The Old School House Killylea


A sympathetic restoration project reinvigorates a village community

Front entrance - historic frontage with a contemporary extension

REQA won a Space & Place funded competition, for the regeneration of the Old School House as a community building in the rural area of Killylea, Co. Armagh. The building, dating back to the 19th Century, had previously been used as the School House for the village and for some time as St. Marks Church. In the late '90s, a single storey was added with some repair work carried out, but the building was not maintained. Parts of the floor and roof fell away and all of the services and amenities out of use.

At the outset, engagement with the Community Groups allows us to create a comprehensive brief and vision for the building. In this case, a collective ambition to make every effort to restore the building as sympathetically as possible while replacing the single-storey extension with a more appropriate annexe.

This new block can house amenities installed to the current standards and enhancing the space for the community visitors. Achieving this, while maintaining the character of the building, was not without difficulty given the nature of the building, its heritage status and the available budget.

Aerial view looking down over the building site
The replacement of the original roof with suitable finishes reflective of the building character.
Refurbished hall maintaining the historic character
Enhancing the interior protects the historical status of the building. The recent upgrades ensure the community can use the spaces in a variety of ways.

Historical buildings have more potential than sometimes perceived. Finding the correct solution is part of the challenge.

Through discussion with the group, suggestions were made that sought to unlock extra space within the old building that was previously abandoned. The first-floorspace (accessed initially using a ladder) was reintroduced by lowering the floor level to facilitate compliant stair access. Now, the building offers an extra meeting room, a space that would have remained inaccessible, reclaimed for public use through a little architectural thought.

The new internal configuration included meeting and music practice rooms, commercial-grade kitchen facilities, stores/plant room space, entrance foyer and the complete refurbishment of the main hall as a flexible space suitable band performances and other community activities.

Junction where old meets new
External view of relationship between historic building and new extension
Extending a historic building needs to be done so with sensitivity. The addition subtly integrates without detracting from the character of the original school building.

Externally, there were significant works undertaken. Notably, the entire roof structure replaced, repointing and replacement of stonework, all of which were completed by expert craftspeople. New doubled glazed sliding sash windows where designed and installed reflective of the inherent historical characteristics. Remedial actions to the ground floor to address inherent damp and moisture issues.  

The addition of attractive, contemporary paving to the courtyard combined with new railings to the surrounding stone wall enhances the building's setting as a prominent feature to Main Street.

Critical to the success of this project was the specification of materials and detailing to ensure the building would be suitable for the needs of the community. The aim to not affect the original features and overall character has been achieved. Building running costs are reduced through significant thermal improvements to the floor, walls and roof, together with new services installations.

Small details like these make a difference in how groups can serve their locality. Since Handover, we feel the building and the community have been improved as a result of this project. Seeing these positives is a source of pride, and we are grateful to have played a part.  

New doors beside old windows
Community | Conservation
Project Architect & Lead Consultant
Killylea, Armagh
Killylea Silver Band
423 m²

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