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FLAME Gasworks Museum: Historic site to close after 20 years as a visitor attraction

FLAME Gasworks Museum in Carrickfergus has closed after 20 years as a visitor attraction, it has been confirmed.

The site was restored by the Carrickfergus Gasworks Preservation Society before opening to the public as a visitor attraction in 2002.
The site was restored by the Carrickfergus Gasworks Preservation Society before opening to the public as a visitor attraction in 2002.

One of only three preserved gasworks in Britain and Ireland, the Irish Quarter West site boasts western Europe’s largest set of retorts (in which the gas was made), as well as an extensive collection of gas appliances and documents.

The Gasworks first opened in 1855, supplying the town with gas made from coal until 1967.

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It was subsequently used to distribute gas piped from Belfast until its closure in 1987.

The site was restored by the Carrickfergus Gasworks Preservation Society before opening to the public as a visitor attraction in 2002.

The venue has been run by volunteers in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, along with the Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities (DfC).

Confirming the closure “for the foreseeable future” on social media, a spokesperson for FLAME said: “Our funding model is no longer sustainable and we don’t have the resources to run the place as it should be. We have therefore decided to hand our lease back to Historic Environment Division, the landowners.”

However, hopes remain that the site - which is a Grade A Listed Building as well as a monument in State Care - will be able to reopen in future. A DfC spokesperson said: “The Department has with sadness accepted the surrender of the lease for Carrickfergus Gasworks by the FLAME group. The Department would like to thank all the members and volunteers of FLAME for their commitment to the Carrickfergus Gasworks site over the years.

“They have worked tirelessly to ensure that this special site was understood and cherished both by the people of Carrickfergus and its many visitors from all over the world. We are very grateful for the dedication the group has shown.

“The site is included in proposals for the Carrickfergus City Deal and the Department hopes that through this project, it will be able to build on the work of FLAME and reopen the site.”

FLAME Gasworks Museum had received support towards its running costs from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for several years.

A spokesperson for the local government authority said: “Council officers, along with representatives from Historic Environment Division, have been working closely with Carrickfergus Gasworks Preservation Society Ltd to offer support following their decision to close FLAME Gasworks museum.

“Whilst Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has never held management responsibility for the museum, the council has been providing funding towards its annual operational costs for several years.

“Last month, elected members approved a request by council officers for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to take on permanent ownership of the full collection of artefacts held at FLAME Gasworks museum, so as to ensure that these important and irreplaceable items are retained in Carrickfergus.

“The council will continue to work with Historic Environment Division on the way forward for FLAME Gasworks museum.”

News of the museum’s closure was met with sadness on social media, with many people recalling fond memories of visits to the historic site.

East Antrim MLA, John Stewart said: “We have to hope an option can be found to ensure the Gasworks can remain open to the public. It would be a real shame to lose such a link with our past.”

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