A very strong wall, excellently made and neatly wrought.

Near the end of 1618 Captain Nicholas Pynnar, the official Inspector of Fortifications in Ireland, had been appointed to survey the progress of the Ulster Plantation and specifically:

the Works and Plantation performed by the City of London in the City and County of London-Derry.

His report, dated 28th March 1619, provides the first official certification of the completeness of the Derry Walls:

The Cittie of London Derry is now compassed about with a verie strong wall, excellentlie made and neatlie wrought, beinge all of good lyme and stone.

This survey is supported by the first illustration of the complete city walls.


In 2019, the Friends of the Derry Walls will be marking the quadricentennial of Pynnar Survey and the first official certification of the completeness of the Derry Walls.  As a start-up charitable interest group, the Walls Friends  are looking for your support and your ideas to help us explore the legacy of one of Ireland’s most important national monuments.

Culture Night 2017

Thank you to the very large group of people who turned up for our #culturenight2017 Art, Architecture and Revisionist History walking tour. Instead of being a tour of the whole walled city, we only managed to do the upper half, since there were too many exciting distractions along the way. Thank you to St Columb’s Cathedral, St Augustine’s Church and First Derry Presbyterian Church for making us feel so welcome.IMG_4837

Every day is a school day and the new fact I learned was that the pew seats in First Derry had slots underneath to suspend your top hat from, during services.


It was great chatting to others such as Centre for Contemporary Art  and Smart Swag to find out how #culturenight2017 went for them. We promise we will do a full morning/afternoon and less manic Art, Architecture and Revisionist History Walking Tour when the seasons allow us to plan ahead. See our events page



Culture Night Walking Tour

Art, Architecture and Revisionist History

Culture Night 2017 is Friday 22nd September and most of the arts and heritage venues within and around the Derry Walls are throwing their doors open with free taster events.  For the latest  information go to Derry Strabane’s Culture Night webpage.  Amidst all the excitement and cultural enrichment, Mark Lusby of the Friends of the Derry Walls will be conducting a guided walking tour of the Walled City, focusing on its architecture. Along the way he will be stopping at some of the arts and heritage venues, so you’ll be able to sample some of what is on offer, later. He’s arranged some some access-all-areas ‘passes’ so you can see some artworks not normally on show to the public. Expect some ‘revisionist history’ too as we all need to look at our given histories through fresh eyes. The tour starts at 6.30pm leaving from the foyer of the Playhouse on Artillery St. No need to book. Dress appropriately for the weather or for where you’re going on to later! The tour will finish at 7.30pm leaving you plenty of time to go to the other Culture Night events in the Walled City.

Open Doors & Open Gates

Some reflections on Derry Walls Day 2017 and European Heritage Open Days 2017 in the Walled City.

The Friends of the Derry Walls is an experiment. Can you establish a membership-led charity around a monument whose history is conflicted? Can you make history into an excuse for enjoyment and enrichment rather than something which defines and divides?  Can a deeper personal and collective knowledge of the history of a place, instil a greater sense of attachment to and value of that place?

Watermarked7(2017-09-10-0636)With a maximum budget of £5,000, the Friends endeavoured this year, not only to mark another key stage in the building of the Derry Walls, but also to give support to the property owners within the Walled City who valiantly open their doors every year for Northern Ireland’s version of European Heritage Days.

So what did we do?

We assembled all the events happening into one events page on this site and we promoted the Walled City as a Great Place for a Great Day Out.


We enlisted the help of social media and anyone else we could rope in.


We created banners for each of the properties to let passersby know that the historic buildings were taking part in European Heritage Open Days.


We assembled a team of living historians from the Playhouse, Footsteps and Past Pleasures to help bring the stories of the buildings alive: the 1617 Master of the Free School; a woman of rank recently arrived from London in 1617; an 18th century minister of First Derry; a 19th century nun. We created, in the Verbal Arts Centre ,an impression of a room in the Free School of 1617.


In the morning, we organised a tour about the geology of the buildings of the Walled City led by geologist William Lynn.


In the afternoon, we organised a sketching tour, led by fine artist and Derry song creative, Caoimhe Sweeney.


