Conservation study of an historic treasure in Ramelton

A conservation report and feasibility study is underway for the historic Guild Hall building in Ramelton
The two-storey stone built property, with frontage onto Castle Street and Market Square, dates back to the 1700s and formerly housed the Grand Jury when it came to Ramelton.
The building, which was also used as a former courthouse and parish hall, has recently had new guttering installed and holes in the roof patched. It is owned by well known Highland Radio presenter Lee Gooch who is currently completing a renovation project to his property at 2 Church Lane in Letterkenny.
Local man Joe Birney has seen a painting of the area which depicts a property on that site in the sixteenth century – making it one of the oldest buildings in Ramelton.
“There’s a painting of Ramelton in 1750 which shows the ruins of the Castle. There’s also a two-storey building in the position where the Guild Hall is now. You’re chatting about a structure being on that site since the time of the Plantation. It has to be one of the oldest sites in Ramelton.”
Another document, which dates back to 1834, quotes a survey of the Castle’s foundations talking about the site of Parson King’s house which was built with stone and clay mortar.
“That’s where the Guild Hall is today and it shows that there was a house on that site back then too,” Mr Birney said.
Part of the building was used as a residential dwelling until the 1970s but in more recent times it has been a storehouse for McDaid’s.
Most famously, the upstairs of the building is where the Grand Jury met when it sat in Ramelton. It was also used as a courthouse and as a function hall for concerts and dances before the Town Hall was built in 1878. There are records of it being used as a snooker hall in the 1920s while it was also used in the Hanging Gale, a four-part television series, which was filmed in Ramelton and first aired in 1995.
The local Pantomime Society used the building to store larger props until it was sold. The property in Ramelton requires complete refurbishment and redevelopment.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Mr Gooch said that he is undertaking a conservation study for the building and adjoining yard which opens onto Castle Street.
“I’ve done some work there recently to make the building water tight so it won’t deteriorate any further and we’ll see what the conservation study brings,” he said.
It’s been a relatively quiet year for his company, Lee Gooch Productions, which helps raise funds for schools, clubs and societies, allowing him time to work on his restoration projects.
“We’re at the final stages of restoring 2 Church Lane. The long term aim here is to provide a house for my son, Noah, who has Down Syndrome. He’s still only five but I’ve put a lot of thought into the place – extra TLC – to make sure that he has a base in the heart of Letterkenny when he grows up.
“That should be finished early in the new year and then I’ll give my full attention to the Guild Hall project in Ramelton,” he added.

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