Glenties selected for prestigious Historic Towns Initiative

The town of Glenties will benefit under the Heritage Council’s Historic Towns Initiative following the successful application to the scheme by The Conservation Office and Heritage Office of Donegal County Council in partnership with the Brian Friel Trust, Dedalus Architecture and local property owners. The successful application was awarded €350,000 under The Heritage Council’s Historic Towns Initiative.  This is the sixth success for Donegal County Council under the Historic Towns Initiative. 

The Laurels, Brian Friel’s mother’s home in Glenties

“Glenties possesses an interesting built heritage that includes examples of vernacular architecture and more formally-designed structures” explained Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer.  “Like many other small towns in west Donegal, it grew along its main street.  Its function as a market town meant that it has always served a large rural hinterland.  The Glenties Historic Towns Initiative seeks to celebrate aspects of the built heritage and material culture of the town.  Structures that will benefit from conservation works under the scheme include The Laurels that is playwright Brian Friel’s mother’s home and the setting for his play ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’; the mid-nineteenth century Glenties Courthouse that is being leased to the Brian Friel Trust in order to establish the Brian Friel Centre; the community-run St. Connell’s Museum and the steel-arched gateway which forms part of the curtilage of St. Connell’s Church. 

The project also involves the design of two road crossing points.  The Historic Towns Initiative is local authority and local community-led and has heritage considerations at its heart.  Experience has shown that places that have a strong civic pride in their historic buildings, employ best conservation practice and make wise land-use decisions are those that make the most attractive places to live, work and visit.  The funding provided by The Heritage Council and the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage will make a significant contribution to protecting, enhancing and promoting the built heritage of Glenties.”

“The Historic Towns Initiative will see a total investment of €500,000 in Glenties this year” said Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer, Donegal County Council.  “The proposed work will be prioritised based on the conservation report on The Laurels and the feasibility study and architectural conservation report on Glenties Courthouse.  The conservation works planned under the Historic Towns Initiative include structural repairs to historic buildings, roof and chimney repairs, lime pointing and rendering, repair of cast-iron rainwater goods, the repair and reinstatement of timber sash windows and doors, vegetation management, installation of a French drain, repair of a boundary wall and a painting scheme for historic buildings.  We will work closely with the Brian Friel Trust and the conservation works will be carried out using best conservation practice and traditional materials under the supervision of a Grade I conservation architect.  The Glenties Historic Towns Initiative has strong support from the local community and the conservation works will be completed by November.”

Glenties Courthouse to provide Brian Friel Centre

“The conservation and re-use of The Laurels and Glenties Courthouse are central to our plans for the establishment of a Brian Friel Centre in Glenties” said Orlaith McBride, Chairperson of the Brian Friel Trust.  “The long-term ambition of the Brian Friel Trust is to celebrate Brian Friel’s rich cultural legacy and his affinity with Glenties.  The conservation works envisaged under the Historic Towns Initiative is an important first step to authentically restoring The Laurels to its 1930s interior when Brian Friel used to visit the house where his aunts lived and to advancing our plans to create a vibrant, dynamic and creative visitor attraction in the Brian Friel Centre at Glenties Courthouse.  Thirteen of Brian Friel’s plays are set in the fictional town of Ballybeg, widely regarded to be based on Glenties.  The significance of The Laurels, which the Trust acquired in 2016, together with Friel’s decision to make Glenties his final resting place all make this project distinctive in the context of Glenties.”

Three other towns countrywide secured funding for capital works under this year’s Historic Towns Initiative: Ballina, County Mayo (€240,000); Midleton, County Cork (€350,000) and Birr, County Offaly (€80,000).  A further four towns also secured funding for the preparation of heritage-led regeneration plans: Monaghan Town, County Monaghan (€50,000), Passage West, County Cork (€50,000), Strokestown, County Roscommon (€50,000) and Lisdoonvarna, County Clare (€50,000).  Commenting on the funding allocations, Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD said “I am heartened every year to see how successfully the Historic Towns Initiative scheme breathes new life into some of the forgotten spaces in our historic town centres, transforming them into vibrant hubs for creativity, for living, and preserving our historic structures for future generations. These supports are yet another example of the huge strides made towards achieving our Heritage Ireland 2030 targets and we will continue to ensure local authorities have the resources they need to address vacancy and dereliction while also preserving our rich architectural heritage.” 

Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan commented “Although this scheme plays a huge part in the restoration of our historic buildings, it also contributes to community engagement and economic growth by attracting visitors and sustaining businesses. By repurposing historic structures for residential, artistic, and cultural use, we're not only conserving our past but creating a brighter future for towns across the nation. It's a win-win for preservation and prosperity.”

Every local authority can submit one application to the Historic Towns Initiative each year for a historic town with an indicative population of more than 1,500 inhabitants.  The proposed works must be based on a conservation plan-led approach and demonstrate strong community engagement. 

If you think that your town meets or is working towards meeting the criteria for the Historic Towns Initiative, please contact the County Donegal Heritage Office on (074) 917 2576 or by e-mail at

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