A design team is to be ap pointed to produce a Conservation Plan for Derry’s historic Boom Hall and Stables, the ‘Journal’ has learned.
Derry & Strabane District Council has revealed that the conservation-led team will be asked to produce a management plan for both heritage buildings as a “key initial step.”
Council officials said they recognise the tourism and leisure potential of the Boom Hall Estate, which has been ravaged by fire and the elements over the past 40 years.
Excavations were carried out at the Boom Hall site back in March, 2013, revealing evidence of the battles that occurred around the famous boom that was laid across the River Foyle during the Siege of Derry. The wooden boom was fixed from the western end from a fort erected at this ancient townland of Ballynashallog and linked to another fort across Lough Foyle at Gransha.
The aim was to prevent the forces of King William of Orange (pictured) from reaching the besieged Protestant settlers inside the City Walls.
The Catholic Jacobite army - made up of Irish, French and English soldiers - are known to have based themselves in this and neighbouring Brook Hall Estates during the Siege.
The current Boom Hall itself was erected later, in the 1770s and has had a long and chequered history over the years. The building was all but destroyed in a fire after the last occupants left over 40 years ago.
The nearby stables pre-date the construction of the Stately Home and the Estate is also home to some of Derry’s oldest oak trees.
Prior to the Siege, the Boom Hall area’s history stretches back to the time of the Columban Monastery in the city centre. Before the Plantation of Ulster, this site along the River Foyle was known to have been owned by the Catholic Abbey of Derry and monastic authorities ensured that the land was used to help cover the costs of their community in the area.
Acouncil spokesperson confirmed: “The regeneration of the Boom Hall Estate remains a priority and it is actively identifying potential development options in conjunction with a range of stakeholders.
“Council recognises the significant recreation, tourism, heritage and leisure potential of the Boom Hall Estate and is keen to ensure that the site - and its surroundings - are optimised for these purposes for the benefit of citizens and visitors.
“As an initial part of this process, council is intending to appoint a conservation-led design team to undertake a detailed technical survey of the Boom Hall Stables and Boom Hall House and to produce a conservation management plan for both heritage buildings. This will represent a key initial step and which will help to inform the wider identification of potential development options.”
Boom Hall has seen more visitors over recent years following the extension of Derry’s greenway network down into the area below the Foyle Bridge.
And plans were recently endorsed which will see this extended further to create a cross-border route linking Muff to Culmore Village and onto Derry.
Earlier this year 500 trees were planted by a team of volunteers to provide a better visual screen for the Boom Hall Estate.
Spooky past of Boom Hall has inspired many a campfire tale
Nestled in a secluded and hidden spot on the banks of the River Foyle, Boom Hall Estate is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city that surrounds it.
And the eerie stillness of the area, with only the groaning of the wind through the ancient trees to disturb the peace, coupled with more than a few supernatural sightings, has resulted in a reputation for ghostly goings on.
Around Hallowe’en 2015, a photo taken by local man, Gavin Whitwell, emerged and appeared to show a ghostly figure (pictured) lurking at the edge of one of the windows of the derelict stately home. Mr Whitwell had taken the picture several years earlier and said he was “really freaked out, but intrigued,” by it.
Madeline McCully’s popular ‘Haunted Derry’ book details how a young woman, who had been taken to Boom Hall to escape the attentions of a stable hand, may have perished in a fire.
It also explains how Miss McDevitt - the last person to reside at Boom Hall - when questioned about its reputation as a haunted house, replied: “Of course it is. They keep me company. There’s no need to fear the dead. It’s the living that will do you harm!”