The White House Preservation Trust has been awarded £424,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to restore the White House, Newtownabbey and operate a community heritage resource centre in the building.
The Heritage Lottery Fund’s manager for Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan said,
“It’s wonderful that this historic building is going to get a new lease of life and become a resource that the local community and visitors can make use of. There’s a fascinating story about the White House just waiting to be told, and now this grant will help to make that a reality for the people of Newtownabbey.”
The early 17th century fortified farmhouse is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the vicinity of Belfast and has a colourful past as the place where William III's army is said to have landed and met with his generals for the march south to the Battle of the Boyne. The fortified farmhouse or "bawn" is of particular architectural and historical significance and part the grant will be used to carry out an archaeological investigation to unearth more about the site.
Chairman of the White House Preservation Trust, Billy Webb, said ‘’ On behalf of the Trust I am delighted that we will now be in a position to restore this fine old building and bring it back into public use. It has been a long journey in getting to this position but the wait has been worthwhile.’’
In addition to the archaeological dig, restoration will be carried out on the house as well as the construction of a new building within the White House’s historic shell, which will provide exhibition space, a lecture room, meeting room and a genealogy research facility for visitors to discover their family connections. The exhibition space will be used to house information telling the story of the William III wars and bring to life the connections between the White House and the Battle of The Boyne - the only European Battle fought on Irish soil.
The exhibition will shine a light for the public on how the causes of William’s expedition in Ireland were part of a much greater European power struggle, and tell the story of the journey south from the White House to the Boyne, linking these historical events with real places.
The museum will also reveal and explain the history behind how William of Orange became the figurehead of the Orange Order founded in 1795, and display urban folk art such as loyalty banners and gable ends, showing how this symbolism has been portrayed over the years.
Using the HLF grant a part time education officer will be employed to develop a programme of community and cultural activities including genealogical research to get visitors involved in the heritage resource centre. The officer will also be involved in organising a programme of lectures and history classes for adult education. Schoolchildren will also have the opportunity to learn about the heritage of the White House through a competition to design a poster for the archaeological dig, and be visited by White House the dog, the project mascot who will be visiting to schools to tell them all about the centre.