevelopment. He is currently a board member with Clanmil Housing.

Andrew Webb
Committee member

Andrew Webb

Committee member

Andrew is an economist with extensive experience in commercial leadership, business development and economic research. He is Chair of Belfast City Centre Management and a board member of Action Renewables. Having previous experience as a Government economist he is currently Chief Economist with Grant Thornton.

Errin McElhinney
Committee member

Errin McElhinney

Committee member

Errin works for National Museums NI as a Project Officer on their Capital Investment Programme. Previously employed by Ulster Architectural Heritage for two years, Errin undertook a variety of different roles including Heritage Projects Officer and Project Development & Planning Officer.

Errin has a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Ulster University as well as a Master's degree in Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) from the University of York. Whilst completing her Masters studies, she had the opportunity to complete an internship with the North York Moor National Park Authority as a Building Assistant and volunteered with the York Civic Trust as a Planning Caseworker.

For her Masters dissertation she investigated "Negotiating Heritage values: Post Fire Disaster Recovery".

Mari McKee
Staff: Heritage Development Officer

Mari McKee

Staff: Heritage Development Officer

Mari has ten+ years' experience working in a variety of roles within the heritage sector for organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, RCAHMS, and the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as the private sector. She joined Hearth in September 2022 after returning from living in New Zealand where she spent four years working in conservation building survey for Salmond Reed Architects.

Mari has a Bachelors in Architecture and a Masters of Science in Architectural Conservation from the University of Edinburgh.

Emma Barronwell
Staff: Community Engagement Officer

Emma Barronwell

Staff: Community Engagement Officer

Emma has a background of 16 years working in both the arts and charity sectors, including the Cathedral Quarter Arts festival and Victim Support NI. She joined Hearth NI in 2023 and is looking forward to engaging the community with the restoration of Riddel’s Warehouse.

Emma has a Bachelors Degree in Politics from Queens University Belfast and a Master's Degree in Public Advocacy and Activism from the National University of Ireland, Galway.