We wrote a Schoolmaster’s Treasure Hunt, encouraging people to move from property to property and to engage in conversation with the living history performers and guides in finding the answers to the questions. Prizes were provided by Foyleside. See how you would have got on, Treasure Hunt 2017!

We encouraged properties to put on special activities. The Guildhall put on an exhibition about their archive of beautiful hand drawn architectural drawings.

Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 20.11.24

And St Columb’s Cathedral put on a special lunchtime musical recital on their organ.


Andrew McClelland, a postdoctoral researcher at Maynooth ran a twitter conversation all day about what makes people value a place as a heritage site #myvaluedplaces 

In spite of the weather, people turned out. Some initial numbers indicate the overall turnout: 38 on the Geology Tour, 26 on the Sketching Tour and First Derry recorded 574 through the doors.

Heritage Week, organised every August by the Heritage Council of Ireland, successfully mobilises communities in every county to discuss and showcase their natural and built heritage.  The Walled City lends itself to a similar exposition, discussion and celebration of heritage.

The most recent Troubles and the Siege are the two dominant themes of the Derry Londonderry narrative and rightly so. However presented as our sole stories, they tend to reinforce our bipolar green or orange cultural identities, and communicate that we are separate communities continuously in conflict with each other.

The 400 years old Walled City has a narrative which is challenging, complex, and rich. Imaginatively presented, the Walled City offers the opportunity for people who are looking for inspiration, entertainment, and enrichment to connect with others in a really great place. We saw a little of this potential yesterday.

2018 will be a significant year for heritage as both the Heritage Council of Ireland and the NI Department for Communities will be marking European Year of Cultural Heritage.   It also will be the lead-in year to the quadricentennial of the Derry Walls in 2019. The Friends of the Derry Walls will be meeting with our members over the winter to plan our   events for 2018. We would love constructive feedback on Derry Walls Day 2017. Get involved by becoming a Friend of the Derry Walls.

Only 9 places left on the Sketch the Derry Walls tour!

There are only 9 places left on the Sketch the Derry Walls Tour on Saturday. The 90 minute guided sketching and historical walking tour of the Derry Walls and Walled City will be led by local historian, Mark Lusby, and fine artist, Caoimhe Sweeney.


caoimhesweeney05 copyCaoimhe Sweeney is a city centre based painter, illustrator, animator and storyboard artist. Under the early tutorship of Maurice Harron, a deep passion for creative endeavours and local culture blossomed. Studies continued at the North West Regional College and her enthusiasm for painting developed under Sheila O’Brien, helping to achieve the Sheila McClean Award for Fine Art Painting of the Year. Pursuing painting at Leeds College of Contemporary Art and Graphic Design, her interest in both traditional and digital techniques gained her a First Class Honours Degree, and continue to infuse her current practice. Working within the locality, she exhibits at Bennigans Gallery, produces storyboards with local and regional filmmakers, and illustrates/animates for the comedy gameshow “Let’s Get Quizzical”, which tours festivals and is a monthly fixture at Bennigans Bar. 

The tour is ideal for beginners and experienced, just bring a sketchpad and pencils/pens. Don’t worry if the weather is bad, we’ve some spectacular indoor locations lined up for some interior architectural sketching instead.


The tour takes place on Saturday 9th September 2017 13.30 – 15.00. Details of how to book your place is at This event is part  of Derry Walls Day 2017 and NI’s European Heritage Open Days 2017.



