Boom Hall ‘one of those places people know and would love to come alive again’

Local people attending the information evening at the Guildhall (l-r): Mary Casey, Jim Sammon, Patricia O'Donnell and Liam Campbell.
Local people attending the information evening at the Guildhall (l-r): Mary Casey, Jim Sammon, Patricia O'Donnell and Liam Campbell.

Local people attending the public consultation on the Boom Hall Estate have put forward their views on how they would like to see the Boom Hall site evolve into the future.

Derry City & Strabane Council has said the opinions of the public attending the recent information sessions will be reflected within the completed conservation management plan. Once complete, the plan will help to inform the future management and regeneration of the Boom Hall Estate.

Eilish Quigley and Patricia O'Donnell.

Eilish Quigley and Patricia O'Donnell.

Eilish Quigley from local firm, Tours ‘n’ Trails, told the ‘Journal:’ “I’ve been a guide for almost 20 years and for a long time we have talked about this site and it’s good to see something eventually going forward as a development plan; a conservation plan.

“It can only be good for the city, especially for local people because it is local people’s memories and stories that I think will ignite this project because of the strong local interest,” she said.

“It’s one of those places in the city that people know and would love to come alive again. You would want any kind of plan to be authentic and conserve the buildings and the landscape, without over development. We need it to be as back to its original form as possible and, at the same time, develop access and future projects to maintain it’s feasibility with local people in mind, but also as an added tourist attraction. It has great potential,” she maintained.

Bart O’Donnell, meanwhile, said: “What I want to see is the house and stables restored and conserved. What I don’t want to see is over development and inappropriate large scale structures down there,” he said.

Some of the former residents of Boom Hall.

Some of the former residents of Boom Hall.

“It’s a unique piece of architecture; it’s a unique landscape that was laid out in the 18th century. There are 16.5m journeys across the Foyle Bridge every year, there’s a half a million journeys on the train line across the Foyle. It is the main artery into the Waterside and the city.”

He said Boom Hall “was a unique place and should be kept unique,” as a therapeutic landscape primarily for local people and one that was in keeping the nearby Foyle Hospice and Thornhill Ministries. Mr. O’Donnell said this would provide a place where people can get away from the city and get close to nature, with potentially a community garden within the walled garden site.

Mary Casey, meanwhile, said that the Strategic Growth Planning of the council involved specific themes very relevant to the Boom Hall site, including the green economy, green infrastructure, ICT skills and entrepreneurialism.

Mrs. Casey said there was potential for collaborative partnerships with education, employers, health providers and that this could also provide a focus for jobs for the future, and help address the health and well being of young people.

She mooted the provision of a youth quarter, which the council has previously agreed to establish locally.

The site, she said, could flourish in the future, as it had in times past, providing a communal space in a “regenerated, empowering site for the community, with beautiful gardens” on a prime riverside location.

She added that Boom Hall could also prove key to developing heritage arts and creative arts.

Mayor John Boyle said recently that Derry City & Strabane District Council “continues to engage with other stakeholders who have an interest in, and who are working on, plans which incorporate the site, in order to ensure that their evolving ideas align with and complement the site’s significant build and natural heritage characteristics.”

The Boom Hall Estate has played a very important role in the history of Derry .

Excavations were carried out in March, 2013, revealing evidence of the battles during the Siege of Derry when the famous wooden boom was laid across the River Foyle.

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 the River Foyle at Gransha.

The current Boom Hall itself was erected later, in the 1770s but was all but destroyed in a fire after the last occupants left over 40 years ago. The nearby stables pre-date the Stately Home and the Estate is also home to some of Derry’s oldest Oak trees.

The site’s history stretches back to the time of the ancient monastery in the city centre. Before the Plantation of Ulster, the land was owned by the Abbey of Derry and monastic authorities utilised it to cover the costs of their community in the area.