Monday, 28 September 2009

'Marconi Cottage' Gaffe?

A current advertisement on the BTW Cairns property website contains questionable information, information that could well affect the value of the property.

Steeped in heritage set on the foreshore on the north Antrim coast. In May 1898, Guglielmo Marconi resided at Marconi's Cottage, and the house was used to carry out some of the earliest radio transmissions to and from Rathlin Island. Marconi's Cottage is positioned on the foreshore, with direct access to the sea.

Where's the research that would substantiate such a claim?

An historian who has researched the short Marconi visit to Ballycastle says:

This property [at the end of the Carrickmore Road] has no historical connection whatsoever with the pioneer of radio. Mr Marconi visited Ballycastle for three days in 1898 during which time, according to his diary, he visited Rathlin Island and the wireless station his colleagues set up at Humphries' coalyard (now a slot machine parlour) on Bayview Rd, at the Quay in Ballycastle. The sending and receiving equipment was set up in the corner bedroom at Mr Greer's house on North Street. In fact Mr Kemp complained of catching a cold due to having the window continually open to accommodate the wires. The aerial was hung from the spire of St Patrick's and St Brigid's chapel spire and carried across to a spar on the clifftop.

The National Trust coastal path provides a pleasant walk to Fairhead.

Indeed. So what exactly is the reason behind putting up a fence on the seaward side of the road and removing the fence on the landward side [landward fence renewed - see image at top]? Is there an intention to block off a section of the road for the benefit of the new owner and with no regard for those who already use the road? Has the Planning Service given permission for the erection of the fence, especially at those points where walkers would have gone down onto the rocks?

I'm told that the boundary on the seaward side of the property should stop at the high water mark whereas the map boundary encroaches on the rocks and therefore quite possibly onto the Crown Estate. Was this map authenticated and accepted by the local planning service? Is the map up-to-date?

Click images to enlarge

A section of the Williamson 1790 colliery map shows the tramroad to the collieries, evidence of a highway and public right of way since that time. The location of the cottage is marked by a red arrow. The old name for the cottage is "Old Salt Pans". It was also one of Hugh Boyd's colliery 'watch houses'; also called "Ca' the coals" and "The Old Coalyard" - hence the initial confusion between it and Humphries' old coalyard at the Quay in Ballycastle.

Adds Sep 29

I'm told that the details of this story were raised at Monday night's meeting of Moyle District Council and that a council official has been delegated to make further inquiries.

Kevin McAuley's Letter to the Editor re. 'Marconi's Cottage'.

Adds Oct 1

Perhaps December 29, 2008 wasn't the best time to grant planning permission for a replacement dwelling at 40 Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle. How else could the Planning Service have missed the declaration that there was no public right of way adjoining the site when a public road is clearly marked on the deeds map above? And then there's the mystery within the related Moyle Council minutes:

Ms McMath stated that this application was recommended for refusal due to the application being contrary to Policy CTY1 no justification for the replacement of this vernacular building and 5 of PPS14, no justification for the replacement of the building, worthy of retention and unacceptable visual impact.

I can find no explanation in the council minutes for the about turn or any follow-up on the one month deferral.

Now that the property has been extended is the erection of a fence topped with barbed wire on the seaward side of the public road not a breach of the conditions imposed? There were to be inter alia no fences 'other than those as approved by this consent or as may be agreed by the Department'. The purpose of the conditions was to 'preserve the character of the area', an area that I'm told lies within the Ballycastle Coalfields SSI. Photographs submitted with the original planning application show no previous fence on that side of the road.

Adds Oct 4

Why has a style been added to the new fence on the landward side of the public road? Do the pebbles beside it represent the beginning of a path to by-pass the public road? Did the pebbles come from the beach below the road? The recent marks on the track down to the beach would appear to match those adjacent to the cottage.

Adds Oct 6

Povall Worthington's 'Marconi Cottage'

This appears to be a recently modified website yet the historical inaccuracy has not been corrected and the barbed and sheep wire fence plus style added.

Perhaps we should 'congratulate' BTW Cairns and Povall Worthington for highlighting the Planning Service's permission to demolish such a world renowned building and its callous disregard for the heritage of the Kingdom of Moyle. And why were Moyle councillors and officials apparently asleep at their posts on 22 December 2008 [DOC file]? Or had they retired to the Mayor's Parlour early? ;)