HERITAGE tourism in Kilrush received a major boost this month with the opening of the renovated Turret Lodge in a project that saw collaboration between the community, the Heritage Council, the government and the local authority.
Turret Lodge dates back to the mid-19th century and is a notable landmark in Kilrush, formerly controlling access between the town and the Vandeleur Estate demesne. Given that Kilrush House, the home of the Vandeleur family, burned down in 1897, the surviving lodges, walled garden and stable block have added significance as surviving links to the town’s history. It is now planned to use the building as a community-run heritage and genealogy centre.
This project received funding under the Historic Towns Initiative 2019, which is a partnership between the Heritage Council and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with Clare County Council providing match funding.
The delivery was based on a collaborative approach between Kilrush and District Historical Society, Clare County Council and the Heritage Council, alongside the design team, architectural conservation professionals and contractor, Corcon Construction. The project is anticipated to deliver historical, social and tourism benefits for the community.
Clare County Council expressed its gratitude to the adjoining landowners, Coillte, and Gearóid and Mary Williams, for positively engaging with the project by facilitating the transfer of land.
“This project provides the local community with a truly unique space while also delivering on the conservation of an important building,” said Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council. “The renovated Turret Lodge will increase the cultural, heritage and tourism offering of Kilrush Town. I would like to acknowledge the work and involvement of all of the groups that have brought this project to fruition.”
Welcoming the development, Mayor of Clare, Councillor Mary Howard, described the refurbishment as “an exemplar of sustainable development, the concept originating from the community and supported by the local authority, with the reimagining of a pre-existing heritage resource resulting in numerous economic, heritage and tourism-related benefits, both locally and nationally”.
According to Liam Conneally, Director of Economic Development, Clare County Council, “The restoration of the Turret Lodge and the provision of a community-operated heritage and genealogy centre delivers on a number of objectives of the Clare County Heritage Plan 2017–2023 through the revitalisation and enhancement of a historic town centre and by supporting the strategic and integrated management of heritage locally. It has brought into active use a protected structure, resulting in a long-term heritage asset.”
The Heritage Council said it was delighted to have worked with Clare County Council on this project. “Working with partners to preserve our heritage is an important Heritage Council priority and is one of the key ways we go about our work,” said Virginia Teehan, CEO of the Heritage Council. “ We are committed to projects such as this which demonstrate how heritage can regenerate our towns and villages. The central role of the community in this project is crucial as we navigate these unprecedented times. We thank the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for its continued support of this programme.”
Turret Lodge was built in 1845 and was occupied until about 30 years ago. It is now hoped that the community-led genealogy centre will enable members of the Kilrush and West Clare diaspora can access important source material and local expertise when tracing their family history.