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
Chairman

Alastair Rankin

Chairman

Alistair 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 13 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 is currently chairman of the Belfast Philharmonic Society; Hon Secretary of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Hon Treasurer of McCracken Memorial Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

Dr Paul Harron
Vice Chairman

Dr Paul Harron

Vice Chairman

Paul is a senior communications professional who has worked in the private, public and voluntary sectors and is also an architectural historian. Following his MA from St Andrews, his career began as an Architecture Editor for Phaidon Press and Laurence King Publishing; from 2003 to 2008 he was the Architecture and Built Environment specialist at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. His doctoral research (QUB, 2011) was on Young & Mackenzie Architects, and his monograph Architects of Ulster: Young & Mackenzie, a transformational Provincial Practice c.1850-1960 (UAHS, 2016) was shortlisted for the SAHGB Colvin Prize (2018) and a Heritage Angel Award (2018). He has published, edited books and lectured widely; is on the UAHS Committee; sat on the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland (2007-13); was conferred with Honorary Membership of the RSUA in 2007; has been a lay judge for the RIBA Awards and is an Accredited Practitioner with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (MCIPR).

Úna Cregan
Committee member

Úna Cregan

Committee member

Úna works with the National Trust where, since 2007, she has been leading on financial performance and strategy within Northern Ireland. She previously worked in the brewing industry including a period in the Czech Republic. Úna was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and the University of Ulster. Úna is an Irish speaker and enjoys participating in triathlons in her spare time.

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.

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.

Karen Latimer, OBE
Committee member

Karen Latimer, OBE

Committee member

Karen has over 35 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 and the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) Practice Services Scheme. Karen is a member of the UK Designing Libraries Advisory Board and the LIBER European Research Libraries Architecture Forum. Karen had a 40-year career in university libraries specialising in architecture and planning before moving into library management and currently works as a library building consultant. She has published widely on a range of library and conservation topics, frequently speaks at national and international conferences, and has been a lay member of the RIBA and RSUA judging panels as well as the international judge for library building design competitions. 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.

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.

Chris Hamill
Committee member

Chris Hamill

Committee member

Chris is an architect and PhD candidate at Queen’s University, Belfast. His research interests focus on contested heritage, digital recording techniques and user-interface design.

Chris has worked for several architectural conservation practices across Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. Recent projects include Kings College Chapel, Cambridge, St Paul’s Cathedral London and Saffron Walden Castle.

Chris was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2018, and won the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ (SPAB) Philip Webb award for his research and design work on Armagh Gaol in the same year.

Marcus Patton, OBE
Committee member

Marcus Patton, OBE

Committee member

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 six years till retiring in 2020. He was awarded the OBE in 1995 and is an Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy.

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.

Chris Thirkettle
Committee member

Chris Thirkettle

Committee member

Chris has an academic background in Economics, Sociology and Urban Planning, and spent twenty years working with the City of Glasgow in social housing and urban regeneration. A five-year spell as Director of Housing for Clackmannanshire Council in Scotland was followed by a move in 2001 into consultancy and project work for a number of Scottish local authorities and UK statutory regulators on issues to do with organisational change and performance. Chris was originally raised in Northern Ireland and returned here to work on matters of consumer policy in 2008. He joined the management committee of Hearth in 2010 and has served the committee in a number of capacities since then.

Vacancy
Committee member

Vacancy

Committee member