Conservation (Download Conservation)

4.2.1 Conservation Objectives  

Kilkenny City & Environs Development Plan 2014 - 2020 and Kilkenny City Centre Local Area Plan 2005 set out a series of policies to develop the public realm within the city centre.

  • Retain the existing scale of building heights of three and four storey buildings.
  • Encourage the renovation and re-use of any vacant or derelict buildings.
  • Retain the medieval street pattern.
  • Protect the tight urban grain and rhythm of existing streetscapes.
  • Support the implementation of the Kilkenny City Walls Conservation Plan.
  • Improve the visual appearance of the car parking area at the Market yard, and ensure a high standard of architectural design for any development at Bateman Quay.
  • To ensure pedestrian permeability is paramount in any future redevelopment of Bateman Quay.

4.2.2   Archaeological Strategy

The Masterplan area is located in the heart of medieval Kilkenny and is located within the Zone of Archaeological Potential for Kilkenny City (kk019-026-). The site encompasses a number of significant Heritage Structures including:

  • St Francis Abbey (National Monument)
  • City Walls (National Monument)
  • Evans Turrett (National Monument)
  • Woolen Mills (Protected structure)
  • Tea / Pleasure Houses (Protected Structures)
  • Bull Inn (Recorded Monument)

Some of these structures, nestled within the former brewery site, have not enjoyed the widespread public appreciation and interaction that other medieval monuments in Kilkenny have had due to restricted access issues. As a result they have become lost and forgotten locally, regionally and nationally.

The Masterplan has the potential to breathe new life into these historic gems. The development of the Masterplan lands provides a significant opportunity to reconnect these historic landmark sites and to provide a strong, distinct visual and physical presence to the existing streetscape of Kilkenny.



In early 2014, Kilkenny Co. Co. prepared an archaeological strategy for the development of the Masterplan lands.

This strategy advocated the establishment of a very thorough spatial (and plan form) knowledge and understanding of the sites historical development, a detailed evaluation of its current fabric and the incremental study of its below ground archaeology.

In late 2014, Kilkenny Co. Co. appointed Courtney Deery, Heritage Consultancy, to develop the archaeological strategy and in particular to:

  • Enhance the understanding of the historic development of the site.
  • Create a record of the existing knowledge base.
  • Inform the Masterplan process so that decisions in relation to the development of the site will be based on all available archaeological and historical information.

Through a detailed study of existing cartography, extant archaeological monuments and features, and an examination of the many test trenches, bore holes, window samples, dredged river areas and archaeological assessments, it has been possible to generate an understanding of where there is a potential to reveal significant below ground archaeological remains within the Masterplan site.

4.2.3 Summary of Archaeological recommendations

In order to provide an understanding of the extent and type of below ground archaeological potential, archaeological test excavation is required.

All excavation works at or in proximity to a National Monument on the site will require Consent from the Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and these excavation works will be subject to the conditions of any such consent. 

The stratigraphy demonstrated in archaeological investigations throughout the site commonly shows a sequence of modern concrete, sitting above made ground, over evidence of post medieval walls or structural foundations, overlaying (an often sterile) organic dark silty clay with occasional finds dating it to the medieval period, along with river silts and gravels, and a yellow boulder clay.

It is proposed that the following guiding principles will be adopted to facilitate an understanding of the below ground archaeological remains and to minimise disturbance of the remains where possible.

  • Excavation is to take place in the environs of St Francis’ Abbey with investigations extending to Evan’s Tower and St Francis’ Well at the waterfront and to the extant buildings to the south and the River Breagagh to the north.
  • The extent of these excavations is to be informed and guided by a comprehensive and targeted testing programme. There is merit and precedence to link investigative work with volunteer programs and open the experience to the general public in a controlled manner subject to health and safety requirements. This also has the advantage of uniquely identifying St Francis’ Abbey within the medieval city of Kilkenny and act as a live attraction and educational experience.
  • The purpose of this excavation will be to confirm the limited knowledge that exists today through cartographic and documentary research and also to confirm the findings of archaeological excavations in the 1960’s (carried out by Marcus ÓhEochaidhe’s for the OPW) as shown on a map belonging to that time. It is hoped that this will answer key questions such as the location and extent of burials, the survival and ground plan/layout of the transept, nave and cloister, whether the Abbey Precinct was walled and if this can be defined and any additional features that may have influenced life in a medieval Franciscan Friary or finds that can further inform the significance of the monument.
  • The findings from these excavations will be included in the proposed framework for the area in an imaginative and creative way lending themselves to an educational experience. Depending on the nature of the remains, consideration will be given to leaving below ground masonry remains in-situ so they can be explored as part of the St Francis’ Abbey experience and exhibited.
  • Archaeological investigation in the form of test trenching and strategically placed boreholes will assist the development of the southern and northern portion of the site. Initially it is proposed to place a series of boreholes at regular intervals in order to build a cross-section, below ground profile of the site. This will be supplemented by testing where necessary and areas of interest will be excavated.

