Derry’s historic Guildhall throws open its newly restored doors to the public this Monday, June 10 - and what lies inside this local landmark has truly been worth waiting for.
The £9.5 million restoration project was officially unveiled last week and amazed all who were fortunate enough to gain a sneak peek inside ahead of its public opening. Now, today marks the opening of The Guild, a new dedicated café space with outdoor seating at the Harbour Square entrance. So go along today and enjoy some coffee and scones on the Guildhall Terrace overlooking the Peace Bridge while sunshine prevails!
Besides restoring and preserving one of our most loved landmarks, the most important aim of the Guildhall project was to transform a civic building into a multi-faceted visitor experience - they have achieved just that. Far from being the stuffy, grand and somewhat dilapidated building it was three years ago, now the space has opened up and feels suddenly world-class and inviting.
Most impressive upon entering the Guildhall was the brand new exhibition area that now tells the story of the Plantation - which occurred 400 years ago this year. Formerly the Council Chambers, the ground floor hall has now become a visually-arresting museum, complete with ancient papers and drawings, local finds and excavated artefacts like the soles of old shoes and even Cahir O’Doherty’s magnificent sword! It also has examples of Derry clothing as it would have perhaps looked 400 years ago, as well as original cannon-balls and 400 year-old original map-drawings of the city which have been borrowed from a museum in London especially for this auspicious occasion.
What was once the Mayor’s Parlour is now a new Tourist Information Point with a wealth of information for the discerning traveller. The addition of such a hub in the centre of the city will no doubt be welcomed by the visitors coming during 2013 and beyond.
The Minor Hall upstairs now houses the Council Chambers and it is in this room that I literally marvelled at the heavens above. It seems the restoration team had uncovered original wooden roof beams - double the height of the most-recent ceiling - which had lain undiscovered with ornate decoration perfectly preserved. This original ceiling and its colossal beams have now been lovingly restored and, in the true spirit of restoration, a light blue colour discovered painted there has now been carried on throughout the rest of the building.
The Guildhall opens to the public on Monday - go marvel for yourself!