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Conserving County Donegal's Traditional Shopfronts

Speers Letterkenny


The County Donegal Heritage Office, Donegal County Council in partnership with The Heritage Council has commissioned the preparation of guidance for the conservation of traditional shopfronts and vernacular signage in County Donegal.  Architect, lecturer and broadcaster Orla Murphy has been commissioned to undertake this work and would like to hear about good examples of traditional shopfronts and signage in your town, village or rural area.


“Traditional shopfronts lend character to the streetscapes of our towns and villages” said Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer.  “Traditional shopfronts are one of the key defining characteristics of the Irish street and convey the relationship between landscape, people and place.  Shopfronts, both individually and collectively, have a major impact on the overall character, quality and attractiveness of place.  The purpose of the guidance document will be to draw upon best conservation practice and encourage appropriate, sensitive and informed interventions in relation to our traditional shopfronts, vernacular signage and historical streetscapes.” 


The shopfronts that are the subject of the study may be family-owned businesses that have been handed down from one generation to the next, they may be vacant business premises that still display distinctive architectural features or signage, they may be the combined shop and house at the crossroads that still bears the name of the former business or they may be more recent shopfronts that complement their historical streetscape. Irish language signage in Gaeltacht areas of the county are also of particular interest. Speaking about the project Orla Murphy noted, “The interface between the shop and the street is a key component of the character of our towns and villages. We hope this guidance document will identify the unique DNA of Donegal shopfronts, in order to inform the stewardship and care of the built environment in future years.”


“The guidance document will demonstrate the ways in which traditional shopfronts and vernacular signage contribute to the character, quality and attractiveness of place and the built heritage of our streetscapes” said Mr. Gallagher.  “The traditional shopfronts and vernacular signage of County Donegal will be explored in terms of their character, context, scale and proportion, use of traditional materials and skills, composition, detailing and geographical variation within County Donegal.  The guidance document will provide assistance to architects, designers, planners, property owners, retailers and community organisations involved in preservation, conservation, regeneration and design initiatives in our towns and villages.” 


Orla Murphy, who has been commissioned to prepare the guidance document, is an architect and lecturer in the School of Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy in University College Dublin.  She is author of ‘Town: Origins, Morphology & Future’ and co-presenter of the ‘Building Ireland’ television series recently screened on RTÉ 1.


If you have any suggestions of good examples of traditional shopfronts or vernacular signage in County Donegal, please send information to the County Donegal Heritage Office, Donegal County Council (with location details and photograph if possible) to [email protected]  or telephone (074) 917 2576. 


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