PRESERVING LAUREL LODGE

 

A chara, I wish to reply to a number of points raised by John Deaton (May 6th) of Deaton Lysaght, Architects, Dublin regarding the demolition of Laurrel Lodge, Ballyknockan, Co Wicklow. To say that the house was "virtually uninhabitable", "hopelessly beyond repair" and "semi derelict" is stretching the point. The fact that the housed may have suffered from rising damp and wet and dry rot, as claimed by John Deaton, is no reason in this day and age for demolition. If it were the case and every house which was so affected destroyed, the architectural heritage of Georgia n Dublin would be a thing of the past.

Mr Deaton states that the facade of the new building will be very similar to the old. We find this impossible to believe for the simple reason that the developers, Aosog Centres Ltd., and their architects, have continued to state that the walls were of rubble, stone when everyone in Ballyknockan knows that the exposed stone in the facade was composed of ashlar granite blocks their planning permission is for a concrete block plastered finish. Mr Deaton states that the stone which they say they will put back, namely the granite porch and windows, has been carefully removed, numbered and stored. While a certain amount of stone has been numbered, most of the granite porch and window sills and lintels were removed by JCB and lie damaged, some pieces broken in two, for all to see as I write.

The sentiments of Kevin Myers very adequately express the feelings of the community of Ballyknockan as manifested at a public meeting in the village on April 27th attended by over 60 people (the population of the town land of Ballyknockan in the 1991 census was men women and children 152).

The continuing defence of the indefensible decision of Wicklow County Council to sanction the destruction of one of the finest examples of the craftsmanship of the Ballyknockan stone cutters is not endearing the developers to people of this village. How planners could, without consulting any of the bodies with expertise in these matters, permit the destruction of a listed building is beyond our comprehension. It ironic that the county council," recognising the unique granite heritage of Ballyknockan, erected signs on the road approaching the village stating "Ballyknockan Stone Village" and then sanctioned the demolition of one of the finest stone buildings in it. In a recent architectural survey of the village for the Royal Irish Academy, carried out by Mr Barry O'Reilly, one of the country's leading experts on vernacular and traditional architecture, Laurel Lodge was singled out as g of particular importance as ban expression of the traditional craft of the community.

John Deaton's assertion that the building to be erected after their client's destruction of Laurel Lodge a grey plastered building will contribute to the architectural character of the village must be a serious contender for your quote of the week. We would also like to know how many of what he calls "locals" were consulted in this matter, as he claims they were?

We intend, in the near future, appealing to the wider public for support by publicly auctioning a piece of garden furniture worked from Ballyknockan granite by local stone cutters and work by local crafts people including a painting of Laurel Lodge, basket work and wood carving. This, coupled with offers of support from literary and artistic figures, will highlight the desecration which has been inflicted on this community and help defray the costs of defending against our local authority and insensitive developers our unique heritage. Yours, etc. Ballyknockan Heritage and Community Group, Ballyknockan, Co Wicklow.