Coronavirus: Historic NI attractions 'face uncertain future'

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Image source, National Trust
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Wellbrook Beetling Mill in Cookstown remains closed to the public due to coronavirus restrictions

Two historic NI properties are under threat of closure due to National Trust cuts, a local councillor has warned.

Springhill House and Wellbrook Beetling Mill remain closed after coronavirus lockdown measures were introduced in March.

Mid Ulster UUP councillor Trevor Wilson says he fears public access to the attractions is at risk.

The National Trust has lost almost £200m due to Covid-19. It says there are proposals for the two properties.

Mr Wilson is calling for an urgent meeting with the National Trust to discuss the future of the attractions.

"These buildings not only have great historical importance to the area but also have beautiful grounds for people to walk," he said.

"Springhill in particular do a lot of educational work encouraging young people to think more carefully about the environment.

"These buildings at the heart of Mid Ulster should be given the same sort of treatment as larger National Trust attractions like Mussenden Temple."

He is encouraging the public to contact the National Trust before the cost-saving consultation period ends on Friday.

Image source, National Trust
Image caption,
Wellbrook Beetling Mill before its renovation by the National Trust

A National Trust spokesperson said proposals included a plan to "review the visitor offer at Springhill".

Proposals for the two properties also include reducing opening hours and moving from a fixed number of opening days to "a more flexible booked basis."

"We have reviewed our spending and ways of working to ensure we emerge from this crisis in a strong position to keep on protecting and caring for places so people and nature can thrive," the spokesperson said.

"We are unable to share any information regarding the specific implications for any of our members of staff, especially as all proposals are still subject to consultation," they added.

Springhill House, near Moneymore, was built in 1680 and now houses a collection of period costumes dating from the 18th Century.

Wellbrook Beetling Mill, near Cookstown, is the last working mill of its kind in NI and is currently celebrating 50 years since it first opened to the public following extensive renovation by the National Trust.

Beetling is the final process in linen manufacture, using mechanical hammers to beat a distinctive sheen on to the cloth.

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