Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Ards Door - architectural heritage in Newtownards (Castlebawn development)

With the recent news that the Castlebawn development in Newtownards has been given the go-ahead by the Planning Service, even in a climate of opposition from town centre traders and of course financial austerity, there are hopes that two major streets in the town which have been steadily deteriorating into almost-dereliction might finally be given a facelift.

One of the distinctive features of both Court Street and South Street are the remarkable amount of 'Ards doors' a specific arch-shaped doorway design made of distinctive Scrabo stone with a large keystone at the top, which was once such a signature of the town that tourism books describing the area remarked upon them -

'...this land must have changed little since the Viking ships and Norman cogs rolled and staggered through its narrow blue channel. Here and there crumbling Norman keeps rise from the shores, and stone causeways Norman-built link the nearer islands with the mainland. Here again we meet with typical Ulster farmhouses with their spread of whitewashed barns; their doors with fanlights and characteristic trimmings, called Ards doors, on account of their association with that district...'

- from The Face of Ulster by Denis O'D Hanna (1951)

Local features are gradually disappearing, and knowledge of them as well. I hope that someone has the good sense to preserve them, raise awareness of them and maybe they can be recovered as an Ards-specific feature once again. At the very least someone should photograph all of these doorways before any potential renovations are carried out and their distinctiveness is lost forever.