Wall to Wall heritage events in the Walled City next weekend

Derry Walls Day 2017, on Saturday 9th September, coincides with the first day of Northern Ireland’s European Heritage Open Days weekend. So Ireland’s Walled City will be an especially great place for a great day out next Saturday with Open Doors, exhibitions, special interest tours, living history and a treasure hunt.
The Friends of the Derry Walls are keen to spread the word about these great events. Anne McCartney, Secretary, explained: “The Friends of the Derry Walls raise awareness of the significance of the Derry Walls through organising educational and training events about the heritage and conservation of the Walls.  We also highlight our partners’ events. 2017 is the 400th anniversary of the opening of a Free School within the nearly completed City Walls and 400 years of education is the theme of Derry Walls Day 2017.”
The Walls Friends have enlisted the help of Daniel Doherty, as a graduate intern to help get the word out:  “I’ve recently graduated from the Ulster University with a degree in Business Studies with Advertising so I jumped at the chance of helping the charity to promote Derry Walls Day 2017. But with only a week to go, it is quite a challenge. However the quality of events being organised next weekend within the Walled City will be very popular once the word gets fully out.”
  • Open Doors – a great opportunity to see behind the closed doors of heritage buildings within the Walled City for free. Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September 2017.
  • The Schoolmaster’s Treasure Hunt – a free treasure hunt around the Derry Walls with living history performers and the chance to win prizes. Saturday 9th September 2017.
  • Sketch the Derry Walls  – a  90 minute guided sketching and historical walking tour of the Derry Walls and Walled City. Saturday 9th September 2017.
  • Stone, Brick and Mortar Tour – a 90 minute geological, architectural and historical walking tour of the Derry Walls and Walled City. Saturday 9th September 2017.
  • Living History around the Walls – the most beautiful heritage buildings around the Derry Walls will be enhanced on #derrywallsday with living history performers. Saturday 9th September 2017.
  • Architectural Archives Exhibition – an exhibition in the Guildhall of hand-drawn plans of the many significant buildings in Derry Londonderry. Saturday 9th -Sunday 10th September 2017.
  • What Are Your Most Valued Places – a Twittersphere map based survey seeking public views on special places in the cross-border cultural landscape of Nort West Ireland. Saturday 9th September 2017.
  • Siege Tours of the Walls – the  final “Siege Walls” walking tours of the 2017 season on Saturday 9th September. £3 per person includes free admission to the Siege Museum.
  • Tour of Walled City and Historic Neighbourhoods –  Join architect/urbanist Mary Kerrigan for a walking tour on Sunday 10th September 2017.
Full details of the events and how to book are on the Walls Friends website

St Columba’s Day in Derry

June 9th is the Feast of St Columba or Columcille the patron saint of Derry. This  veneration is evident in the naming and decoration of churches within and without the Derry Walls. Also important are the St Columb’s Wells, which were marked in both Docwra’s 1600 and Neville’s 1689 maps. Here are some photographs which illustrate this.

Map from 1600 showing St Columb’s Wells.
Map from 1689 showing St Columb’s Wells.
1949 Derry and Glendermot Presbytery Booklet
Long Tower and Nazareth House Primary Schools reenacting key events in the life of Columcille.
St Columb’s Stone


The procession leaves Long Tower Chapel for the annual blessing of the well.


Recent communicants join the procession to the blessing of the well.


Bishop McKeown leads the Blessing of St Columba’s Well
Bishop Donal McKeown helping to draw water from St Columba’s Well.


Mural at the Long Tower Chapel depicting key events in the life of Columcille.


St Augustine’s on the Derry Walls, probable site of the medieval monastery, dedicated to St Columba.
The life of Columba illustrated in the Phillips Window in St Columb’s Cathedral.
Oak leaves in the Long Tower Chapel.


The day the Deputy First Minister turned up for Walls400

We don’t do politics, except those of 400 years ago. However with today’s news, it’s appropriate to mention the day in August 2013 when Martin McGuinness turned up with 1,970 other Derry Londonderry people to form a red line around the rampart tops to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of the building of the Derry Walls. It was quite a surprise to the organisers, since the only formal invitation issued  to a politician had been to the Mayor, Martin O’Reilly. The Deputy First Minister had responded to the open public invitation in a personal capacity, queuing with everyone else to collect his red t-shirt. A demonstration of his personal interest in the Derry Walls, in the shadow of which, Martin McGuinness  grew up. Condolences at this time to his wife, Bernie, his children and his extended family. Photo credits: Stephen Latimer Photography.

Derry Walls Day 2016 moves to Culture Night

Derry Walls Day takes place on Friday 16th September, which is also Culture Night. The key events are The Swordsmith’s Treasure Hunt 4-7pm around the Walled City’s Museums  plus the Walls400 History Lecture at 8pm in St. Columb’s Cathedral. There will be a Living History Afterparty in the Verbal Arts Centre at 9pm. Full details at

Thank you for voting for us!

testThe Friends of the Derry Walls have welcomed the news that both James Nesbitt and Derry’s historic Walls have been named as Northern Ireland’s ‘National Treasures,’ following an online poll to celebrate 20 years of the National Lottery.

