Historical thatched cottage at risk in repair funding dispute

Seacoast Cottage, which dates back to the 1700s, is one of the last lived in thatched roof cottages of its kind in Ireland
Seacoast Cottage, which dates back to the 1700s, is one of the last lived in thatched roof cottages of its kind in Ireland

ONE of Ireland’s oldest lived-in thatched cottages could soon be lost unless urgent repairs are funded by Stormont, it has been warned.

Seacoast Cottage, located close to Limavady in Co Derry, is believed to be one of the oldest lived-in thatched cottages on the island, and has belonged to the same family for generations.

However, its current occupants, siblings Edward and Eileen Quigley, face a choice between eviction, or removing the historical roof feature entirely unless a government funding decision is reversed.

The elderly pair have lived in the cottage for more than 70 years, but devastating storms in 2014 caused parts of the roof to collapse.

Temporary repairs are in place, but it is estimated that to return the cottage to its former glory, costs could reach over £130,000.

However, an offer from the Department for Communities’ Historic Environment Fund is “not even close” to saving the cottage, which is thought to date back to the 1700s.

The homestead is included in the Built Heritage at Risk NI register – a list of vulnerable historical buildings compiled by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society with the help of the department.

The Quigleys' nephew Mark Canning, has started an online campaign to raise £80,000 needed to help fund repairs, but despite an international appeal, donations have slow.

Mr Canning said that unless the campaign takes off, or government funding is increased, the family could be forced to replace the listed building’s thatch with tiles.

“The cottage has been in the family for four generations, and as I understand, is Ireland’s only remaining cottage to feature a roof thatched with marram grass,” he said.

“The roof was sturdy, but failed to withstand extreme weather in 2014, and now there are two large holes.

"We have used makeshift repairs by placing a cattle gate and lorry canvass over them, but the thatch needs to breathe, and the damp is making it uninhabitable for my aunt and uncle, who do not have electricity, central heating, or running water inside.”

A government grant of £50,000 has been offered to save Seacoast Cottage, but unless more funds are sourced, drastic action will have to be taken.

“I can put a slated tile roof on for £15,000, but it would break our hearts to lose this part of our family’s – and Ireland’s - heritage,” Mr Canning added.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said they would issue an official offer in regards to Seacoast Cottage – which the family expects to remain around £50,000 – in the coming weeks.

“The department opened the Historic Environment Fund for applications in September 2016. The provisions of the scheme were developed following a public consultation,” the spokesperson said.

“The owners made an application to the fund and we anticipate issuing a letter of offer very shortly.

“The NI Housing Executive is also working with the owners of the cottage regarding the costs of an extension to the property.”

The online fundraising campaign is hosted at