Rediscovered artwork of Derry in 1863

'Londonderry 1863', by Jacob Henry Connup. Reproduced by kind permission of the private owners and the UAHS.
'Londonderry 1863', by Jacob Henry Connup. Reproduced by kind permission of the private owners and the UAHS.

Ever imagine what Derry looked like 150 years ago?

Well, thanks to the recent rediscovery of a fascinating old oil painting, you can now see exactly how our city looked in 1863.

‘Londonderry’, by artist Jacob Henry Connup, portrays a grand vista of the city from a viewpoint located in the gardens of villas at the top of Chapel Road in the Waterside.

Dan Calley, chairperson of the Friends of the Linen Hall Library, came across the original painting while surveying local historic houses for inclusion in the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s (UAHS) new “City of Derry Gazetteer”.

While the scene has been included in a number of publications over the years, it appears that these reproductions were taken from prints and not from the original painting.

Mark Lusby, of the Holywell Trust, says that it is only when you view the original painting that the full details of what Derry looked like in 1863 emerge.

“The painting is remarkable for its attention to detail,” he says. “The Waterside Chapel, the Covenanters’ Church and Ebrington Barracks are clearly visible but much of the Waterside is undeveloped.

“Spanning the river side-by-side are the old Wooden Bridge, soon to be demolished, and the new iron Carlisle Bridge.

“In 1863, the island of Derry is starting to fill up with buildings as development spilled over the City Walls. However, the high ground behind the city is still predominantly farmland and the demesnes of large houses.

“The progress being made in new public buildings can be seen in the painting: St Eugene’s Cathedral is nearing completion, the Model School, which opened in 1862, and Magee College, almost ready for its opening in 1865.”

Dan Calley’s inventory of historical buildings and streets is the most up-to-date and comprehensive listing of what is to be valued in Derry’s built heritage.

It includes a preface by local architect, Joe Tracey, who co-authored a similar gazetteer published almost forty years ago.

The new book - described as essential reading for city planners, property developers and just about anyone interested in the history and architecture of Derry - is priced £14 (soft back) and £20 (hard back).

It’s available from local booksellers.