In 1859 a banker named James Bristow built Wilmont House on the outskirts of Belfast, and surrounded it with a number of gate-lodges and this group of three workers’ cottages on the junction of Dunmurry Lane and the Upper Malone Road.
It later passed into the ownership of Sir Thomas Dixon, whose widow gave the house and its extensive grounds to Belfast City Council as the Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park.
The City Parks Department, while sympathetic to the buildings it inherited, did not feel justified in spending its budget on their upkeep. The Drumbeg Lockhouse situated nearby (see p.15) had been preserved from demolition by the National Trust putting a caretaker into it until Hearth’s revolving fund was able to negotiate a lease on the property and undertake its restoration. For many years one of the Wilmont Cottages was occupied by an old man, but when he fell ill and died in 1983 they became prey to vandalism. At the same time, the Roads Service wanted to demolish the cottages to improve sight-lines in connection with roadworks, and their future was bleak. Hearth undertook to restore the cottages if a lease could be negotiated, and this enabled their listing to proceed, but purchase was protracted because of charitable restrictions, and restoration eventually started before the purchase was fully complete.
At the time, the Revolving Fund had little capital, and because of uncertainty over the effect of the imminent road widening it decided to negotiate a restoring purchaser arrangement with a sympathetic client. Initial enveloping work was carried out by the Fund using ACE labour organised by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society; this included re-roofing, stripping out and building of new bargeboards and dormers. The three cottages were combined to form one house, and new windows were inserted, but no alteration has been made to the original elevations with three small porches. A brick-lined well near the cottages was uncovered during the work which proved to be 130 feet deep. The present owner got planning permission to extend the building to the rear.
Hearth Historic Buildings Trust
Heritage Repairs Ltd
Joseph McClune & Sons, Dundrum
NI Housing Executive, Historic Buildings Branch DoE, ACE grant from Dept of Economic Development