GRACEHILL VILLAGE SQUARE

 

GRACEHILL VILLAGE SQUARE

BALLYMENA, CO. ANTRIM
THE PAUL HOGARTH CO.


The village of Gracehill in County Antrim was planned as a new settlement in 1765 by a group of people sharing the Moravian faith and way of life. Surrounded by Georgian buildings, the village square has changed little since, apart from the planting of lime trees around the perimeter in 1909. The square became Northern Ireland’s first Conservation Area in 1975 and has since won many accolades including the Europa Nostra Award. In recent years the square had fallen into a state of neglect with mature trees, broken gates, an undefined pond and water logged lawns becoming a safety risk and detracting from the village. In 2013, Gracehill Old School Trust commissioned The Paul Hogarth Company to research, design and restore the space. The Trust aimed to restore the square as the centrepiece for the village, reflecting its heritage and community. The project included draining and laying out the greens and sensitive works to the protected trees with new and original paths laid adjacent using best arboricultural practice.

Local stone masons and blacksmiths carefully restored the entrances and gates and the village pond was reclaimed and restored. The project has brought the village’s remarkable history back to life by reinstating the original Moravian planned settlement’s design. It has provided the setting for the 1798 United Irishmen trail and daily tours of the village. Tourists, school groups and older people now explore the square safely without having to walk on the road. The square now hosts cross community and youth group activities and fairs. This heritage project provides long term physical and social benefits promoting community cohesion, reconciliation, tourism, economic growth, health and well being. The community is so proud of its square that it is working towards having Gracehill designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for built heritage.