Tears from visitors as Fermanagh National Trust property torched

The Summer House at Florence Court, Enniskillen
The Summer House at Florence Court, Enniskillen

Four teenage boys have been taken into police custody after a National Trust property was burned to the ground.

The PSNI said that the Garden House at Florence Court in Fermanagh had been the target of an arson attack at around 8.30pm on Thursday evening.

The Summer House at Florence Court, Enniskillen.

The Summer House at Florence Court, Enniskillen.

The boys, one aged 14 and three aged 15, were arrested in the wake of the incident, which is said to have reduced some visitors to the estate to tears.

The teenagers were later released.

The wooden structure had a thatched roof and was left completely wrecked by the attack.

Jim Chestnutt, National Trust Manager at Florence Court, said: “Sadly last evening (Thursday), our Summer House at Florence Court was totally destroyed by fire. Most importantly no-one was injured in the incident.

“The fire brigade and police attended the scene, and the cause is being investigated.

“This is a very sad event for National Trust staff and volunteers at the property, and for the thousands of visitors who visit Florence Court annually.

“The thatched building surrounded with its heather-clad walls sat on a high area overlooking the Pleasure Gardens and was a favourite destination for the beautiful views across the gardens to Benaughlin and distant mountains.

“This news is devastating for the staff and volunteers who love and care for Florence Court, one of our most beautiful places in Northern Ireland.

“However, as a conservation charity we are committed to looking after these special places forever and the team at Florence Court is confident that the Summer House can be fully restored.

“Florence Court remains open to the public this weekend, and our team will continue to provide a warm welcome to our visitors.”

The building had made a popular backdrop for visitors to be photographed against.

Mr Chestnutt added: “We’ve received so many messages of support this morning.

“I‘ve had some visitors in tears for example, because they remembered either having a special birthday or whatever the family event was – and the summerhouse was part of that.”

He said they had “every confidence” that the building will be rebuilt in due course, with public help.

“We’re looking forward to that day coming, despite what’s happened just within the last day”.

The Summer House which has been destroyed was built in 1993, and was a replica of an earlier 18th century building on the same site which had been removed during the 1930s.

Its most well-known visitor in 2014 was HRH Prince Charles, when he included the Summer House on his visit to Florence Court.

By 3pm today, the four teenagers arrested in connection with the arson attack had been released on bail pending further enquiries.