New exhibition to capture unique story of City’s Walls

Four hundred years since the completion of Derry’s historic Walls a special exhibition is being launched retelling the story of the iconic ramparts and their dramatic role in the history of the city over four centuries.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 11:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 12:25 pm
A dig in the Foundation site.

Constructed between 1613 and 1619, the Walled City of Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples in Europe. The Tower Museum will host the specially curated collection featuring a treasure trove of objects and archive materials from its collections to tell the story of the Walls, the city and its people.

Some of the objects on display have never been seen before, including pottery, ceramics, leather and currency unearthed in archaeological digs in 1970s and 1980s.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said the exhibition would offer a glimpse of life in the City at various stages over the centuries. “This is a very significant year for the City’s Walls, given their prominence in the story of Derry as well as their importance as a major historic landmark that has stood the test of time through conflict and upheaval.

Dr Brian Lacey in the Museum Stores.

“The objects in this exhibition not only tell us about life and events within, without and around the walls from the last 400 years, but also help us to understand how people would have lived day to day. It is a fascinating story of social history that spans war, rebellion, peace and culture.”

The Tower Museum will open the exhibition from Friday, July 19 to January 26, showcasing Derry City and Strabane District Council’s unique archive and collection assets, and archaeological collections, as curator Roisin Doherty explained.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the museum to take a closer look at the incredible changes the city has undergone while being presided over by this incredible monument,” she said.

“The exhibition will examine the years from 1566 to the present day telling the incredible stories of what is a unique heritage asset, from the destruction of the old medieval town to the building of the walled city we know today.

Illustrations of wine glasses found in the Diamon in the 170s by Dermot Francis.

“The exhibition will bring to the fore the Council’s archive and collection assets, from our minute books, which tell of the many decisions made by local governance over the years to preserve the walls, to our archaeological collections, which show how the first residents within the walled town lived their daily lives. We’ve come across some fantastic residents, details of decisions made to put the only break in the walls in the 19th Century, as well as information on the maintenance of the Walls, including moving the many sycamore trees that once grew on them. It has been just fascinating piecing the story together.”

The collection also reveals more about the formation of the Honourable the Irish Society, who owned the walls and are still involved in promoting them today.

The Council’s unique archaeological collection is one of the city’s greatest assets, with artefacts from over 20 sites around the city explored from 1976 to 1986. This new exhibition will showcase items from the collection, which has been pieced together by generations of museum staff, in its most comprehensive display to date. It will feature pieces from the original digs led by Brian Lacey, to the extensive research and beautiful illustrations of the late Dermot Francis. The collection also looks to other walled settlements around the world and highlights the remarkable similarities between here and some of the first European settlements in the United States.

The exhibition officially opens Friday, July 19 and is part of a wider programme of activities taking place on and around the City’s historic Walls over the summer months. Find out more about the Walled City 400 programme at