Iconic Bushmills buildings are a given new lease of life

Four key buildings in Bushmills have been given a new lease of life thanks to restoration grants administered through Bushmills Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).

Bushmills THI Partnership, a community and statutory partnership was set up in 2003, and secured funding from Heritage Lottery Fund’s Townscape Heritage Initiative, to deliver a regeneration scheme that would encourage business development and economic regeneration in the village.

Bushmills is a village with a very unique and distinctive character. A Conservation Village, it has over 90 Listed Buildings, the highest number of any town or village in the North East.

However despite its location, sandwiched between two of Northern Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions, the Giants Causeway and Bushmills Distillery, the village has suffered from the blight of dereliction which in the past has discouraged visitors from stopping and spending time in the village.

The image if the village is changing for the better however and over the past 5 years Bushmills THI has funded the creation of 10 housing units and one shop in the restoration of 4 separate buildings in the village. While the initiative took time to see visible progress, the project gained momentum and 3 of the buildings were completed in the past year.

Following a selection process, buildings in Bushmills, most of which were listed and occupied prominent locations in the village were identified as eligible for grant assistance under the THI scheme. Grants in excess of half a million pounds were distributed to bring the buildings back into use and in addition to Heritage Lottery Fund, contributions were received from DoE Planning (NI) Townscape Heritage Initiative Grants, NI Housing Executive and NI Environment Agency. Moyle District Council was the lead organisation within the THI Partnership and provided administrative and financial management support to the scheme.

Congratulating the Bushmills THI Partnership on their success, Jane Williams, Heritage Lottery Fund Committee member said “the THI is a wonderful way of enabling communities to unlock the potential in their historic towns. It’s fantastic to see a new lease of life being given to these old buildings in Bushmills, which should be a catalyst for regeneration and investment”.

Price McConaghy, Chairman of Bushmills THI added “The restoration of these four properties benefits not just the owners but the whole community and the visitors to the town. It is another milestone in the re-emergence of Bushmills as the gateway to the Giants’ Causeway and as a destination in its own right.”

The project has been complimented by other initiatives including an IFI/ DoE scheme carried out by The Bushmills Trust which developed a new building incorporating the Mill Rest Youth Hostel and Therapy Design Studio and also involved an extensive environmental improvement scheme for the village. These have had a knock on effect in encouraging other regeneration initiatives in the village and the latest ‘Brighter Bushmills’ facelift project, using artwork to improve the appearance of the remaining derelict buildings in the village, is currently being developed by a project team involving The Bushmills Trust, Bushmills Village Forum, Moyle District Council and National Trust.

Bushmills THI Partnership is hoping to bid for funding for a second round of the Townscape Heritage Initiative in the village and feels that the uptake of a second round of the scheme would be very encouraging. So brighter times ahead for Bushmills!