When great collectors die their heirs and assigns tend not to value the wonderful artefacts they have assembled and they get scattered to the four winds. Sentry Hill is a modest 19th century farmhouse where three generations of the McKinney family not only respected their parents’ collections but also added to them.
Prof Brian Walker of Queen’s University discovered the family’s archive in the 1970s and published a history of Sentry Hill drawing on it. When the family at last left the farmhouse in the 1990s Newtownabbey Borough Council decided to acquire it as a museum and Hearth was asked to advise on it and subsequently to act as architects for its restoration in 2002.
The main house, which probably dates from about 1840 but includes
remains of an earlier thatched cottage, was restored as a museum and now houses
much of the furniture that had been there before. Little was changed in the
main house apart from modifications to the central porch. A modern extension at
the back was removed and some 20th century tiles in the kitchen were replaced
with older salvaged ones. The tiler who laid the new floor had, as it happened,
laid the previous one and recalled Dr Dundee, the last of the McKinneys,
sitting in the corner of the room drinking Guinness as he supervised the work.
The stable buildings have been converted into a small café, museum
and computer facilities, while the former laundry building is now a caretaker’s
The Council’s museum service has restored many of the books and
papers from the building, and produced digitised records of the collection and
some of its archives. With its extensive grounds and fascinating history Sentry
Hill is becoming a focus for school trips and is much used by historical groups
in the area.