OVER £200,000 of Lottery funding has been awarded to Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to develop ambitious plans to transform the remaining part of the former Enniskillen Workhouse building into a business enterprise and heritage hub.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded development funding of £221,000 to the local authority to work up firm proposals for the project, which is being delivered in partnership with South West College, in order to secure the full £2.3 million grant requested.
Enniskillen Workhouse opened in 1844 to accommodate 1,000 people who, due to a range of circumstances, found themselves in financial distress. The building was one of 160 workhouses throughout Ireland designed by architect George Wilkinson.
The main workhouse was demolished in 1964 and all that remains today is the Grade B2 listed Entrance Block which is currently ‘at risk’ and in need of urgent repair.
The proposals will see the Entrance Block restored, with around 480 metres squared of floor space brought back into use as a hub for business innovation and enterprise, while part of the building known as the Master’s Room will be redeveloped as mixed-use exhibition, reminiscence and display space. Here the surviving workhouse records and minute books will be displayed and used to tell the story of the workhouse and the people who were housed there for the first time.
This space will be managed in conjunction with the HLF-supported Fermanagh County Museum.
Throughout the restoration works, a dedicated heritage skills and education programme will enable more than 100 local craftspeople and contractors to benefit from accredited training, and 12 apprenticeships will be created.
Funding for the project was awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme which provides grants of £100,000 to £5 million to bridge the costs associated with returning neglected historic buildings back into commercial use.
The popular Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Derry and recently-opened Titanic Hotel, Belfast were both supported through this grant programme.
Stephen McCann, council chairman, said: “For many people in the area, the Workhouse is still a living reminder of times gone by which is in relative terms quite recent. It is important to highlight and remember this very important part of our shared history in a meaningful and respectful way.” 
Michael McAlister, South West College chief executive, said: “The Workhouse sits adjacent to the new Erne Campus development in Enniskillen and there is a strong synergy between these two projects in terms of skills and economic development in the region. The restoration of the Workhouse will create exciting opportunities for young people in Fermanagh to develop new skills in heritage restoration and follow new entrepreneurial career paths.” 
Announcing the award, Paul Mullan, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, said: “This exciting project will utilise this hugely significant building to create a better future for the people of Enniskillen and beyond, while being sympathetic to its previous existence.”