Built between 1613 and 1618 by the City of London and owned by the Honourable the Irish Society. A circuit of the Walls is 1,325 metres (roughly one mile), the height is between 6 and 7.5 metres and the breadth is 4 to 9 metres.
After the Siege many special events have taken place on the Walls. The most notable were their use as a venue for two meetings of the Londonderry Corporation. On 15th Sep. 1945, the Freedom of the City was conferred to Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: the Freedom Scroll was presented in a replica of the Mountjoy - the ship that broke the Siege. Again, on 25th October 1945 the Freedom of the City was conferred on Field Marshall Alexander of Tunis. The Scroll on this occasion was enclosed in a silver replica of Roaring Meg: one of the famous cannons along the Walls. Both occasions were broadcast by the BBC.
Opened in 1877 to commemorate the 13 Apprentice Boys whoclosed the City Gates, commencing the Siege of Londonderry which lasted from December 1688 to August 1689. The Hall was extended along Society Street in 1937. A number of artefacts, carefully preserved, can be viewed within the Hall.
Although the present Church was built in 1872, the site was used by the early settlers for worship until St Columb’s Cathedral was constructed in 1633.
The site has been “God’s Acre” for at least 750 years, with the early Monastic building probably founded in the 13th Century.
Walking along the Walls above the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall, alongside St Augustine’s Church, is Grand Parade. In the early 19th Century 14 sycamore trees were planted along this stretch of the Walls. The fourteen trees represent the thirteen Apprentice Boys who closed the gates on the advance party of King James's soldiers, and James Morrison who was present at Ferryquay Gate during the arrival of the Earl of Antrim’s Redshanks. Morrison assured that this advance party beat a hasty retreat. It is recorded that James Morrison shouted: “Bring a Great Gun here.” This had the necessary effect on the Redshanks.
Sycamore Trees were selected as their fruit resembles a bunch of keys, symbolic of the locked Gates. The last of the original fourteen trees was blown down during a great storm on 21st November 1940.
Sadly the column no longer stands; destroyed by Republican terrorists on the 27 August 1973. The Pillar was built between 1826 and 1828 and was 81 feet (nearly 25 metres) in height. The foundation stone for the refurbished plinth was laid on 8th August 1992, and officially dedicated by the Governor of the Apprentice Boys of Derry on 12th December 1992 prior to the 304th Anniversary of the Shutting of the Gates Commemoration parade.
Roaring Meg was presented by the Fishmongers Company of London, 1642. This is the most famous of the Siege Cannon because of its loud explosion when fired. The 18 pounder was used for ceremonial salutes up to 1832.
On the 18th April 1689 King James II approached this gate, having been assured that the inhabitants of the City would surrender following his appearance. On four occasions he summoned the City to surrender, but hastily retreated when a cannon was fired from the ramparts and an officer was killed close by. With the King banished from before the Walls, a 105 day Siege blockade commenced.
The Gate was rebuilt in 1789 as a triumphal arch in memory of William III. The sculptured head on the outside of the Gate represents the River Foyle, with the date 1689. The head on the inside of the Gate represents the River Boyne bearing the date 1690.
Initiations into the Apprentice Boys Association, which can only take place within the Walls of the City, were preformed on the top of Bishop’s Gate prior to the building of the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall.
Built between 1628 and 1633 by the Honourable the Irish Society, the Cathedral was used by both Episcopalians and Presbyterians for worship during the Siege. A hollow shell fired into the City on 10 July 1689 carried an offer and terms of surrender to the citizens. The shell now sits on a pedestal at the entrance hall to the Cathedral. Governor Walker’s Bible and the locks of the Gates are also preserved in the Cathedral's Chapter House.
During the Siege the Cathedral’s tower acted as the signalling station to those outside the City. The crimson flag flown from the Cathedral was the sign of ‘distress’. It also informed the relief ships beyond the boom on the river that the City had not been taken. Following the siege the colour crimson was adopted as the commemorative Siege Colour and remains as the colour of the Apprentice Boys today.
The Apprentice Boys Association attends annual Thanksgiving Services in the Cathedral to commemorate the Shutting of the Gates and the Relief of City.
St Columb’s was the first Cathedral to be erected in the British Isles following the Reformation.
Located in theCathedral grounds. During renovations of the Cathedral the remains of those who had died during the Siege were disturbed. On 24th May 1861 the remains were interred and marked by a monument to all who had died during the Siege. It was built by the Apprentice Boys Association, which still maintains the Mound and lays a wreath each year as part of the annual Shutting of the Gates Commemorations.
