Bridge House in Kilkenny
Sir, – The recent extensive fire damage to the elegantly composed Bridge House at John Street, Kilkenny, a protected structure of national significance, is to be greatly regretted. At this point we do not know the full extent of the damage apart from the loss of the fine roof and the visible fire damage to the second floor.
An Taisce’s committee in Kilkenny has considered the implications of this event for the building. We recognise its architectural significance, the importance of the site it occupies by the river Nore in the centre of the city, and its historic interest as a dower house of the Ormonde family and the social life associated with its occupants.
We recommend that the roof be replaced immediately and damaged windows repaired to protect what remains of the historic fabric. Likewise the exterior appearance should be promptly restored so the ruin is not a blight in this prominent location. Hopefully the main reception rooms, with their handsome stucco adornments, have not been seriously damaged and sufficient historic structure remains to be carefully preserved.
We understand that a relatively recent detailed architectural survey of the building exists, therefore we believe that the building should be made safe and restoration commence without delay.
We assume the building was adequately insured by the owners. If this was not the case, then it is necessary to ask who will fund the restoration.
An opportunity now exists to repurpose the building for a variety of modern uses. The restoration could include a modern heating and electrical system, efficient insulation, a lift, improved accessibility and water services. There is potential for a practical conservation project, done with skill, so the house would be restored as one of the finest in Kilkenny.
Much as we regret the loss of historic fabric in the building, less stringent conditions will now apply to interventions that restore and modernise it. A building of this size in such a prominent position in the city should never have been left unused for 20 years. Conservation authorities have a role to play in proactively encouraging the restoration of historic properties for modern uses. An Taisce believe it is important to seize this opportunity to repurpose Bridge House and bring it back to life. – Yours, etc,
MARY T BRENNAN,