This week we feature another example of traditional old stone farm buildings which were falling into disrepair and out of use but have now been repaired. These buildings are in Co Wexford, on the farm of Mary Long, at Mohurry, Kiltealy, Enniscorthy. The buildings were repaired under the Traditional Farm Building Grant Scheme, open to farmers participating in the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS). It’s run by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and the Heritage Council. If the work is completed satisfactorily they will fund up to a maximum of 70% of the costs involved.
The driving force behind the project was Mary’s son, Henry. He made the phone calls and filled out the forms. When repair work started, he and his partner Lisa Breen got stuck in and helped with the labouring. They learned a lot about renovation and conservation, he said.
Apart from the practical value that the repaired sheds will have – they will be used for livestock, for storing meals and similar purposes – he is pleased that his mother will see them every time she looks out the kitchen window and across the yard and will know that these old buildings will be around for many more years.
Henry says that without the funding provided by the scheme, these old buildings and the heritage associated with them would be lost.
The heritage consultant on the project was Padraig O’Brion. He has a video on YouTube about lime mortar pointing and it features one of the buildings on the Long farm.
The builder on the project was Jerome Dubois from Wexford.
Under this scheme, the repair work on old farm buildings is planned in advance and carried out carefully. An advance report spells out what repair work is to be done and how it should be done. A final report describes the repair work and the outcome. Here, we quote from the final report drawn up by Padraig O’Brion – it will give other participants in GLAS an idea of what is involved in this scheme.
“The overall aim of this project was to restore the integrity of the building that existed on the farm since the mid-19th century.
“The aim of the contractor was to re-use and re-instate all materials that were located on site, especially the well-known and admired Glasslacken Slate.
“Also, used was the field stone that would have been part and parcel of the original construction. The contractor carried out the specification as originally submitted to the best of his ability with help from people within the family that would not have had the experience of the use and value of the traditional skills that were originally used. With the help and guidance and practical demonstrations from Paddy Byrne and from Jerome Dubois, this has proved to be very successful.”
The report spells out what repairs were carried out:
The team decided that whatever sand was required for mortar would be sourced from the local sandpit that would have supplied sand when the original building work was being carried out in the 1800s.
“We noticed, however, that the binder content was lacking,” the report says. “So we added a percentage of 1.5mm crushed limestone to the mix to increase its compression integrity and reduce shrinkage. This proved to be very successful and gave a finish to the pointing that blended well with the original pointing.”
Granite posts put to use
“It was very noticeable from day one that granite posts were used for all of the heads over openings (windows and doors), except one which was originally a railway sleeper,” the report says.
As it happened there were two oak beams on site that were part of windfall decades previously on the farm. They were put aside to help repair the old buildings – and now they have been put to their planned use.
“In keeping with the conservation ethos, the two doorways that were feeding hatches for animals were obtained from Douglas trees that fell during storm Ophelia in 2014. The supply of the original ironmongery used on these doors, would have been forged on site over the years and these were re-used.”
The report shows that this repair work is skilled and technical, as follows:
“During slating, we established that it would not be good conservation practice to cut or chase into the pre-existing granite gable to embed lead aprons as the integrity of the granite could be compromised. So we installed standard soakers to a height of 50mm and used counterflashing in the form of slate bedded with an NL-5 lime mortar, leaving an air-gap for ventilation at the back of the lead.
“This would have been a common practice in the 1930s on chimney flashings in the townslands of Enniscorthy. This is very much reversible at any given time and easily repaired. It will not cause any interference with the existing granite.”
As every farmer knows, old farm buildings are a good home for bats and other wildlife. “The habitat for wildlife such as bats and swallows has been retained as requested. This is made possible by the half door and also additional timbers have been placed along the rafters with gaps of 18mm to allow roosting for bats.”
Padraig O’Brion concludes: “This project has been carried out with great passion for the conservation and restoration of what has been standing for many years and, most of all, the use of local materials and labour.” CL