Malcolm Noonan TD, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, has launched A Living Tradition: a strategy to enhance the understanding, care and handing on of our built vernacular heritage.
Our vernacular heritage covers a broad spectrum of building types, principally rural in purpose and setting, but it also includes buildings in towns and urban streets. Our vernacular heritage includes houses and farmhouses, informal buildings built by and for the occupant, following local or regional patterns and using readily available materials in their construction. Our vernacular heritage relates closely to the local environment and the associated crafts and skills have strong local and regional biases as they are the result of longstanding traditions passed down from one generation to another.
Our vernacular heritage includes barns and farmyard complexes, field boundaries and gates, culm crushers and lime kilns, handball alleys and more besides. It encompasses groups of buildings, including clachans and hamlets, and can form part of distinctive landscapes including dancing places, green lanes and lone bushes. A Living Tradition looks at ways of assessing and managing all of these unique heritage assets.
The three themes of the strategy – understanding, minding and handing on – acknowledge that our vernacular heritage is part of our past but continues to be used in the present and should also be part of our future.
The first theme, understanding, looks at the root causes of abandonment of vernacular buildings, the potential for rehabilitation and reuse, and ways of dealing more effectively with them.
The second theme, minding, focuses on the sustainability of vernacular buildings, feeding the results into conservation and maintenance. The importance of nurturing and rediscovering crafts, materials and traditional skills is critical.
The third theme, handing on, looks forward in time, exploring exemplars for sensitive adaptation, conservation and extension of vernacular buildings. The best way to care for a vulnerable vernacular building is by way of gentle rehabilitation.