KILKENNY is in danger of losing another historic landmark unless a conservation plan is implemented. The steps at St Canice’s Cathedral are approaching their 400th anniversary and they are beginning to show their age.
Local councillor Malcolm Noonan has hit out at the borough council saying that they would be better off spending the remaining money raised by development charges on protecting the city’s heritage than on building the central access road that he opposes.
Cllr Noonan said that the million euro that the borough council is planning to spend on the central access scheme would be better off used to protect the steps. He said “I think council funding would be better spent on protecting historic structures than on a road that no one wants.”
He called on the council to implement a conservation plan to protect the steps that are approaching their 400th anniversary in 2014. Cllr Noonan said that the arch on the steps was in a terrible state of disrepair and might represent a public safety risk. He said “As you walk up velvet lane look to the left and you can see that the arch has dropped about 12 to 14 inches. I think it might be a drainage issue with water underneath. It requires a conservation plan similar to that implemented at Black Friars Gate. It is of very strong historic resonance. I would like to see it highlighted with some lighting.”
The County Manager, Joe Crockett, moved to reassure Cllr Noonan. He said that the vestry of St Canice’s working with Borough council have started to develop a conservation plan for the precinct.
Cóilín O’Drisceoil of Kilkenny Archaeology said that the steps are an important component of the St Canice’s site. He said “Saint Canice’s steps are an important component of one of the best-preserved historic cathedral closes in Britain and Ireland. Until the Coach Road was built in 1689 Saint Canice’s steps provided the only means of access from the Irishtown into the close. An inscribed stone set into the arch at the head of the steps records their building by Robert Wale, who was procurator of the cathedral in 1614. He lived in the dwelling on the left hand side at the top of the steps, what is now the Sexton’s house. There are 26 steps, all of cut limestone and these led up to a stout oak door that was closed at night - the stones where this door was hung can be seen today on the arched gateway.”
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