Derry’s hidden heritage goes on display

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The Derry public will this weekend have the chance to see the city from a unique perspective and get a glimpse into life “below stairs” in early Victorian Derry.

Holywell Trust’s City Walls Heritage Project today announced that the Plinth on Royal Bastion and the Basement of the Deanery on Bishop Street Within will open to the public this Saturday as part of the European Heritage Open Days project.

Mark Lusby, heritage activist with the City Walls Heritage Project explained: “There are lots of amazing buildings open this weekend, but we wanted to give people access to parts of our built heritage, which are never open to the public. Whilst most people will have toured Derry Walls, few will have ever been inside the gated Royal Bastion and fewer still will have climbed up the staircase within the Plinth, which used to be part of Walker’s Pillar.

“The Deanery is one of the most striking period buildings on Bishop Street Within and many of us will have walked past and wondered what lies behind the dusty basement windows. Saturday will be an opportunity to find out!”

The Deanery Basement, and the adjacent No 1 St Columb’s Court, will be used during October by MAK9, a collective of artists and designers, for an exhibition entitled “Draw on the Walls”. Some of the works are currently being installed in the Basement, so visitors on Saturday may get a sneak preview of the artists’ work.

Eamonn Deane, Director of the Holywell Trust thanked partners for helping to make it possible to open these hidden places to the public this Saturday: “The purpose of the City Walls Heritage Project is to help heal community divisions through an exploration of the shared history of the City Walls. The Trust is grateful to the Vestry of St Columb’s Cathedral and the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys of Derry for their help in making these parts of Derry’s built heritage open to the public on Saturday.”

Stepping back in time, the “Master Gunner and wife”, will be on the City Walls on both Saturday and Sunday, helping to explain how Derry’s 17th century cannon were used. Because of the way the cannon were commissioned, Derry’s Walls are unique in having such a large collection of cannon, each with a well-documented history. The costumed living history performers can be found at Double Bastion near the Verbal Arts Centre on Saturday and on the Walls in front of the Tower Museum on Sunday. In case of inclement weather, the performers will be found in nearby heritage buildings.

More information can be found at www.walls400.com/events. Access to both properties involves climbing stairs and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.