Disappearing heritage

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It is no exaggeration to say that, in recent years, some of the Goliaths of Derry’s proud built heritage have disappeared like ether.

The grim roll call includes names embedded in the city’s history: Tillie and Henderson’s, Claremont House, the Presbyterian Manse at Ballyarnett - and who’s to say that, in the future, the bulldozers won’t be revving outside some of the city’s remaining architectural jewels.

For a city that has always marketed itself as historic, it seems that so-called modern development pays no respect to Derry’s heritage.

Indeed, for many, it is nothing less than out-and-out vandalism.

However, on the other side of the coin, some of the city’s structures have been treated with sensitivity by developers, and have been offered modern use.

For example, the Star, City and Welsh Margetson factories - once home to teams of shirt makers - still retain all of the charm that made them the most recognisable features of their areas.

In a sense, they’ve been allowed to marry history with modern use.

In order to protect the city’s built heritage, it is crucial that developers are made to retain or develop buildings to the proper standard that reflects the original.

‘If stones could speak’ is one of Derry’s age-old adages. Unfortunately, however, Derry’s architectural heritage is shrinking like a retreating tide and the bricks and mortar of a social history are tumbling to the ground.

If many stones could speak in Derry, they’d now speak of betrayal.