The public may shortly have access to one of Ireland’s iconic heritage structures, following a major restoration programme. Youghal’s Clock Gate, which straddles the east Cork town’s main street, will open to the public in early 2014.
The 18th century structure had been closed, due to its slow deterioration, since the late 1960s.
However, a revamp of the tower will provide a major tourist attraction to the south east that is expected to boost the local economy by an estimated €400,000 per year.
The building’s façade and 16 windows have now been thoroughly cleaned, restored and rendered. A new copper dome has been installed, the entire cupola restored and the original 1777 hardwood rafters replaced.
Additionally, the weather clock has been cleaned and reactivated with a chest-high glass protective screen erected on the roof for safe viewing.
Lime rendering on the east and west walls has created a pale flat surface in place of stonework.
Although the lime rendering brought some criticism from locals, Youghal town clerk Liam Ryan said: “This was crucial to prevent the continuous water seepage and eventual decay of the building.
“In fact, it had been lime-rendered until the late 19th century, so this restores it to an original state.
“Eventually, the sides will age and the stonework underneath will become more apparent.”
The phase-one cost of refurbishment was €235,000 and was 75% funded by South East Cork Area Development, with Youghal Town Council meeting the balance. Works were undertaken by specialists MMD Construction Ltd of Cork, alongside site engineers David Kelly & Associates, Youghal.
The building’s interior was also gutted and a new staircase installed.
Phase two, estimated at €200,000, is expected to commence later this year and will see the building’s former gaol restored and an interpretive heritage centre — hosting an art-and-crafts space and “camera obscura” virtual observation desk — installed, with roof access.
The finished project will considerably enhance the harbour town’s drive towards a vibrant and self-sustainable heritage industry. Strongly supported by the Heritage Council of Ireland, recent years saw Youghal’s historic town walls restored, a successful heritage trail established and its 12th century Collegiate Church renovated.
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