The Restoration

Work on the restoration of the White House began in September 2008 by the main contractor Hugh J O’Boyle from Downpatrick. Just prior to the main contract starting The Trust was able to undertake an education programme with local schools.We are now delighted to say that we had a total of 455 students on site who came from 12 different schools from within Newtownabbey, Larne and Carrickfergus. None of this success would have been possible without the dedication of our volunteers, who mainly came to the project via Abbey Historical Society. We were very lucky to have a committed team of approximately 15 volunteers who regularly rearranged their own personal commitments in order to help out during educational programming both on-site and during outreach activities. Just to give you a flavor of the activities which happened during this we have give an overview below.

The Bawn: Education Issue

    The WHPT Volunteer Team
An Overview of Educational Activities

Once the Education Officer came on board in February 2008 we quickly set to work publicising the restoration project and associated archaeological dig within schools. In March, we launched a schools poster competition which required students in Key Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 to research the discipline of archaeology and to conduct a little research on the history of the Whitehouse. The competition was judged by Mervin McClean (Chair of Newtownabbey Arts Advisory Committee), Vikki Dundas (WHPT Vice-Chair) and Maria Cagney, Education Officer TWHPT. The winning entry was by Jordan Flemming, P7 from Hazelwood Integrated Primary School. Jordan received family cinema tickets as his prize and his school also received a cheque for £100.

Jordan's poster entry satisfied the judges criteria because he chose to explored what the White House looks like presently while also predicting what kind of finds could be uncovered during archaeological excavation. Jordan's poster, as well as the other winners Matthew McGhee (2nd) and Tori Clarke (3rd) were used in the publicising of Archaeology Days (EHS Archaeology Weekend on the 21st and 22nd June) and will also be used to advertise future WHPT public open days on-site in coming months.  


Jordan's winning entry


Jordan receives his price from Johanna
(ADS) and Maria (WHPT Education Officer)

In late February, The Education Officer began research and development of an education support pack geared towards Teachers of Key Stage II and III. In line with the revised curriculum, the aim of the education programme and supporting materials was to effectively employ 'joined up' thinking and learning across subjects and themes, providing students with fun, interactive learning experiences. The Education Support Pack explored the discipline of archaeology, The Williamite Battles/Events in Ireland, The history of The White House and surrounding area of Newtownabbey. The support pack was designed to give teachers a broad overview of the above topics, however, it also included plenty of worksheets which could be easily photocopied. It also contains a wealth of suggestions for classroom activities using maps (old and new) to study the growth and development of the area, Gideon Bonnivert's (Scribe to King William III) diary extracts detailing the landing of the Williamite Army in June 1690, as well as archaeological related activities.

In Key Stage II students learn about 'The World Around Us' for which they are required to engage with local history.

Students Learn about the defensive
features at The White House

A visit to The White House enabled the fulfilment of this curricular requirement.

Rathcoole PS hard at work
Students view the original features
inside the White House

During a visit students learned about the original features of The White House Bawn and explored who had lived here and what life might have been like here in the past. However, students enjoyed the additional bonus of also learning about archaeology. Through discussion, they learned that archaeology is not just concerned with history but that it also incorporates elements of geography, science and maths. Students who visited on-site had the opportunity to quiz Johanna, (the lead archaeologist) about her experience working around the world as an archaeologist and students even participated in a simulated dig using techniques frequently employed by archaeologists when excavating.

Kings Park Primary School
Johanna (ADS) shows the students
her archaeological records/drawings

Students developed a real taste for archaeology being able to handle actual 'finds' and being able to view which pit each find had been unearthed from.

Some of Whitehouse P7s dig in the
simulated dig pits during pilot programming

The classes that attended on-site ranged from P5 to Year 8, therefore it was necessary to adapt existing activities and include newly developed ones as programming progressed. Rathcoole Primary P7s and Whitehouse Primary P7s kindly helped us pilot programming and as a result we have built up very rewarding partnerships with both local schools.

Some schools had two or even three classes wishing to attend and did so over the course of a few mornings. Examples were Victoria Primary (Carrickfergus) who had three P7 classes and King's Park Primary, (Newtownabbey) who attended over two mornings with their two P7 classes. Indeed, our pilot schools made return visits once archaeological excavation of the external pits had been completed.


