Gosset’s glimpse of the past

A section of a longer painting showing the general view of the west bank quays and the City of Derry, from the river shoreline below Ebrington Barracks in the Waterside. The spire of St. Columb's Cathedral can be seen in the centre, and the cupola of the Corporation Hall in the Diamond (rebuilt in 1826) is visible on the skyline above the paddle-steamboat on the right. (Gosset Collection courtesy of Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service - Gosset 5)
A section of a longer painting showing the general view of the west bank quays and the City of Derry, from the river shoreline below Ebrington Barracks in the Waterside. The spire of St. Columb's Cathedral can be seen in the centre, and the cupola of the Corporation Hall in the Diamond (rebuilt in 1826) is visible on the skyline above the paddle-steamboat on the right. (Gosset Collection courtesy of Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service - Gosset 5)
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Few in Derry are probably aware of this collection of stunning watercolour paintings showing the city as it looked back in 1846.

These pictures originally formed part of a collection of 120 watercolours drawn by Major John Noah Gosset, who was stationed here in the city when Barrack Master for Derry, Lifford and Omagh between 1841 and 1846. The paintings offer a fascinating glimpse of a city on the rise.

Major Gosset's view of Derry and the River Foyle looking northward from where the Bolies stream flows into the river on the east bank just south of the city, opposite a ropewalk and Ferguson's Lane. The old wooden bridge (demolished in 1863) can be seen on the right as can the old Horse Barracks at Foyle Road on the west bank river edge. Below the spire of St. Columb's Cathedral on the left, you can see the bulk of the old Gaol in Bishop Street. (Gosset Collection courtesy of Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service - 120212JC2 )

Major Gosset's view of Derry and the River Foyle looking northward from where the Bolies stream flows into the river on the east bank just south of the city, opposite a ropewalk and Ferguson's Lane. The old wooden bridge (demolished in 1863) can be seen on the right as can the old Horse Barracks at Foyle Road on the west bank river edge. Below the spire of St. Columb's Cathedral on the left, you can see the bulk of the old Gaol in Bishop Street. (Gosset Collection courtesy of Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service - 120212JC2 )

Although an amateur artist, as a soldier John Gosset was also a trained observer and a meticulous attention to detail is evident throughout all his work.

But just who was Major John Noah Gosset? It seems that the Gosset family had fled France as a result of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and settled in Jersey in the Channel Islands around 1685. John Gosset himself was born sometime around 1790 and later married Maria Margaret Driscoll, daughter of a Major-General Driscoll of Dublin and a painter of note in her own right. They had one son, William, who later became a Major-General in the Royal Engineers.

John Gosset entered the army as a 2nd Lieutenant on 6 June 1811 and served in the Peninsula War from October 1813 to July 1814, receiving the Silver War Medal. He later served in the American War and was promoted to Major on 22 May 1835. In April 1841, he moved to become Barrack Master for Derry, Lifford and Omagh. While in Derry, Gosset lived at 19 Pump Street, where he spent many years before his death in August 1870.

In 1993, Major Gosset’s collection was purchased by the Heritage and Museum Service of Derry City Council from a gallery in London which had acquired them from a friend of Major Gosset’s ancestor who had inherited them. The majority of the collection is currently in storage as the staff at the Harbour Museum prepare to relocate to another museum site. The Archivist, Bernadette Walsh, hopes to integrate some of the paintings into other council museum displays over the next few months, with some already on display within the Story of Derry exhibition at the Tower Museum.

A view of the junction in the Waterside area, now known as Dale's Corner. A note accomanying this painting says "from the Barrack Gate August 4th 1846". The gates on the right led to a house called Clooney, owned by the Bond family, which was adjacent to Ebrington Barracks. Bond's Hill leads down to the river side. (Gosset Collection courtesy of Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service - Gosset 1)

A view of the junction in the Waterside area, now known as Dale's Corner. A note accomanying this painting says "from the Barrack Gate August 4th 1846". The gates on the right led to a house called Clooney, owned by the Bond family, which was adjacent to Ebrington Barracks. Bond's Hill leads down to the river side. (Gosset Collection courtesy of Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service - Gosset 1)

For queries or further information on the Gosset collection, contact Bernadette Walsh, Archivist, DCC Heritage & Museum Service on: 71. 377331.