THE opening of a museum in the historic McParland’s building on Parnell Street could not go ahead at the moment but will be considered in the future, members of Ennis Town Council have been told.
The building, which is currently undergoing major conservation work, does not belong to the town council and its owner, Irene Clune, expects to return to the property when the works have been completed. However, the council have stated that the suggestion to create a museum on the site will be borne in mind for any future use of the property.
Councillor Paul O’Shea told this week’s meeting of the council that funding should be sought for the opening of a medieval museum at McParland’s and he emphasised its historical importance.
Town manager Ger Dollard told the meeting that the council is aware the building is one of “great significance”.
He outlined the conservation works that are currently in progress on the McParland’s property have established that an increased historic significance attaches to the building in that it appears to be the oldest timber-framed structure identified in Ireland.
This status is in addition to status as the oldest building in Ennis and the existence of a triple diamond Jacobean chimney on the structure.
“Works are progressing well and should be completed by early February. Ennis Town Council has received a grant of €85,000 from the department to part fund the work and arrangements need to be made to cover the balance of the overall cost of €170,000 arising on the present contract. The works being undertaken are on foot of the council’s obligations under the Local Government Sanitary Services Acts to render the structure safe in the interests of the general public,” he commented.
Mr Dollard went on, “The council is conscious that the house does represent the home of an elderly lady who has an expectation of returning to the property when the works have been completed. The property is not owned by Ennis Town Council.
“In addition, the structure is a very confined structure and it is difficult to see how it could operate as a visitor facility.
“It should also be noted that the County Museum is currently funded on a joint basis by Ennis Town Council and Clare County Council and the council would not have the resources to commit to the management of a separate and further museum.
“However, the council is conscious of the importance of the building and this will remain a consideration for the council in any further discussions in relation to the property.
“The suggestion contained in the motion will be borne in mind in any discussion on future use of the property.”
On being informed that the owner expected to return to the property, Councillor O’Shea commented, “I meant no disrespect to the owner, I had no idea she intended to return to the property. This is potentially the oldest timber-framed house in the State and it is something that should be capitalised on.”
In December, archaeologists working at the house discovered it might be Ireland’s earliest surviving example of a timber-framed house.
The building is long understood to have been the oldest inhabited house in the County Clare capital. The building’s triple diamond stone Jacobean chimney has been an icon of medieval Ennis for centuries.
The house was first inspected in 2008 by Clare County Council’s conservation officer, who recommended that the property undergo structural repair work. Following detailed technical analyses by the National Monuments Service, officials from Ennis Town Council and consulting conservation engineers, it was concluded the structure was unstable and represented a danger to the general public.