The United Parish of Ballymoney, Rasharkin and Finvoy has been awarded a lottery grant to breathe new life into the Old Church School that sits in its grounds.
The project has passed its first round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and plans are currently with the Planning Service for an ambitious £1/2million scheme of restoration and extension.
The school, one of Ballymoney’s oldest landmark buildings, has fallen into a state of dereliction since it was last used in 1973. It will now be refurbished for both church and community use.
Mr George Field, Honorary Secretary of the United Parish, said: “We are absolutely delighted, we have been trying for more than 15 years to find ways to get the building refurbished.
“Now Heritage Lottery has come up with the money and hopefully we will be able to restore the building to all its former glory.
“The present position is that we are successfully through the first round application. They have given us a small grant to progress to the second round application, and if we get through that they will help us with 76 per cent of the funding. The whole project will cost just over £500,000.”
Built in 1874, at a cost of £870.00 by Robert Young of Market Street, the school has been on the ‘Buildings at Risk Register’ for years and is part of Ballymoney’s Conservation Area. It is not, however, a listed building despite a request made by the Church to the Department of the Environment to have it made so.
George explained that the hall was last used in 1973 when the new Parish Centre was built. “The restored and extended building will not just be for church use, we will be letting it out to the community. To get Heritage Lottery funding it must be available to the community,” he said.
“We are planning a computer system, with facilities to research family history, with baptism, marriage and burial records.”
The refurbished building will have two meeting rooms for meetings, a kitchen, office, storage rooms and toilets. The Architects for the project are R Robinson & Son Limited.
George is appealing for anyone who has any information or old pictures about the Old Church School to come forward. Any information will be gratefully received and all pictures loaned will be returned.