Speaking on behalf of the Friends, Coordinator, Mark Lusby thanked the public in Derry, across Northern Ireland and from around the world who voted for the Derry Walls: “It is always a struggle to convince public agencies that the Derry Walls need investment on a scale similar to that being invested in heritage and cultural tourism attractions in other areas of Northern Ireland so this popular vote is especially welcome. The Derry Walls can make a much greater contribution to the economic and social well-being of Derry if we all had higher expectations for their protection and development than is currently the case. The association of a personality as James Nesbitt with the Derry Walls is also a welcome boost to the brand image of the Walls and the Friends would like to see this relationship continue into the future.”

Hands Up! if you think Derry Walls are a National Treasure

DSC_5142Vote Derry Walls by Tuesday 

We need your help to make sure that the Derry Walls are recognised as a national treasure. The Derry Walls and Walls400 have been shortlisted as one of 12 National Treasures in the Northern Ireland regional section of the  National Lottery’s ‘What’s Your National Treasure’ campaign .

The Giant%e2%80%99s Causeway - Co AntrimWe are up against the Albert Clock (Belfast), The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, The Lyric Theatre (Belfast), The Metropolitan Arts Centre (Belfast), The Odyssey Complex (Belfast), SS Nomadic (Belfast), Sam Thompson Landmark Bridge (Belfast), St Patrick’s Visitor Centre (Downpatrick), The Strule Arts Centre (Omagh), Ulster Hall (Belfast), Ulster Museum (Belfast). Many of these landmark buildings or sites are owned by large public, private and community sector organisations with PR departments at their disposal.

DSC_5061Walls400 and the City Walls Heritage Project is the only dedicated resource working to promote the heritage of the Derry Walls as an educational and economic resource. We are a minnow in comparison to the task and the competition. Hence why we need your personal help and the help of your employer or any other organisation that you are a member of. We need you not only to vote for Derry Walls. We need you to ask your friends and colleagues to also vote for us. Your organisation or employer might be persuaded to adopt this campaign as their own. It  would be great if they could ask all employees/members to also vote for Derry Walls by the Tuesday deadline.

IMG_9113Walls400 is trying to secure significant grant-aid to improve the presentation and understanding of  the Derry Walls and it is important that people, locally, and supporters further afield, use the opportunity of this public vote to send out a loud message to potential funders that we believe that the Derry Walls are a national treasure.

Web BadgeVotes can be cast on  or  until midnight on Tuesday 27 May. People taking part in the survey will be able to share their participation and will also have a chance to win one of five iPad Airs.Copyright Rory O'Doherty Photography (4-3)-12


Ulster Advertising Students get to grips with Derry Walls

Undergrad students doing an Advertising Programme at UU Magee in Derry tackled the challenge of producing themes and advertising copy for Derry Walls Day 2014. The students presented their ideas and the winning team and two runner up teams will receive prizes. The initiative is supported by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund and the Heritage Council of Ireland, with the aim of getting higher education institutions to engage more with Ireland’s walled towns. Thanks to the students for their ideas and enthusiasm. Thanks also to lecturers Edel Griffin and Marion Norwood at the University of Ulster.




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

The Empty Plinth

IMG_3501The Holywell Trust’s City Walls Heritage Project is working with the Nerve Centre’s Teaching Divided Histories  and Public Image – Events to create a light installation on the Plinth on Royal Bastion on the City Walls. Entitled ‘the Empty Plinth’  the artwork is part of the four day Lumiere Festival of Light in Derry from 28th November to 1st December. The emptiness of the Plinth will be be filled with a simple, pure beam of white light.  This week’s light installation is the first of the series of artworks planned for 2013/4 to bring the Plinth and Bastion alive, reclaiming these contested spaces for everyone in Derry. For more information click here.

The Hearth Stone on which Docwra’s Dinner was cooked?

