In 2009 the Presbyterian congregation in Portaferry asked the friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church (fPPC) to carry out a condition report of their building and to produce a plan for its restoration. It quickly became obvious that the restoration, which would cost around £1.5m, was beyond the capabilities of the small congregation. The only potential funder at the time with the resources to support such an ambitious plan was the Heritage Lottery Fund. However, there was an absolute moratorium on Presbyterian congregations receiving funding from this source. Therefore, through a complex legal process, based on a “reversionary clause” in the original deed from the Savage family to the congregation which stated that the building must revert to the family if the congregation no longer wanted it, the congregation transferred ownership to fPPC after the Savage/Nugent family heirs had transferred their reversionary interest to fPPC. Thus the building could be restored with the money raised from fPPC’s successful HLF application and successful applications to 19 other charitable bodies.
The restoration included a complete structural overhaul as well as upgrading the building with 21st Century A/V facilities. An extension, in the Greek Revival style added a meeting room and much needed modern facilities. A new entrance to the grounds was created at the town end and the building given a complete decorative makeover.
Bill Maxwell of Maxwell Pierce Architects, Enniskillen, is the conservation architect for this project; Edwin McCullagh, of Rainey and Best, Quantity Surveyor; Semple & McKillop the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and Alice McClure Project Manager. The works have included reroofing, replacing damaged roof timbers, extensive repairs to the coffered ceiling, new heating, lighting, and A/V systems, a complete rebuild of the organ, the creation of an extension (to accommodate a meeting room, a small kitchen, loos and ancillary services) and completely reordering the north end to create a dedicated entrance to the heritage displays which will be housed in the gallery of the building. Neil Porteous of the National Trust designed the landscaping for the site, which is being introduced gradually as finances allow.