Days 3 & 4: QUB’s Street Society & the Missing Bits of Derry Walls

Water Bastion 1After Day 3 of Street Society 2014, drivers parking in spaces next to Derry Walls might have been confused about some extra white lines (temporary ones of course) which appeared overnight. The team of student architects had been there, marking out the layout of the missing Water Bastion. The Londonderry Sentinel reported in June 1844, that the Bastion had partly been taken down, the result of the widening of  a set of steps from this North- East Bastion down to Foyle Street. A deputation from the Irish Society in 1838 had recommended the improvement of what they described as a “postern-gate communicating with Foyle Street” by the addition of a new step. The result today  is that Water Bastion is now one of three missing bastions. An excavation by Nick Brannon in the late 1970s revealed the lozenge shaped plan  of the missing bastion. Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 03.25.36

The students from QUB’s Street Society 2014 are looking at the space between the Central Library and the surviving City Walls, coming up with proposals about how this space might be animated to indicate the underlying archaeology.Water Bastion 2

On Day 4 the students started to draw up concept plans for the all three sites, viz. Water Bastion, Bishop Gate and the Plinth on Royal Bastion. They also looked at how people could be encouraged to explore the exterior of the Walls as well as just using the promenade along the top of the ramparts.    The final concepts plans will be presented at an event on Friday afternoon in QUB’s Elmwood Hall  where all the Street Society 2014 projects will be showcased. It is intended that the student’s ideas will be uploaded to this website to encourage local conversations about how to better present some interesting parts of Derry Walls.Darcus House

Day 2: QUB’s Street Society v. Derry Walls

IMG_4862Three Wise Heads on Bishop Gate

One of the issues being looked at by the architecture students from Queen’s University SPACE is the presentation of the most stunning gate in the Derry Walls – Bishop Gate. The original gate was replaced in 1789 by the present structure – Derry’s Arc de Triomph. The gate’s design was commissioned by the Earl Bishop, Frederick  Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry.  The Irish architect was Henry Aaron Baker, with the sculpted heads representing the gods of River Foyle (without) and the River Boyne (within) designed by Irish sculptor, Edward Smyth, who had sculptured the thirteen riverine heads on the Dublin Custom House in c.1784.

The foundation stone was laid on the 12th August 1789 on the centenary of the Breaking of the Boom and the Relief of Derry in a ceremony led by the Anglican Bishop Hervey, the Catholic Bishop McDevitt and the Presbyterian Minister Black.  During the Troubles, Bishop’s Gate was used as a security feature with blast-proof metal gates installed and an army observation post on top. Since then, the Gate has become part of Derry’s “peace wall”, separating the communities of the Fountain, Long Tower and Bogside.

The Street Society students are looking at opportunities to better present  Bishop Gate, making it an essential backdrop for any souvenir photograph for visitors and a pleasant spot for citizens to pause to take in the best of Irish architecture and sculpture.IMG_4859


QUB’s Street Society 2014 and Derry Walls

Street Society 2014Derry Walls: Day 1

What is QUB’s Street Society?

Street Society at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) is an initiative of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering (SPACE)  It tries to bring energy and innovative design thinking to a variety of real issues and clients, all within the space of a single week. Holywell Trust’s City Walls Heritage Project is pleased to be hosting a group of  first year undergraduate and master’s architecture students,  in a one-week design research office, focusing on opportunities to “re-make” Derry’s Walls as a community asset rather than a symbol of conflict.

What design problems will the students look at?

Derry’s Walls are the largest ancient monument in state guardianship in Northern Ireland but are still technically in the ownership of the City of London. Their structure gives Derry’s city centre a unique sense of enclosure and protection. However, since they form part of Derry’s major Peace Wall, the monument also separate communities from the commercial core and from each other. In August 1943, Denis Winston, Chief Architect, NI Ministry of Home Affairs, set out a vision that the houses adjacent to the Walls on the outside should be cleared away and a boulevard around their exterior provided: “of doing in a different way something for which Paris and Vienna have made themselves famous”. Seventy years on, all of the buildings which had come to  abut the exterior of the Walls, have been removed from Butcher Gate to New Gate. However  the exterior of one of NI major tourism icons is not as well  presented as it could be, with some of the key near views being spoiled and the exterior circuit of the Walls being rarely used by visitors. During a single week the QUB  students will attempt to provide architectural & engineering design solutions for the following issues:

i. A design solution for community access to and from the Fountain Estate which replaces the “Dog’s Leg”, a structure which mars the 18th C triumphal arch  of Bishop Gate.

ii. A design solution for Water Bastion area, at the entrance to the Central Library, in an area frequented by large numbers of teenagers, but where the heritage of the missing bastion is hidden and the open space near the Walls is railed off.

iii. A design solution for the use Plinth of Walker’s Pillar on Royal Bastion, as viewing platform for visitors and as a stage for events held on Nailors’ Row outside the Walls.

iv. A design solution for the development and management of the open spaces created outside the Walls from New Gate past Bishop Gate to Butcher Gate: better communicating the heritage of the dry moat which was until the 19th C the main feature; encouraging community use of these open spaces in a way which re-enages the communities of the Fountain, Long Tower and Bogside with the City Walls but also in a way which meets community needs without detracting from the near  views of the City Walls.

During Day 1 the  QUB students received a  general tour of the Walls to better understand their design and construction as piece of 17th Century military hardware and to look at how the Walls were being used and managed in the 21st Century. Early tomorrow morning they will review the list of potential issues and will decide if design solutions can be provided for all four issues within just one week.



Derry’s WWI Women Voluntary War Workers

Voluntary War WorkerOn International Women’s Day 2014, a year which also marks the centenary of the outbreak of WWI, it is timely to highlight one  particular set of stained glass windows in Derry’s Guildhall. When you enter the main Assembly Hall on the first floor, facing you is a dazzling wall of stained glass, the gift of the Londonderry Women Voluntary War Workers. Dominated by female figures, it contrasts with the war memorial in Derry’s Diamond, with its grim statues of the sailor getting ready for action and the soldier in action with bayonet and rifle.

Lady Anderson, Mayoress of Derry, 1915-1919, played a  key role in the commissioning of these Guildhall windows, as a WWI memorial. They were unveiled by the Duchess of Abercorn on 27th May 1925.  Derry’s Women Voluntary War Workers wanted to have “a permanent record of their devotion, loyalty, and association with the men of the Navy and Army, and at the same time it would be a bond of sympathy, love and attachment between them and the mothers, sisters and sweethearts who gave their nearest and dearest in the cause of freedom and civilisation.” Worth a closer look when you next visit Derry’s Guildhall.

Women Voluntary War Workers Window