Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Dying man wants castle gates back

Richhill Castle gates.
The gates of Richhill Castle were taken by the government in 1936

A terminally-ill pensioner in County Armagh has issued a plea to the government to return the gates of his County Armagh home.

Gordon Lyttle, 76, has lived in Richhill Castle since the 1950s when his father, a fitter at Harland and Wolff, bought it for £5,000.

Mr Lyttle, who has lung cancer, said the ornate gates were removed by the government in 1936 after a preservation order was placed on them.

They were then installed at Hillsborough Castle, which was at that time the official residence of governor general of Northern Ireland, where they have remained to this day.

Hillsborough Castle is now an official residence of the Queen, but Secretary of State Shaun Woodward lives there when he is in Northern Ireland.

Mr Lyttle, 76, said he would also consider an offer from the government to provide replica gates.

"I don't believe (taking the gates) was connected with the war effort because in fact in order to make it legal, the government clamped a preservation order on it," he said.

"You can't clamp a preservation order on something and then scrap it."

"About a week ago I was told I wasn't winning (my battle with cancer) and I was pretty unhappy about it, but I was also pretty empowered because you have to listen to a dying man," he said.

"Now everybody is listening and everybody is joining in, so I'm quite confident this thing will happen - it is in everybody's interest for it to happen, so I am pleased am really delighted with myself."

Richhill Castle, is a grade A-listed building and was built by Major Edward Richardson, who also founded the village of Richhill in 1665.

The gates were erected by his son William Richardson in 1745.

Ulster Unionist Armagh councillor Jim Speers, who lives in Richhill, said there was very strong feeling in the village about the gates.

"They are a unique set of gates they are unique to Richhill and it has caused great resentment within the community," he said.

A spokesman for the NIO said it would "consider any correspondence it received on the matter".

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