From dereliction to preserving its place in HISTORY

Patrick Bradley brings a thatched cottage alive in Derry.

Story Highlights
  • “The COTTAGE is a VERY RARE one.”
  • “Previously the DWELLING only had a FIRST FLOOR over half the house.”
  • “The predicted LIFE expectancy of a THATCH ROOF varies.”

Patrick Bradley Architects is a vibrant RIBA/Multi Award Winning design led practice creating architecture throughout the UK and Ireland with head office based in Maghera, Northern Ireland.

Patrick Bradley established the practice in 2008 and has gained publicity after appearing on Channel 4’s Grand Designs and House of the Year. Subsequently the featured house ‘Grillagh Water,’ designed by Patrick Bradley Architects, has gone on to win several awards regionally and nationally. With an array of projects under his belt all over Ireland, this talented Architect jumped at the chance of working on what was a derelict cottage on the outskirts of a small village in County Derry.

“We had been recommended to the client for my experience in working with Listed Buildings and Protected Structures throughout Ireland. It is a very unusual one and half storey thatch cottage so we were very excited to be appointed to work on such a rare building,’’ said Patrick Bradley in relation to this unique property. “The cottage is situated just on the outskirts of Bellaghy village in County Derry. It sits proudly by the roads edge and you can’t miss its prominence in the landscape. “I was first involved with this project back in 2013 and on site construction commenced early September 2016.

The contract duration was set at nine months to be completed by June 2017. The thatch roof had partly collapsed to the most northerly gable literally flooding the internal of the cottage,’’ revealed Patrick. Where the thatch remained, it was thin with gaps with serious ingress of water and damp.

The cottage was overgrown with vegetation that it was barely recognisable from the public road. It required an extensive conversion as most of the original timbers, both floors and ceiling, had rotten from years of neglect and there were some structural issues to contend with by the collapsed roof,’’ he enthused. “The cottage is a very rare one and half storey Grade B2 Listed dwelling. The external remains largely unchanged. Obviously, it has had a makeover with a new roof, including new timbers and straw thatch.

“The white wash on the walls was chipped back to expose the stone and a fresh coat of lime white wash render was applied. All windows were retained, made good and repainted. The chimneys were repaired and restored,’’ added Mr Bradley. “The internal of the dwelling had a few internal layout changes but all was carried out sympathetically and to the approval of Historic Buildings.

Typical of old cottages the rooms were small in nature further sub divided to provide very small bedrooms each accessed through one another. We changed the configuration to permit each bedroom its own access from a corridor,’’ Patrick went on to explain.

They were restricted to the fireplace locations and openings however could re-arrange the plan around these to suit. The stairs were non compliant to todays building standards and therefore had to be relocated in order to comply with regula-tions. This assisted with the first floor layout.

“Previously the dwelling only had a first floor over half the house. We were successful in implementing a full two storey over the length of the dwelling. The external outbuildings were all restored back to life, as well as rebuilding the boundary wall to the roadside and repairing the original iron gates,’’ he imparted.

Due to the nature of traditional solid stone wall construction, it is important to consider the breathability of the existing structure. The walls naturally have a thermal insulation value and therefore it was considered the external walls did not re-quire any insulation. Mr Bradley carefully designed the cottage to employ modern day oil fired heating to radiators systems.

From the outset, this property looks quite dainty and short on space but this isn’t the case as in Patrick’s own words the house is ‘’quite deceiving,’’ and ‘’large in accommodation.’’

“On entrance to the cottage, you are immediately welcomed through a small entrance hall to the main living space which is the heart of the house. Directly off this is the kitchen / dining area with access to an external coal house lean to. The revised location of the stairs is also evident from the living room as is the internal corridor leading to the two double bedrooms and bathroom’’ explained Mr Bradley.


A small utility space and rear door are also accessed of the living room. Upstairs serves a further two double bedrooms, one ensuite, main bathroom and large hotpress/store. As this property was in a rather depleted state as well as what the owners were keen to achieve, were there any difficulties when it came to working on this project?

“As predicted, due to the nature and state of this building, once the thatch was removed in full, the northern gable be-came structurally unsound and had to be underpinned and made good back to the original detailing,’’ he said. “As we had thought most of the existing timbers were rotten and had to be replaced. There were no major delays and the contractor successfully maintained programme.”

In terms of upkeep, will there be much to do?

“In this instance, there will be an additional element of main-tenance required compared to modern buildings Whilst the thatch is treated when it is installed, it is a natural material that does weather when exposed to the harsh Irish weather,’’ Patrick explained.

“The predicted life expectancy of a thatch roof varies due to many factors including the material, quality, skill of thatcher, geographical location, proximity of trees etc. This thatch in-stalled on this cottage is water reed and typically can last up to 50 years with maintenance in between.

From looking at this building back in 2013 to looking at what this building now, surely Patrick has a special place in his heart for it?
“My favourite part about this property is seeing it brought back to life. It is a local treasure of architectural heritage and it is quite unbelievable how well known it is in the area. Many people have commented on its reappearance from years of ne-glect and this without a doubt is such a proud achievement of my career. It has been brought back externally to how it once was and the client has even reinstated the gardens to how she remembers them as a child.

Working on this project was a great joy when the thatcher arrived at site. It is a rare skilled trade and the cottage really began to take shape and look like it used too. It was crazy the amount of people that stopped to take photographs when the thatcher was there and now since it has been completed,’’ he enthused.
“Deerpark Cottage had suffered from dereliction and neglect over the past 10 years but has successfully been restored to preserve its place in history. The client placed full confidence in us as their Architect to restore it back ensuring the cottage was finished to the highest possible standards to maintain its vernacular Irish roots,’’ added a reflective Patrick Bradley.



    Words: Emer KellyPics: Aidan Monaghan

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