Archaeological find is old quay wall

Story by Karen Downey

Wednesday, 8th June, 2011 5:30pm

Archaeological find is old quay wall

The new proposed art gallery on the site of the Fr Mathew Hall will be used as an arts base for Athlone, according to the county's draft arts plan.

The archaeological find at the site of the Fr Mathew Hall, which is being renovated and extended to accommodate a new art gallery, was not the Connaught Tower as initially believed, but is a riverside or old quay wall.

Archaeologists have not yet dated the structure, which is considered industrial archaeology, but work is ongoing in this regard. The wall will get a level of protection, which may mean that the foundations of the Fr Mathew Hall may have to be altered so that they go around the quay wall.

Archaeologists, the heritage section of the Department of the Environment and the National Monument Service are all involved in making arrangements for the protection of the structure and any possible alterations to the design of the extension foundations.

"The piling arrangements are the issue that affect the structure so they have to be redesigned, while also maintaining the integrity of the foundations," said Town Clerk John Walsh. "How they will do that is being worked on at the moment."

Work on the extension of Fr Mathew Hall has been paused as a result, but the refurbishment work is continuing.

The project is estimated to cost in the region of €3m. Work on the gallery, by Galway based company Purcell Construction, began earlier this year and was expected to last for ten months.

However, the opening of the art gallery is not dependent on the completion of the revamp of Athlone Castle. The work on Fr Mathew Hall includes an extension, the refurbishment and decoration of the building. All of the work will be carried out simultaneously.

The council has also advertised the artists' studios. There are four individual workshops and a group workshop, which will be used by artists. The four individual workshops are for professional artists and there are artists signed up to use these workshops for a twelve-month period. The communal workshop will be used by groups and local arts groups will be able to avail of the space.

It is expected that travelling exhibitions will also make use of the new facility once it is completed.

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