A large  tooled block of stone which was used as a hearth stone sometime in the early 17th C or late 16th C
A large tooled block of stone which was used as a hearth stone sometime in the early 17th C or late 16th C

It was the skeletons which captured the public and media attention in the QUB archaeological dig in the grounds of the former Bishop’s Palace Gardens. However it is the artefacts in the time horizon’s beneath them, which have most potential to tell us more about the monastic and plantation settlements on the island hill of Derry.  One of the most interesting finds, by the Queen’s University archaeologists, has been a large block of stone overlaid by the a patch of reddish soil, indicating burning. Tool marks are evident on the block of stone showing that it was formally sculpted to fit in some form of structure. Archaeologists and local historians believe that this stone was reused as a hearth stone. Such a fire could have been used by the English soldiers to cook their meals inside Docwra’s  walls which then surrounded the hill of Derry. Equally there is a great deal of speculation about the original use of the tooled block of stone. When it is excavated next week and turned over, will it reveal the carved text “Foundation Stone of Colmcille’s Abbey”! Not likely, but perhaps equally interesting evidence will be discovered. The dig site was also littered with big-wigs  last week; hopefully they will followup their media appearances with real investment in the heritage of the Hill of Derry.

Mapping the Plantation City

The final talk in the Winter/Spring lecture series takes place on Thursday 8th March 2018 at 7pm in the Playhouse Theatre on Artillery Street

Near the end of 1618, 400 years ago this year,  Captain Nicholas Pynnar, the official Inspector of Fortifications in Ireland, was appointed to survey the progress of the Ulster Plantation and specifically, the Works and Plantation performed by the City of London in the City and County of London-Derry so it is very appropriate that the title of Thursday evening’s lecture will be ‘Mapping the Plantation City’. 

Dr Annaleigh Margey, Lecturer in History at Dundalk Institute of Technology will discuss the place of the walls in landscape and in perception with a particular focus on the livery company maps of the Londonderry Plantation. While to modern viewers, they appear as basic drawings with little by way of modern cartographic expectation, the maps became fundamental tools in the development and shaping of plantation landscapes in the city and county.

Annaleigh is a Lecturer in History at Dundalk Institute of Technology. She studied for her BA and PhD at NUI, Galway. Her PhD research titled ‘Mapping during the Irish Plantations, 1550- 1636’, focused on the surveys and maps created by surveyors in Ireland during the decades of plantation. She subsequently held an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship and a J.B. Harley Fellowship in the History of Cartography to continue this research at Trinity College Dublin. More recently, Annaleigh has worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen on ‘The 1641 Depositions Project’ and at the Institute of Historical Research, London where she conducted research on the property and charity of the Clothworkers’ Company in early modern London. She has also worked as a researcher on a project at NUI, Maynooth and the National Library of Ireland focusing on the rentals and maps in the landed estates of Ireland collections in the library’s holdings. She has recently been awarded an R.J. Hunter Bursary to further her work on the plantations in Ireland, focusing specifically on the ‘Towns and the Londonderry plantation, 1609-1709: the urban network of a plantation county’. Most recently, she has edited a book with her colleagues Elaine Murphy and Eamon Darcy on The 1641 Depositions and the Irish Rebellion, and will shortly publish another book Mapping Ireland, c.1550-1636: a catalogue of the early modern manuscript maps of Ireland with the Irish Manuscripts Commission. She has written several articles on early modern mapping in Ireland, particularly on Ulster, and on the 1641 depositions.

If you haven’t already done so you can book your place through the Derry Walls website

One in Four Hundred

The Friends of the Derry Walls want to recruit 400 new members in time for 2019, the quadricentennial of their completion in 1619. The aim is to demonstrate the widest sense of ownership of and pride in the Derry Walls. A second objective is to raise funds for a major community archaeological dig in 2018.  Actor Jamie-Lee O’Donnell (Michelle from Channel 4’s Derry Girls)  was in the Guildhall yesterday talking to young people with experience of care as part Care Day 2018, endorsing their achievements and inspiring them to follow their dreams.  Also keen to help promote her home city, Jamie-Lee took time to pose in a Friends of the Derry Walls t-shirt.  Even Walls need Friends. Thanks Jamie-Lee.


Branding Derry Londonderry 

Festivals, like Halloween, are great opportunities to get photos, which reinforce the brand identity of a destination. I love this image of the fireworks over the Nomadic and the Titanic signature building so this Halloween I tried to get some Halloween pics on my iPhone with the Derry Walls in them. The Walls Friends would love to see yours, so please share them with us! #

Main image courtesy of Nomadic Belfast