  • In the areas to the south of the Diageo site and immediately north of the River Breagagh the site is largely built on a 300 - 400mm concrete slab, which was evidenced throughout the geotechnical investigations. It is proposed that the concrete slab remains in-situ to the south of the Abbey and north of the River Breagagh and that no basements or lower ground levels are permitted onsite. A proposed sub-structure will consist of a series of piles set out to a 7.5m grid with a ground beam located above the existing slab level. All excavation work within the complex must be preceded by an appropriate programme of archaeological evaluation.
  • It is also proposed that new services, where possible, are to be located in a band of made ground raised up from the existing slab and in the case of drainage that, where possible, it will linked with existing services on the site.
  • The design proposal where possible will reflect the historic plot layout for example to the north of the site, post medieval linear garden plots extending east – west have been recorded in excavations and have been identified in cartographic references.
  • The River Breagagh and Nore are integral to the setting and history of the site and substantial deposits as well as features were revealed along the waterfront during previous investigations. Works associated with the rivers in previously unexplored areas will be appropriately archaeologically investigated where necessary.
  • All proposals as set out in the archaeological strategy will be subject to agreement with the relevant state bodies including the National Monuments Service, Dept. of Arts Heritage & the Gaeltacht, OPW etc.

Conservation and Repair

The Archaeological strategy for the site has documented the following conservation priorities:

1. Immediate stabilisation works

2. Archaeological investigation works in order to inform conservation practices

3. Conservation works fit for purpose;

  • Future proposals associated with St Francis’ Abbey will have to be agreed in advance with the relevant authorities. Previous interventions and additions to fabric such as the concrete superstructure and iron pillars now examples of historic conservation should be retained where appropriate and where these do not diminish the integrity of the structure.
  • The conservation of other heritage structures within the Masterplan area, including;
  • Evan’s Tower and wall walk

  • City defences
  • Tea houses

  • Bull Inn wall

  • Mill buildings

will be dependent on the proposed future function of these historic features and the role that they will have in the overall development proposal. A Conservation Plan will be prepared and agreed with the relevant stakeholders and the conservation of these structures will be considered and incorporated into the detailed design of the immediate area surrounding them.

It is the policy of Kilkenny County Council to promote awareness of and facilitate access to the archaeological inheritance of Kilkenny City and Environs. The Masterplan presents an opportunity to open up access to those heritage structurres which were previously in-accessible to the general public.


There will be a need to identify and secure sources of funding from the EU, government, development-led and private sources is in order to support the archaeological investigation of the site. 

4.2.4 Heritage Structures Strategy

An analysis of all of the existing National Monuments and Protected Structures within the Masterplan areas has been carried.  Outlined below are the detailed strategies for each individual structure.

St Francis Abbey:

  • Archaeological investigation of the Abbey and Environs.
  • Protect the fabric of the structure.
  • Develop proposals for reuse of ruins and existing building.
  • Allow for safe public access.
  • To prepare a Heritage Conservation Plan for St.Francis Abbey, St.Franncis Abbey Well, and Evans Turret  in conjunction with the Heritage Council, the OPW, the National Monumnets Service, the Department of Arts Heritage abnd the Gaeltacht and other relevant stakeholders.

St Francis Abbey Well:

  • Archaeological investigation of the Well to be carried out once demolition of brewery buildings takes place.
  • Inclusion in landscaping plans for linear park.

Tea Houses:

  • Archaeological and conservation investigations.
  • Preservation of existing interiors.
  • Restoration of teahouses to suitable civic uses.

Chancellors Mills:

  • Archaeological investigation of the Mills and Environs.
  • Public site access.
  • Protection of the structures.

City Wall:

  • Archaeological investigation of the Wall and Environs.
  • Determine possibility of a new pedestrian bridge at the location of Bull Lane.
  • Propose solutions for the preservation of original fabric of the wall.

Evans Tower:

  • Archaeological investigation of the Tower and Environs.
  • Secure the structure.
  • Propose future use and provide safe public access.
  • Retain Arcadian Setting.

