Apprentice Boys: Excitement as new hall plans take shape

Picture Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography Multimedia
Picture Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography Multimedia

The Apprentice Boys memorial hall has stood proudly on Society Street since 1877, this is how it will look following extensive refurbishment work set to begin shortly.

Two silver trowels take pride of place in the glass cabinet inside the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall in Londonderry dating to 1877 when the building was originally built and 1937 when it was extended along Society Street, these will soon be joined by a third when a major upgrade is carried out on the hall later this year.

It is beautiful and historic but that doesn’t keep the many groups who use it warm this winter.

The wiring system dates back to 1937 and the heating system has recently been experiencing problems.

As well as making the hall fit for purpose, the work will also include a new heritage centre.

This has been the dream of Apprentice Boys General Secretary Billy Moore for more than ten years.

He has been at the coal face of the campaign to secure funding to realise this dream over that time and is delighted that it is progressing.

“There was major work in preparing the applications to the various funding agencies; the Tourist Board and the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB), creating economic appraisals and business plans which all took a considerable length of time,” he said,

“But now that we have received confirmation from those funding agencies that we have received the necessary funding, we are eager, anxious and excited about moving forward and putting the final preparations in place.

“We are now able to engage designers and contractors, along the appropriate procedures as laid down by Government agencies.

“We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, it may take another 12 months to see bricks and mortar ready at the doors but every day sees another step along the way.

“It’s exciting times, everyone about the hall is optimistic for a good building that will sustain us for another 70 years, and we are looking forward to a brand new heritage centre which will help the entire community understand culture and history of the association.”

Eight Orange Lodges and one Black Preceptory use the hall, as well as the eight Apprentice Boys parent clubs.

As well as getting completely rewired and a new heating system, the grade B listed building, will also be extended to include a new visitor centre.

The work is due to be completed next year to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Apprentice Boys.

It is able to take place due to £3million of funding granted to the organisation by the SEUPB (£2.2m) and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (£800,000).

The Apprentice Boys will also use this funding to appoint a new Education Officer later this year to, amongst other duties, speak to schools about Northern Ireland about who the organisation are.

A temporary “pop-up” museum and home for the Apprentice Boys will open towards the end of this year, just ahead of the closing of Memorial Hall in to start the renovation project.

The new hall is due to be open to the public at the end of 2014.