CIF Project Feature: Tom O’Brien Construction Limited – Johnstown Castle

17 Apr 2019

Tom O’Brien Construction Limited are a Main Building Contractor with head offices located in Bilberry, Waterford City. We are an experienced team of dedicated construction professionals that have been delivering quality projects for nearly 50 years.

Originally incorporated in 1972, the company has grown to become a provider of high quality and award-winning construction projects in a number of diverse sectors, including commercial, industrial, educational, pharmaceutical and conservation works. Our Grow HQ Retail Project in Waterford was the winner of a prestigious Irish Construction Industry Award in 2017 beating out a number of Tier 1 Contractors, and the stunning Waterford Medieval Museum has been recognised on an International level since it’s opening in 2012. Our healthy client portfolio includes Public Bodies such as the DOE and HSE, and private clients such as PepsiCo and Waterford Airport.


History of Johnstown Castle

Johnstown Castle in County Wexford is a hugely significant ancient building of National importance. A proud and beautiful Gothic-Revival style castle, with origins dating back to the 12th Century, was built by the Esmonde Family who moved to Wexford From England following the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1169. Occupied for one night by Oliver Cromwell, and most recently lived in by the Grogan Family until 1945, when it was donated to the State, Wexford’s greatest surviving country estate never before open to the public, is, in the summer of 2019, set to become one of Ireland’s foremost tourist attractions and a gem for Ireland’s Ancient East.

 The Project – Restoration of Johnstown Castle

The past number of decades had seen the Castle fall into a state of total disrepair, so a partnership between the Irish heritage Trust and Teagasc tasked Tom O’Brien Construction with a monumental multi – million euro conservation project to bring this wonderful Castle back to life through a vast and breath-taking scope of works. The conservation works for Tom O’Brien Construction involved the meticulous restoration of the three floor over basement Castle, including the restoration of an original 86 metre long underground servants’ tunnel believed to be the longest in the country. The vast scope of works also included the installation of a new lift serving all 4 floors and the upgrading of the Mechanical and Electrical services throughout the building, which was paramount for making the building safe for visitors. Particular attention was placed on fireproofing the structure and to that effect we were responsible for the oversight of the overall buildings fire integrity. We also ensured the building met all current access and egress regulations, required for the buildings imminent opening this summer as a public museum.


The challenges were in the main associated with all the different aspects of the conservation works required to bring the Castle up to current building regulations to allow public access and indeed to safeguard the castle’s future. The type of works were wide-ranging and included substantial re-roofing, timber floor upgrades, delicate restoration of internal and external joinery, repainting and re-plastering, reinstatement of original cornices and tracery panels, reinstatement of chandeliers and restoring of original wallpaper and decorative timber works. External works involved re-pointing to the original stone walls, provision of fire access roads and an intercept land drain about the property to alleviate water access.

The major work items that presented the greatest challenges were undertaken in the basement of the castle including the upgrading of the original servants’ entrance tunnel and the provision of a new lift which involved excavating some 3 metres below the castle and underpinning numerous walls. A new sump and pump had to be installed in the basement to maintain a lowered water level in the area to prevent historic flooding.

This esteemed project demonstrates our ability to work for Public Bodies on buildings of historical significance to a high level of care, restoring premises back to their former glory. Our thanks to the Design Team consisting of C.J. Falconer & Assoc, David Kelly Partnership, Ronan Meally Consulting Engineers and MacMinn O’Reilly Mahon. Our best wishes for the future with this wonderfully restored Castle also go to our Clients, Teagasc and the Irish Heritage Trust.


Take a tour of Wexford’s Johnstown Castle – opening to the public in Spring 2019Irish Examiner 

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