4.2.5 Existing Structure Strategy


In response to the statement in the “Architectural Heritage Protection - Guidelines for Planning Authorities” published by the Department of Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht, that;

“sympathetic maintenance, adaptation and re-use can allow the architectural heritage to yield aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits even where the original use may no longer be viable. The creative challenge is to find appropriate ways to satisfy the requirements of a structure to be safe, durable and useful on the one hand, and to retain its character and special interest on the other.”


The architecture policy stresses their value as a resource to be exploited in the production of a sustainable built environment, and that subject to retaining its cultural value, the continuing use of the existing building stock should be an important objective in both public and privately led development.

The reuse, where possible, of some of the existing buildings on site accords with the principles of sustainable re-use of building assests. The principle of sustainable development is a fundamental principle of the Kilkenny City & Environs Development Plan 2014-2020. It is noted that Kilkenny Borough Council (now Kilkenny County Council), is a signatory to the Aalborg Charter of European Cities and Towns Towards Sustainability and the chamber is referenced and contained in the Kilkenny City & Environs Development Plan 2014 - 2020.

Following a review of the existing structures in the St.Francis Abbey Brewery site, the following buildings were identified as being suitable for re-use;

  • The Brewhouse Building
  • The Mayfair Building Brewhouse Building


This is a large three and part four storey concrete structure, with some steel framed clad infill elements. The building was commenced in the 1960’s and has had a number of accumulated extensions up to the 1980’s.


  • A robust concrete framed structure which appears to be suitable for adaptation and future use.
  • There are issues in relation to moisture ingress and damp on the uninsulated walls.
  • The roof appears to have failed in a number of locations.
  • The glazing system on the earliest portion of the building may need to be replaced, subject to conservation architects comments.


Not a protected structure (but has architectural merit as an industrial building of its type, and is not replicated elsewhere in the city).


  • This building has great potential for a number of uses, from exhibition to commercial / workshops / third level education.

  • The existing tanks and brewing equipment should be carefully removed to enable retention of the building.
  • A number of the infill steel structures should be demolished in full, which have been constructed around the disused mild steel brewing chambers.

Other key considerations include the ease of removal of the industrial equipment without demolition, and the potential requirement for remediation under the building. Mayfair Building


This is a small two storey concrete structure characterised by the double gabled form. The building was commenced in the 1960’s and has had a number of accumulated extensions up to the 1980’s. The Mayfair was one of the main ballrooms in Kilkenny during the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. It first opened its doors on St Stephen’s night 1943. The Mayfair closed in 1973 and was subsequently converted to Office, Staff Canteen and Staff Locker Rooms by Diageo. Diageo vacated the building in 2013.


  • A robust concrete structure which appears to be suitable for adaptation and future use.
  • There are issues in relation to moisture ingress and damp on the uninsulated walls.
  • The concrete asbestos roof should be replaced
  • The glazing system on the earliest portion of the building needs to be replaced


While not a protected structure a detailed appraisal of the existing two storey building suggests that it is of little architectural significance internally or externally. What merit the building has lies in its social heritage.


  • The refurbishment and extension of the building will create a building of distinction more appropriate to its location at a primary entrance to the new Abbey Quarter precinct .
  • While it is proposed to replace the roof covering to the existing pitched roofs the proposed building the overall scale of the existing building i.e. the existing ridge height should be maintained.
  • The overall physical form of the proposed building which consists of a random series of single and two storey extensions to the central double gabled form can be replaced by a more regular two storey form.
  • External concrete steps and Boiler Room abutting the City Wall to be carefully removed.
  • Trees and associated vegetation abutting the City Wall to be removed.
  • Remove internal dividing wall and suspended ceiling to  reveal original form of the ballroom.

These recommendations will be subject to compliance with the EU Habitats and Birds Directive.

Archaeological Strategy
4.2.2 The Archeological strategy is to be welcomed but is too narrow and should be extended to the whole of the site and Kilkenny as a whole. The revisioning process identified archeology as of the...
4.2. Conservation.
We welcome the conservation objectives and the emphasis given to the archaeology of the area. 4.2.4 We welcome the proposal to develop a Conservation Plan for the heritage structures onsite but...
Archaeological Strategy
4.2.2 The Archeological strategy is to be welcomed but is too narrow and should be extended to the whole of the site and Kilkenny as a whole. The revisioning process identified archeology as of...
Mayfair Building
The council have not listened to the public in relation to the Mayfair Buliding.  It was evident at both public consulations that there was little support for keeping this building. ...
Conservation We welcome the conservation objectives and the emphasis given to the archaeology of the area. 4.2.4 We welcome the proposal to develop a Conservation Plan for the heritage...