ALL IS not lost for Castleconnell residents worried about the unsightly building in the heart of the pretty village as a bidder is still interested in buying the fire-gutted Worrall’s Inn.
A blaze out broke out in the iconic building, that has been part of the village’s streetscape since the 1820s, last week. Vacant for a number of months, hopes had been rising locally that a deal would be struck and it would be reopened.
This was confirmed to the Limerick Leader by Pat Kearney of Rooney Auctioneers.
“We had two clients who had placed offers on that property. We were waiting on a decision on the two offers received. Both people had great plans to open it and to restore it as a pub and restaurant. Both were looking forward to decisions on their offers and were anxious to hear as quickly as possible,” said Mr Kearney.
But then the fire broke out in the early hours of Tuesday, May 27.
Garda investigations continue into how the fire started.
A forensic and technical examination to find out if it was malicious or accidental has yet to be carried out confirmed gardai this Tuesday.
“It remains a dangerous structure and is not safe to enter. We are appealing for any information - if anybody witnessed anything suspicious in the area between 1am and 4am please contact gardai,” said a garda spokesperson.
Mr Kearney said the fire was a disaster for Castleconnell but the Worrall’s Inn could still rise from the ashes.
“One of the parties that bid on it was onto us today. He is still keen to buy it and clean it up because he has great plans for that particular building. Hopefully we can drive forward
“It is a lovely iconic building in the centre of the village. There is great potential. I have sold it a number of times during my career and there were some great operators in there.
“It has been heartbreaking for everyone. There are a lot of concerned people out there - Tidy Towns committee, historians and locals - it is a shame that it happened,” said Mr Kearney.
Local historian, Paddy Tuohy, said it was a hotel during the high water days of the river Shannon more than 100 years ago.
“It was before the Shannon scheme at a time when salmon were plentiful and the fishing rod and salmon fisheries were big industries. There were many prominent owners down through the years. It is part of our streetscape in Castleconnell and I am very sad about it,” said Mr Tuohy.
As it is a listed building, if it is sold the new owners will be working closely with Tom Cassidy, conservation officer with Limerick County and City Councils.
“We are as supportive as possible of people when they want to reinstate a burn-out building. We work with individuals and businesses to get the essential character reinstated. “It is the essential character, it’s not anything and everything that was there beforehand because you are not going to be able to restore 19th century craftsmanship,” said Mr Cassidy.
He explained that if it is done speedily within a relatively short space of time they would see it as reinstatement rather than as a new build and it would not require planning permission. “There is a restriction on ourselves and on owners of the protected structure. Legislation states clearly that neither a planning authority nor the board on appeal shall grant planning permission for demolition of a protected structure save in exceptional circumstances,” said Mr Cassidy.
“Looking at a historic building that has had significant fire damage you try to restore the elements of significant character which in the case of a building it is generally those elements visible form the outside,” he added.
Speaking in general terms as Mr Cassidy hadn’t seen the damage when he spoke to the Leader, the conservation officer said it can often not be as bad as it looks from the road.
“One of the very first things to understand is that most structural damage caused in a fire is due to the entrapment of heat in the building. That causes the stone walls and the like to crack.A fire in a historic property likes to take the route of least resistance. As heat travels upwards the fire generally ignites the flowing joists and floorboards and burns up through to the roof level and bursts out through the roof very, very quickly.
“Because heat must go upwards and these timbers are well seasoned - as you can imagine having been in a building for a 100, 200, 300 years - the heat escapes pretty quickly.
“Although it looks pretty dramatic you can get a very sound structure around the envelope of the building because of the way the heat gets out of the building pretty fast. The lateral spread of fire can be retarded because it is going the route of least resistance,” said Mr Cassidy.