Rathcoole Primary School Models

Rathcoole Primary had clearly been busy at work in between visits   because they arrived on site with models of the White House (see image to right) which they had completed in class. Whitehouse Primary also produced great project work (see image left) which is on display in the WHPT Education Centre. The last school visit on-site was from Year 8 Castle High students, (Belfast) (see image left) which marked a successful end to schools education on-site.

EHS Archaeology Days

Castle High School - the last school visit

However, EHS Archaeology Days was just around the corner. It took place on Saturday 21st and Sun 22nd of June, possibly the wettest weekend over the summer. Considering the weather, the turnout was relatively good, with 61 visitors over the two days. The public were offered a tour of The White House, complete with history, viewing of excavation pits led by Johanna (ADS), families were offered a family quiz sheet to complete during these two activities and afterwards were invited to participate in 'Make a Model of the White House'.

A creative young man enjoys activities at The White House during Archaeology Days 

Visitors were also encouraged to chat to the archaeologists on site and to view the range of archaeological finds on display, some of which came from the White House dig, others which were excavated in sites contemporary with our Bawn. On the Saturday of this event, we even had a visit from The Mayor and Mayoress of Newtownabbey! Saturday was rounded up with a great barbeque, organised by TWHPT Project Manager, Raymond McIlrath.

Outreach Activities with Summer Schemes

In August, the Education Officer and volunteers carried out in-reach and outreach sessions with local summer schemes. Glengormley Arts and Crafts Summer Scheme were the first engaged. Approximately forty participants visited the White House over two mornings. During these sessions participants learned a little about the White House and its archaeology and also worked in groups to produce some fantastic models of the White House. These sessions were different to facilitating schools programming as there was more time to concentrate on creative, art related activities.

The second summer scheme we worked with was based at The Valley Leisure Centre. Given the much larger numbers attending this summer scheme, we travelled there to facilitate outreach. The content of these sessions was similar to Glengormley Summer Scheme sessions, although at The Valley we did use The White House DVD as a visual focus for model building. This was because participants did not have the benefit of viewing the building in reality. During the second day session at The Valley, some participants from the previous day returned, upon which we realised just how much they had previously learned. They were keen to answer all the Education Officers questions on archaeology and the history of The White House.

Glengormley Arts & Crafts Summer Scheme 11th August
Alister Bell, WHPT Secretary gives Glengormley
Summer Scheme an informal tour of the
White House and archaeology pits.

Participants at the Valley Summer Scheme starting their model making activity

Outreach with Schools

Since mid September The Education Officer and volunteers have been facilitating out-reach sessions with local schools including Ballyhenry Primary, St. Mary's On the Hill Primary School, Whitehouse Primary and St. James. It has been necessary to direct education activities into schools in order to broaden the remit of the projects education service but also because the White House itself is currently inaccessible due to the commencement of construction work.

Teachers and students have shown great enthusiasm towards the project, and are keen to visit the site (pending health and safety concerns) once full scale excavation takes place. Working within schools also serves to prepare students who will be working with The White House artist in coming months. Regarding the latter, keep an eye on our website for up to date information!

P7 students participating in outreach at St. Mary's enjoy discussing archaeology at The White House


Schools Engaged in Outreach and Archaeology Sessions

Rathcoole P.S

Green Island P.S

Whitehouse P.S

Ashgrove P.S

Hazelwood Integrated P.S

Hollybank P.S

St. Anthony's P.S

Castle High, Belfast

Newtownabbey Community High

St. Mary's On The Hill

Victoria P.S

Ballyhenry P.S

Woodlawn P.S

St. James P.S

King's Park P.S

Thornfield Special School



Following the schools programme the main work on site commenced with the removal of the gospel hall interior.  Our gallery has many photographs of the work which was carried out during this time and many thanks go to Trustee Roy McComb for building up this important collection for the Trust.


The restored White House opened to the public in July 2010 and features our two interactive exhibitions A Tale of Three Kings and Relive the History.  The centre also features a community meeting space which can be hired for meetings, exhibitions and functions please contact the Facilities Co-Ordinator for further details.


The Professional team for the contract where:

Architects:                      Consarc Design Group                    

Exhibition consultants: Mrs Smyth

Archaeologists;             Archaeological Development Services (ADS)

Project Management:  R.M.I. Business Solutions


During the restoration the Trust published two Bawn Newsletters which are available below:

Click here to see the first edition of the Bawn

Click here for the second edition of the Bawn


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