Added to the Walls in 1628 for those on sentry duty, guarding the City. These two watch towers either side of Church Bastion were strategically located on the most vulnerable side of the City. They also provided added defence to the strategically important cathedral whose then tower provided the highest vantage point for cannon. The spire on the cathedral is a more recent addition.
Close to the watch tower on the New Gate side of Church Bastion is a Sally Port. This was an exit in the Wall from which defenders would “sally forth”: making surprise attacks by running out and across the defensive ditch which would have run along the bottom of the Walls.
In 1787 an opening was made in the Walls between London Street and Hawkin Street and the ‘New Gate’ was erected. This was the first opening to be made into the Walled City, other than the four original gates.
In 1795 the Gate was widened and ornamented and again rebuilt in 1866. The keystones represent the Reverend George Walker, prominent Episcopalian Minister and Governor during the Siege and the Reverend James Gordon, Presbyterian Minister during the Siege. This was the first Gate closed by the Apprentice Boys on 7 December 1688 (OS*) against the Earl of Antrim’s Redshanks.
In the late 1600’s the River Foyle almost reached to the City Walls at this point. The City was built on a hill surrounded to the North and East by the River Foyle and to the West there was a bog which flooded at High Tide, placing the City on a virtual island. While today looking at the hills and with the hindsight of history we may question the defensive value of the Walls. At the time defence would have been considered with the potential of local rebellion in mind, for which the Walls were a formidable deterrent.
Unveiled 20th January 1926 this tablet sits in the Walls between Shipquay and Magazine Gates, and close to the spot where Browning’s body was brought ashore. Micaiah Browning was Captain of the ship Mountjoy when the boom blocking the Foyle was breached. The Mountjoy was part of the flotilla which relieved the starving citizens inside the Walls. Captain Browning was killed in action, saving the City of his birth.
Completed in 1890, the building has witnessed some alterations following a fire in 1908 and a terrorist bomb in 1972. The magnificent stain glass windows tell the story of life in Londonderry from the building of the Walls up to the 20th Century. On top of the Guildhall is a weather vane which has a ship representing the Mountjoy. The Lord Mayor's Chain of Office has 13 links, representing the thirteen Apprentice Boys. The Mayor’s Medallion worn on ceremonial occasions was presented to the City by King William III in 1692.
On the Walls above the Guildhall Square there are nine cannon dating from 1610-1635 with City of London Arms. Two earlier Elizabethan cannon marked with the Tudor Rose and date, 1590, are near Shipquay Gate. Many of the cannon around the Walls were gifts from the London Companies. These can be identified by the names of the Companies being inscribed on the barrels: Mercers, Fishmongers, Grocers, Salters, Merchant Taylors and Vintners.
Built in 1865 as an additional opening into the Walled City, and the third new gate constructed since the siege. The Gate has the sculpted heads of Adam Murray and David Cairns, leaders in the defence of the City in 1689. The head on the inside of the gate is crowned with a wreath of shamrock, oak leaves and little skulls, believed to identify Murray the Siege Hero.
A further new gate created in 1803. This was the second of the additional gates constructed after the siege.
This Gate wascompletely rebuilt and ornamented in 1810. The main effort of the besiegers against the Walls was concentrated against Butcher’s Gate and the adjoining Bastion. Extensive damage was created each day, but repeatedly repaired by the Defenders each night.
The Presbyterian Church received a donation from Queen Mary in 1690 in recognition of the support from Presbyterians during the Siege. The Presbyterians had been using St Augustines Church “on loan” until they had their own place of worship. The Church was rebuilt in 1777, with a new frontage attached in 1903.
This small courtyard above the Memorial Hall on Society Street was opened in 1992 by the Mayor, Alderman William Hay. The centre-piece is a statue of the Reverend George Walker, Governor of the City in 1689. This is a facsimile of the statue which once stood atop Walker’s Column: of which only the head was recovered from the rubble of the 1973 bomb which destroyed the monument. The head is now on display in the Apprentice Boys Museum. A copper plaque, dedicated to the Heroes of the Great Siege, displays the names of the 13 Apprentice Boys who closed the Gates in December 1688. There are plans to build a permanent museum on this site at some future time.
At the centre of the Walled City is the Diamond. The Market House, Exchange and Corporation Hall, once stood on this site. The Diamond is at the centre of the old City; the junction of the four main streets, converging from the four original Gates. The War Memorial is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives in conflict since 1914. The Winged centre-piece represents Victory.