Categories of Special Interest
Architectural Historical Social
Summerhill Coastguard Station
1860 - 1870
Detached six-bay two-storey former coastguard station, built 1866, having single-bay single-storey block attached to the south-west gable end having viewing platform over. Original comprised four two-bay two-storey coastguard houses with three-bay two-storey house attached to the south-west end, probably the coastguard master's residence. Later in use as a youth hostel, now disused. Hipped slate roof having two rendered chimneystacks having steeped coping over, and with projecting ashlar sandstone eaves course. Flat roof to viewing platform having cement rendered castellated parapet with plain wrought-iron guard railings over. Some surviving sections of cast-iron rainwater goods. Roughcast rendered walls with tooled sandstone block-and-start quoins to the corners and with projecting smooth rendered plinth. Chamfered cut sandstone plinth course to viewing platform. Square-headed window openings with tooled sandstone block-and-start quoin surrounds, stone sills, and replacement timber casement windows. Square-headed door openings with tooled sandstone block-and-start quoin surrounds, and with replacement timber doors and overlight. Set back from road in own grounds with gravel forecourt to the east and garden to the south. Located in an elevated location overlooking Donegal Bay and the entrance to Donegal Town harbour to the south and south-east. Detached single-bay single-storey gable fronted outbuilding to the north-west having pitched natural slate roof (now collapsing) with red brick chimneystack, rubble stone construction (roughcast rendered to the side elevations, square-headed window opening to the front face (south-east) having red brick block-and-start surround, and remains of multiple-pane timber sliding sash window. Remains of former boathouse to the south. Located to the south-west of Donegal Town and a short distance to the north-east of Hassan's Point.
Despite some alterations over the years, this former mid-nineteenth century coastguard station retains much of its early character and form. The good quality ashlar sandstone block-and-start surrounds to the openings and to the corners, and the projecting ashlar eaves course add interest to the otherwise plain elevations of this building. The loss of the original fittings to the openings detracts somewhat from its visual expression but suitable fabric could be easily reinstated. Its form is typical of many coastguard stations along the Irish coast having a tower to one end with viewing platform over to provide a base to survey the surrounding coastal waters. This tower may have been originally either one or two stories higher (as is the case with a number of coastguard stations around the Irish coast) with its height reduced sometime during the twentieth century. The form of the main block of this building suggests that the north-east end was originally four two-bay two-storey coastguard houses with a three-bay two-storey former coastguard master's or chief boatman's house and office to the south-west end. This building was originally built to designs by Enoch Trevor Owen (c. 1833 - 1881), an English architect working for the Board of Works in Ireland from c. 1860. Owen designed upwards of thirty coastguard stations in Ireland, mainly during the 1860s and early 1870s, including nine in County Donegal. It originally formed part of the Killybegs Coastguard District, and was one of nine stations in this district that that stretched from here to the Gweebarra River. The Coastguard Service was established in Ireland (and Britain) in 1822, and its main purposes were controlling smuggling (the evasion of the payment of revenues) and in rescuing seafarers etc. Coastguard stations were built at intervals of ten to twenty miles all along the coastline. The coastguard service later passed into the control of the Admiralty in 1859 who initiated a large-scale programme of coastguard station-building in Ireland, and this building at Ball Hill dates to this period of expansion. This building probably went out of use as a coastguard station shortly after Independence, which was the fate of many buildings of this type in Ireland. A John Regan was the chief boatman here in 1881 and a John Wraight was the chief officer here in 1894 (Slater's Directory). Located in an attractive situation with panoramic views over Donegal Bay to the south and south-east, this former coastguard station is an integral element of the built heritage and social history of the local area. Sensitively restored, it would make a strongly positive contribution to the rural landscape to the south-west of Donegal Town. The remains of the simple single-storey outbuilding to the north-west add to the setting and context, and completes this composition.