A major project to redevelop the Hill of the O’Neill (formerly known as Castle Hill) is well underway in the centre of Dungannon.
The site celebrates a varied history, having served as the medieval stronghold of the O’Neill Lordships, the residence of the Plantation of Ulster Commissioner Sir Arthur Chichester, and the site of a Ministry of Defence security base. Now, thanks to a £2.24 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and a £500,000 contribution from the Northern Ireland Arts Council, the site will be redeveloped once more to become a publicly accessible park.
The £5.5 million project began onsite in February 2011, with Patton as the main contractor and the Consarc Design Group (Belfast) as the architect. Works have included the redevelopment of disused parkland to create a public park, and the restoration of two landmark towers at the 18th century Knox Hannyngton House.
In addition, the former Belfast Banking company premises – the Grade B+ listed Ranfurly House – has been fully refurbished and extended to provide exhibition space, interpretive galleries, a tourist information centre and much-needed community arts facilities.
Speaking about the importance of the project to the community, Chair of Dungannon Traders’ Association, Stephen Mohan, commented:
“The new name will evoke the town’s historic connection with the O’Neills and its strategic position as the centre of Ulster. On a clear day, you can see seven counties from the hill, and the site itself is redolent with history. We wanted to draw out the unique history of Dungannon and honour the town’s former position as the centre of Gaelic life in Ulster and Ireland.”
Iain Frazer, Chief Executive of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, added:
“The archaeology of the site has proved particularly interesting. To date, we have uncovered the remains of the old castle, the old gate lodge to the estate and the remains of human skeletons dating back to the mid 1600s.
“As we’re dealing with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, who place restrictions on the development of historic buildings and monuments, it has been essential to retain the original character of the buildings – particularly with regards to the old Belfast Banking Company premises, which was built in the 1860s.
“The concept was devised as part of the town regeneration strategy, and it is right in the middle of the urban business district and retail centre. Most regional town centre shopping is under tremendous pressure from online shopping or out of town shopping, and this was a project to try and encourage increased footfall through the provision of public services in the centre of the retail sector.
“I am extremely pleased with the design, concept and functionality of the centre. It is going to be a major asset to the local community and visitors alike.”
The Hill of the O’Neill is scheduled for completion in August 2012.
Firesafe Protection Systems Ltd
Firesafe Protection Systems Ltd specialise in the installation of fire stopping, air-tight and acoustic sealing. The company has worked on many flagship projects including Odyssey Arena, Lyric Theatre, and Obel Tower in Belfast, and has contracted work throughout the UK to counteract the local downturn.
On the Hill of O’Neill project Firesafe Protection Systems Ltd sealed all service penetrations, wall and ceiling joints for fire, movement and acoustic measures all in compliance with current building and fire safety regulations.
Colin Walker, Firesafe Protection Systems Ltd, said:
“In addition to Firesafe Protection Systems Ltd continuing to service our broad construction client base, we continue to expand in to new opportunities in the green energy field.”