28-50 High Street

Situated on the slope of a steep hill rising from the central square of the village of Comber, this terrace has an almost uniform roofline, with the houses ranging in size from two stories with attic at the bottom to low single-storey houses at the top, and doors and windows arranged very informally along its length.

Almost entirely devoid of ‘architectural features’ apart from simple doorcases, the simplicity of these houses is very characteristic of vernacular building in Ulster, but has rarely survived in an urban context.  The site was occupied by 1722, when High Street was known as Cow Lane, although the present houses were probably built about 1800, possibly for workers at the Comber Distillery. They passed about 1920 into the ownership of the Andrews Mill, which owned them at the time they were vested by the N I Housing Executive in 1980.  The range of sizes and the internal finish of the houses reflect their probable origins as factory housing, with larger houses accommodating foremen; in 1834 nos.28 and 30 were originally one even larger house.

Many of the houses had lacked bathrooms and other amenities even in recent times, and would normally have been demolished under redevelopment plans.  However, as they were listed buildings, Hearth offered to carry out the improvement of the property alongside the new development by the Housing Executive.  Planning permission was granted on condition that the elevations must not be altered, and that levels be settled in discussion with the Roads Service.  Since much higher road and pavement levels were planned by the Roads Service, this proved a difficult conflict to resolve, but eventually work was started in 1986.

Restoration involved complete re-roofing and partial re-rendering, provision of new kitchen returns, and to reduce high traffic noise secondary glazing was provided to the original front windows.  The variety of windows and doors, some of which may have been original, others probably of inter-war date, was retained, and walls were repainted in limewash.  Of the original twelve houses, nos. 40-50 were combined two-into-one to produce reasonably sized units, but the redundant front doors were retained and converted into windows.

Project By
Hearth Housing Association
Year restored
D M Murray, Downpatrick
McNeil Rainey & Best