The 150 year old large red bricked structure known as the Church Institute situated on the corner of Castle Street and Church Street in Enniscorthy has been beautifully restored and is now opened as a community facility available to the wider community including children, youth groups, adults, people with disabilities and special interest groups. In addition the building will provide a much-needed exhibition space in the heart of the town beside the Castle Museum.
Listed in the national inventory of architectural heritage of Ireland, it’s long-awaited restoration is greatly welcomed. Originally operated under a lease from the Portsmouth estate and initially utilised by the YMCA, the Institute gradually became a facility in constant use by the wider community of Enniscorthy until April 2003 when a fire resulted in the building being unsafe for use. Due to issues regarding the ownership of the building and the fact that the trustees of the Portsmouth estate had died, a number of years intervened until 2009, when the freehold title was transferred to six local trustees in Enniscorthy.
Fortunately, these trustees had the vision and determination to save the building from dereliction and return it to its rightful place as an integral part of the built heritage of Enniscorthy and a valuable community resource. At the re-opening ceremony performed by Rt Rev. M.A.J Burrows, Bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory on Thursday 5th February 2015, there was ample evidence for the large attendance to see that their vision had been realised. The outcome is the return of a much anticipated beautiful community facility to the heart of Enniscorthy. The work was carried out in a professional manner by building contractor, James Grace and carefully supervised by local architectural heritage specialist, Michael Tierney & Associates. The finished project is a credit to all concerned, not least the Trustees project manager, Mr Robbie Syme whose self-belief, determination and meticulous attention to detail during the past four years ensured that this transformation had come to pass.
Grant aid towards the restoration works came a number of sources including Wexford Local Development and Enniscorthy Town Council. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Tom Bermingham, on behalf of Wexford Local Development (WLD) said that WLD were delighted to have been able to provide €100,000 of LEADER grant aid to The Trustees of the Church Institute to help in this wonderful restoration. In congratulating the Trustees, Mr Bermingham went on to say that “money on its own does not make things happen, sometimes there is a lot of goodwill in communities, but not enough imagination and determination to bring ideas to fruition. Enniscorthy is fortunate that the people behind this project have these attributes in abundance”.
Mr Bermingham also outlined that WLD realise the importance of maintaining vibrant rural towns like Enniscorthy and through the next LEADER programme (2014-2020) look forward to supporting groups and individuals on further projects which focus on improving quality of life and generating economic activity in the area in the years ahead.