A 175-year-old time capsule discovered as part of the regeneration of Brooke Park will be opened in the coming days, the council has confirmed.
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed that the capsule was discovered in the footings of the former Gwyn’s Institute building- which was once a home for orphan boys.
She said: “ The capsule, dating back to 1840, was set in the foundation stone of the building and was discovered as part of a planned excavation to uncover it.
“It is unclear at present what the contents of the sealed lead container may be.”
It is thought that the capsule may contain old newspaper clippings dating from the early Victorian period as well as coins from the time, but its contents for now remain a mystery.
The council spokeswoman said: “Staff at the Council’s Museum and Visitor Service are currently carrying out a full examination of the capsule.
“As an artefact belonging to the city, it will be opened over the coming days with the appropriate care and attention before the contents are unveiled to the public.”
Brooke Park is currently undergoing a massive £5.6m regeneration, and many of the former Victorian features expected to be restored including Gwyn’s Pavillion and the ornate central Oval Pond which once existed there.
New facilities include a Play Garden, a new synthetic pitch, Horticulture Training Centre and Contact Sports Centre. The work will be completed by the summer of 2016.
Brooke Park- regarded as Derry City’s ‘green lung’ due to its proximity to the Walls and city centre, owes its existence to two local benefactors, John Gwyn and James Hood Brooke. The site was originally laid out in the Victorian era as part of the establishment of the boy’s orphanage known as Gwyn’s Institute.
John Gwyn was a local businessman, who was born at Drumskellan near Muff in County Donegal in 1754. He moved to Derry with his mother and began a grocery business in Bishop Street, and he later became a linen merchant and gradually accumulated wealth. When John died a bachelor in 1829, he left the bulk of his wealth amounting to over £40,000 for ‘as many male children of the poor or lowest class of society resident in and belonging to the city of Londonderry and the precincts around the same, as hereafter described, as the said funds will feed, clothe, and educate, orphans or such children as have lost one of their parents always to be preferred.’
The trustees of John Gwyn’s will purchased the Brooke Park site for the sum of £200 and on Monday, September 9th 1839, the foundation stone of Gwyn’s Institute was laid by the Protestant bishop of the day, Richard Ponsonby.
The building was designed by Samuel Jackson and built by John Lynn, the building opened its doors to its first pupils in 1840.
Although Gwyns institute was demolished in 1986, the grounds survive and the lower part of the park retains much of the original path layout features such as the grass terraces and the pond location.
The time capsule is the second discovered in Derry City over recent years. In 2013, newspapers, documents, coins and fragments of glass discovered in an 1887 time capsule by contractors working on the stonework as part of the recent Guildhall Restoration project.