27 April 2017

Adare cottage gets new thatch
two years after devastating fire

Work on rethatching the Benson cottage is near completion in Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I had a busy working afternoon in Adare, Co Limerick, today [27 April 2017]. But on my way back to Askeaton, as I was going through Adare, it was a delight to see that work on refurbishing and rethatching one of Adare’s beautiful thatched cottages is nearing completion almost two years after it was badly damaged by fire.

The Benson cottage was approved last year for a grant of €16,000 for repairs, announced by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys. It was one of 57 heritage projects to receive funding under the Structures at Risk Fund for 2016.

In June 2015, a fire completely destroyed two of the thatched cottages, which are popular with tourists. The cottage are attractive assets to Adare, and there are high hopes that that both cottages can be restored to their former glory.

Adare’s thatched cottages are attractive and important assets for tourism (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The fire broke out early in the afternoon as a wedding was about to start across the street in the 13th-century Holy Trinity Abbey Church. One cottage was gutted in the fire, a second was burned to the ground, and serious water damage was caused to a third cottage.

The fire was a ‘horrible tragedy’ for Jane and Henriette Benson, who lived in the cottage that is now being refurbished and rethatched. The second cottage was owned by an Irish-American businessman who lives in New York; the woman who was renting the cottage was preparing to move out and had packed everything, but lost all she owned in the fire. The third cottage, owned by Lucy Erridge, who runs a fashion and crafts shop, sustained serious water damage but was saved from the fire and is back in business.

After the fire, Henriette Benson said that all of the family’s possessions were destroyed, along with the house that had been their family home for many years.

The thatched cottages were built in 1826 by Lord Dunraven for estate workers in Adare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The two houses that need restoration, refurbishment and rethatching are among 11 remaining thatched cottages built in Adare in 1826 by Lord Dunraven as staff houses, and they have enjoyed landmark status in the town ever since.

This week, it was a joy to see workers busy completing the thatching on the Benson cottage after full refurbishing. The site is fenced off but is attracting considerable attention. Sadly, the second cottage destroyed in that fire remains untouched, and Limerick City and County Council has posted a notice declaring its intention to place the site into the Derelict Sites Register.

The cottage is at the end of a row of thatched cottages, beside the Benson cottage. The council now considers it a ‘derelict site’ and plans to place it on the register unless the ‘unknown owner’ makes representations this month.

The semi-detached three-bedroom cottage is still in the process of being sold, after a sale was agreed in January at ‘substantially above’ its asking price of €130,000. The new owner, reportedly, is from the Limerick area. Thousands of euro would be required to restore it to its former habitable state.

Meanwhile, work continues on the multi-million euro refurbishment of the Adare Manor hotel and golf resort, once the home to the Earls of Dunraven and now expected to reopen in September.

The thatched cottages are part of the tourist attractions of Adare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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