Abbey permits special access for bats


The designers of a £400,000 visitor and exhibition centre at Tintern Abbey, Co Wexford, faced an interesting challenge - how to minimise interference with a nearby bat colony.

The problem was overcome in "a most innovative fashion", according to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Ms de Valera, who opened the centre this week.

It involved the provision of bat access to the loft areas of the building through special ridge tile openings and bat boxes.

The abbey, on the Hook peninsula 16 km south of New Ross, was founded following William Marshall's first visit to Ireland as Lord of Leinster in 1200.

While crossing from Wales, Marshall's ship was in danger of foundering and he vowed that if his craft reached safety, he would establish a monastery on that spot.

Local historian Mr Billy Colfer, in his brochure, Historic Hook Head, says the ship evidently reached shelter at Bannow Bay "because it was here, at the tip of a small inlet, that he founded the monastery, colonising it with Cistercian monks from Tin tern in south Wales".

The Cistercians remained at the abbey until the 16th century, but in 1576 it was given to Sir Anthony Colclough by Elizabeth I for services rendered.

It remained in the possession of the Colclough family until 1963, when it was transferred to the State for preservation as a national monument.

Further work is to be carried out on the site by the State heritage body, Duchas, including conservation of the nave, tower and chancel.

The facilities opened on Monday, which are also the work of Duchas, have been provided in buildings of medieval and 18th and 19th-century origin which were once used as the abbey gate house and stables.

The abbey had 4,900 visitors last year and that figure is expected to rise as awareness of the site increases.

The exhibition consists of panels describing the history of Tin tern and the Colclough family, the archaeology of the site and the architecture of the buildings.

The project was one of 32 involving national monuments and historic properties which have been or will be completed under the EU operational programme for tourism.

Another project is to be undertaken at a Wexford site of architectural and historical significance, Ferns Castle, Ms de Valera announced. Work on a visitor reception centre at the castle will begin this year.