Toome Waterways Heritage Centre & Café NOW OPEN
One of the Waterways Ireland lock houses on the Lower Bann at Toome, County Antrim has just taken on a new lease of life. "The lock keepers Cottage, Toome" is now a waterway heritage centre, cafe and amenity site which will be operated by the local cross-community development group TIDAL. WI delivered this project in partnership with TIDAL, the Lough Neagh Partnership and the majority of the funding was provided through the heritage lottery landscape partnership project and supported by Waterways Ireland and the Big Lottery.
Waterways Ireland Senior Engineer Stephen Douglas represented WI on the partnership group with a number of Waterways Ireland staff providing technical, marketing, property and legal and operational input as the project progressed. The contract was awarded to Dean Public Works ltd who provided an excellent standard of finish across all aspects of the project.
The purpose of the centre is to highlight the heritage associated with the development of Lough Neagh as the hub of Ulster's inland waterways and with particular focus on the Lower Bann. The exhibition was developed by consultants, Image Zoo through consultation across a wide range of stakeholders to gather the relevant information. A divers suit from the early 1900s along with a renovated original pump made from mahogany and brass forms the focal point of the exhibition. The suit was kindly donated on an extended loan basis by the WI Scarriff office and was worn for works to the locks along the Shannon. The granddaughter of the diver who wore the suit in the 1940s attended the official opening of the centre along with a photo of her grandfather wearing the suit.
The official opening was held on 15th August and was attended by the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, who presented the TIDAL group with a queens award for their contribution to community development across a number of projects. The mayor and deputy mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council also attended along with a number of local councillors.
The Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland, Dawn Livingstone, was in attendance and praised the success of the partnership between the groups at Toome to bring this project to fruition. She said: "Waterways Ireland, as the custodian of a number of unique heritage buildings along the waterways, welcomes opportunities to work alongside partners to give these historic buildings a modern and useful purpose. Today we see the outcome of one of these working partnerships with the beautiful restoration of this lockhouse to provide a hub for the community and an attraction for tourists to the River Bann and Lough Neagh.”
The location is also a site where the TV series Game of Thrones was filmed and is scheduled to be included on the official tour by the end of the year which will also boost visitor numbers. The new centre and café will be open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm and will be available for both organised group visits and day trippers.
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