Entering the boarded building
Hilden School, the focus of this project, has unfortunately been empty and unused since the school bell was last rung in 2008. The gates are locked, windows boarded up, and the grass uncut. Sadly, there has also been some vandalism, though following the purchase of the building by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council in 2016, support from Heritage Fund has allowed emergency repairs to be undertaken.
From the start of the Hilden School Project a priority has been obtaining access to the building, to enable us to gain a visual impression of the scale of the spaces available for the proposed heritage displays, and to take photographs to record and promote the scheme. The main school corridor, which runs the length of the building, has been provisionally selected as the main display area for heritage information.
In late June we arranged for the building to be temporarily opened, and with hard hats and flashlights, members of the Hilden School Project team entered. The interior is in a sorry state, dark and dusty with broken glass and missing floorboards. Where the roof had been leaking repairs have been undertaken, though plaster had to be removed from the ceiling and walls on the corridor, exposing beams and brickwork.
However, the overriding impression is that the building has enormous potential. The main classrooms are spacious, with high ceilings. Some of the classrooms are separated by sliding timber and glass doors that can be pushed back to create even larger spaces. The windows on the main façade are south facing and huge: once the boards are taken down, light will flood in.
This is a building that deserves to be given a new use. It is a building that can provide a link with the past while also acting as a new and vibrant focal point for the community.
Have you any heritage material about Hilden School?
To truly bring the school back to life, we need more information about its history. Do you have any old school reports, class photographs or other heritage material about Hilden that we could copy? If you can help, please contact Ben Simon, Heritage Development Officer, at email@example.com