The ongoing conservation and restoration of St Mary’s Church received a major boost last week, with Kilkenny Civic Trust pledging a E400,000 gift toward the project.
The Trust will transfer the monies to Kilkenny Borough Council over the next three years, on behalf of the people of Kilkenny. Mayor of Kilkenny Sean O’ hArgain made the announcement at last week’s meeting of the borough council.
“This is a very generous gift from the Civic Trust, who do have an active role in promoting Kilkenny’s culture and heritage,” he said.
In a letter to the local authority, the Trust commended the borough council on the works done thus far on St Mary’s Church, and the plans for its future development into a museum.
County manager Joe Crockett said it was part of a major investment in the ‘Medieval Mile’, which is the development of the city’s ‘spine’ running from St Canice’s Cathedral to Kilkenny Castle. The project has already received consultative and financial backing from Failte Ireland.
“It is progressing well and is at the final stages of consultation,” said the county manager.
“In October, two critical assessments will be carried out.”
Originally, the project was to centre around four main developments: The refurbishment of St Mary’s Church, a new facility for the Butler Gallery, renovations at the Kilkenny Design Centre Complex, and and upgrading of the streetscape on High Street and Parliament Street.
However, the county manager has now revealed that in the course of consultation with Failte Ireland, it was decided that an additional project will be added to the Medieval Mile development.
The Nore Linear Park is to be the location for a new special city garden, catering for both the people of Kilkenny and as an additional tourist attraction. It will be an expansion of the riverside amenity in existence already, to run from Ossory Bridge as far as the Weir – including, eventually, the St Francis Abbey Brewery.
“I want to ask approval to bring this proposal to the next meeting – that it would include the lands at the Diageo site in due course,” said Mr Crockett.
Kilkenny’s borough councillors have welcomed the idea.
“I think this would be a very excellent concept,” said Mayor O’ hArgain.
“The gardens of the southeast, including Woodstock in Kilkenny, are becoming a major tourist attraction.
Cllr Martin Brett (FG) also welcomed the announcement, as well as the allocation of funding from the Civic Trust.
“I would wholeheartedly support the [garden]idea,” he said.
“I would also like to to comment on the E400,000 – that means we can get a lot of things done in a shorter space of time.”
The local authority bought the church and graveyard from the Church of Ireland in 2009. Following a re opening of the graveyard earlier this year, the plan is ultimately to develop the church into a civic museum.