New look for Youghal’s iconic Clock Gate

Massive restoration work aimed at reopening one of the country’s most iconic monuments as a tourist attraction has began in East Cork.

Phase 1 of a two-stage project on Youghal’s Clock Gate will include complete renovation of the building’s physical structure at a cost of €235,000.

The work includes window repairs and ceiling and wall restoration, along with a new staircase and clock renovation, according to Youghal town clerk Liam Ryan. The entrance, he said, will also be enhanced to include a reception area while external stonework will be repointed, with railings and steps restored.

A copper roof dome will be removed, wooden hoardings replaced and a glass palisade installed to enable safe public access to the roof.

The project follows five years of feasibility studies and consultations involving Youghal Town Council, Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group, the Heritage Council of Ireland and various business, community and tourism groups.

To facilitate funding application in 2009, the council leased the monument to the YSEDG who secured 75% Phase 1 funding from SECAD, with the local authority meeting the remainder.

Phase one work, being carried out by Cork-based MMD Construction Ltd, is expected to be completed by late April.

The monument, straddling the main street, stands on the site of the former Trinity Castle, one of the five 14th-15th century gates.

The clock, installed in 1620, had a number of functions, issuing warnings and to “broadcast” the death of children.

The current structure replaced Trinity Castle in 1777 and served as a gaol until 1837. Prisoners were routinely tortured and hanged from a pole extending to an adjacent building. The alleged witch Florence Newton was also imprisoned there. The building served as a museum and a family home during the 1950s-70s.

Youghal’s medieval town walls have also been restored as the town evolves into a major history and heritage destination. An interpretative plan and funding strategy for Phase 2 of the Clock Gate project is currently being conducted.

That four-storey refurbishment is expected to cost over €200,000 and will include recreating the old gaol, an interpretive heritage centre, art and crafts, a “camera obscura” virtual observation desk and roof access. It is hoped to open the building by early 2014, bringing an anticipated €400,000 benefit to the local economy.

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