One of the oldest buildings in the Belfast area, this cottage was built for the Lagan Navigation in about 1760, to designs by Thomas Omer.
Thomas built some half dozen lock-keepers’ cottages along the line of the canal from Lisburn to Belfast for which he was the engineer, all following a distinctive square plan with arched recesses on each elevation. This cottage is built of rubble stonework with red sandstone dressings, string courses and gables, and a Gibbsian doorcase in cream sandstone. Other lockhouses by Omer survive at Ballyskeagh and – much altered – at Tullynacross near Lambeg. This one is set in idyllic surroundings beside the weir it controlled, and from time to time kingfishers are seen nearby.
Acquired by Belfast City Council as part of the Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, the cottage lacked electricity and drainage when it was purchased for restoration by Hearth. Shortly before work started, vandals set fire to the building, gutting the interior, partially demolishing the rear gable, and destroying the old slate roof. Fortunately a thorough survey before the fire provided accurate details from which to restore.
Hearth carried out a complete restoration, including the demolition of an inter-war brick extension, and the reinstatement of two elevations which had been damaged or altered. Salvaged stone ridge tiles and slates were located for the re-roofing, and chimneys were rebuilt using old brickwork, while services were brought in for the first time. This was the first fully ‘revolving’ project carried out by Hearth, and was only possible with the help of loans from the National Trust, the Pilgrim Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund, as Hearth’s revolving fund had no permanent capital of its own at that time. The sale price covered repayment of the loans, but left no profit to build up a permanent fund. However it demonstrated the viability of such projects, and formed the basis for future growth of Hearth’s revolving fund. In 1985 the scheme won an award from the Historic Monuments and Buildings Branch of the DOE as one of ten outstanding restorations carried out in the province during the first decade of the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland.
Hearth Historic Buildings Trust
Jose Areias, Belfast
The Pilgrim Trust, The National Trust, The Architectural Heritage Fund, NI Housing Executive, Historic Buildings Branch DoE