Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Past in the Present: A Bright Future for Carlisle Memorial Church

In this series, The Past in the Present, we explore how the historic urban character of a city can be part of a dynamic and continually evolving contemporary society, with an aim to spark debate on the topic of conservation and heritage in our cities and further afield.

Series curated by Ailish Killilea and Anna Skoura.

Carlisle Memorial Church Belfast. (Photo by Belfast Telegraph)
Carlisle Memorial Church has featured on our blog series before as one of three buildings in Northern Ireland on the World Monument Watch List (featured on the list in 2010), and it is now set to continue its lineage with repairs of up to £400,000. 

As featured in the Belfast Telegraph today,Alex Attwood, Environment Minister, pledged £400,000 to restore this iconic Belfast building, situated at Carlisle Circus, North Belfast. 

When making the announcement, Attwood said: “Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church is one of Belfast’s best known listed buildings and is a hugely important landmark at the entrance to West and North Belfast from the city centre.

Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church serves as a sober reminder of the city's architectural legacy and its troubled past. The church was designed in Gothic Revival style by the prominent architect, W. H. Lynn, and opened its doors to the public in 1875. The church that was once home to the largest Methodist congregations in Belfast ceased to be used as a place of worship in 1982, a consequence of the declining congregation and its location at a major interface between Catholic and Protestant populations.

Inside Carlisle Church. (Photo by Archiseek) 
The church has been lying derelict for close to thirty years and has suffered extensive physical degradation as a result. Despite its religious associations, the building is now perceived as neutral territory in a deeply polarized area and holds symbolic potential for North Belfast in particular, and for the city as a whole. This public perception and the church’s interface location lend credence to renewed proposals for the adaptive reuse of this shared heritage resource. Such a project would foster significant civic engagement with stakeholder communities and deepen the successes of the Northern Irish peace process.

Attwood also added: “This funding will help secure its future and, following its conservation and regeneration, will be a great opportunity to both revitalize and provide a significant economic boost for the area. What I and DOE is about, is making Northern Ireland a better place to live, work and invest and this will certainly help to do that."

A spokesman for Belfast Building Preservation Trust said: “Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust is delighted to receive this support from the Department of the Environment. Carlisle Memorial Church was Watch Listed by the World Monuments Fund in 2010 as one of the 100 most endangered historic buildings in the world."

“While it is not economically feasible to save every historic building, it is vital that we do as much as we can to preserve our rich past for future generations. Carlisle memorial is a jewel in our historical crown and after it’s conservation, it will have a great beneficial impact for the economy, tourism and for health and well being", said Minister Attwood.

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