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St Doulagh’s Church Wins Major Conservation Award

St Doulagh’s Church, Balgriffin has won the John Betjeman Award (Ireland category) for sensitive external stonework conservation. The award is presented by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) Ireland.

St Doulagh's Church
St Doulagh's Church

Dating from the 12th century, St Doulagh’s is believed to be the oldest stone–roofed building of its type still in use for worship in Ireland. The judges were impressed by the intention of conservative repair, the retention of original fabric and the honesty of the repairs to the stone roof carried out by Oldstone Conservation. These are all objectives of the SPAB approach.

SPAB Ireland  hopes to present St Doulagh’s with their certificate later in the year. Established in 1990, the award celebrates excellence in the repair of places of worship of all denominations and faiths. To celebrate its 30th year, the award was to include places of worship in Ireland. Shortlisted projects were Holy Trinity, Errislannan, Co Galway for the repair of vandal and storm damage and St Bartholomew’s, Ballsbridge, Dublin for conservation of belfry stonework.

The church, 12 km north of Dublin, is dedicated to St Doulagh, an anchorite who is thought to have lived and prayed there in the seventh century. The oratory has a unique and beautiful stone roof.

The work was part of the five year “2020 St Doulagh’s Church Conservation Project” proposed and undertaken by the Select Vestry’s Glebe’s Committee of the United Parishes of Malahide, Portmarnock and St Doulagh’s.

This initial phase of the plan was to investigate the increasing ingress of water and damp through the stone fabric of the structure and then sympathetically repair and prevent further deterioration of the medieval building.

After detailed examination of the failing pointing and stone surfaces, it was deemed necessary that considerable areas of the ancient stone roofs required to be re–bedded and sections repointed with appropriate lime mortar. The eastern gable and window stonework also received remedial attention to stall spalling of the soft sandstone surrounds.

The committee engaged Lisa Edden of CORA Consulting Engineers for the works. Her dedication and enthusiasm for the project at times even exceeded that of the parish team.

The work was carried out in close cooperation with Christine Baker the Heritage Officer and Helena Bergin the Architectural Conservation Officer of Fingal County Council who advised and guided the committee and were instrumental in the parish obtaining significant heritage funding from The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltach.

The conservation work was undertaken by Jimmy O’Friell of Oldstone Conservation and his team of dedicated traditional stonemasons including Kieran O’Connor and Martin Daly.

As the stonework continues to slowly dry out, the results of the external conservation work can already be seen in a significant reduction of internal biological growth.

The project was financed from the Historic Structures Funding (HSF) Grants and from parish funds, along with contributions from funds raised specifically for the project by The Friends of St Doulagh’s Church.

“We are very proud to have been the outright winners of the prestigious SPAB John Betjeman Award and consider that the winning is testament to engaging the right professionals for the task,” the Vestry Committee of Ken McAllister, Derek Moffatt and Ian Watkins stated.


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