Restoration of ‘Wee Nuns’ school ongoing

The rear of the former 'Wee Nuns' overlooking the Bogside.
The rear of the former 'Wee Nuns' overlooking the Bogside.

Building restoration of the Wee Nuns’ School in the grounds of the Long Tower Church continues apace.

The listed building, which dates from 1813, will become St. Columba’s Heritage Centre when it opens early next year.

The new centre will provide opportunities for all visitors to learn about the early history of the city and the heritage and history of Columba, the founding father of the city.

The restoration work will take about a year to complete and is scheduled to open in early 2014.

The scheme is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, NI Tourist Board, NI Environment Agency and Derry City Council. The design team for the scheme are HMD architects and the builders are Woodvale Construction. The project sponsor is Siobhan Dillon.

The restoration will retain as many of the original features as possible. These include the galleried teaching area, all of the

original fireplaces and the existing staircase to the first floor.

The building will be re-roofed and the existing windows removed for restoration work with as much of the original wood and glass being retained and reused.

A lift will also be installed and the old stonework will be repointed. The listed steps to the side of the school will be repaired and lighted and reopened to the public.

The interior of the building will be refitted as an exhibition and education area to illustrate the early history of the city and the many aspects of the legacy of Columba.

The work to develop this aspect of the heritage centre is being undertaken by a group working with the Heritage and Museum Service under the guidance of Archivist Bernadette Walsh, education officer Margaret Edwards with assistance from local historians Ivor Doherty and John Bryson.

Dr. Brian Lacey, the author of many books on Columba, is acting as overall historical adviser to the project.

Grainne McCafferty, of the Aras Colmcille Trust, which secured funding for the project, said: “This project combines the restoration of an old and loved building and gives it a new lease of life.

“I am delighted to see it finally becoming a reality.”