The Guildhall is one of Derry’s most recognisable landmarks and has been at the heart of city life since 1890. It was built in 1887 by ‘The Honourable The Irish Society’ on land reclaimed from the River Foyle at a cost of £19,000 (equivalent to £1.5 million today). The building was named in honour of its connection to the City of London and its guilds. It was officially opened in 1890 as the administrative centre for Londonderry Corporation. 120 years later it still retains its civic function and is home to the Derry City Council chamber and the Mayor’s Parlour. It is the only surviving guildhall still in civic use in Ireland.
Over its 120 year history the Guildhall has been destroyed twice – by fire in 1908 and through bomb attacks in 1972. The grade ‘A’ listed building is important for many reasons – historical, architectural, cultural and political with many stories to tell. For example:
- The building has 23 stained glass windows. Many of these were gifted by the London Companies and represent for example, carpenters, fishmongers, painters, musicians, glaziers and many others.
- The Guildhall Clock was designed as a replica of ‘Big Ben’ in London and was the largest of its kind in Ireland. It has not struck after midnight since 1893, initially to facilitate guests at a nearby hotel
- A time capsule buried under the building when the foundation stone was laid in 1887 was recently uncovered. It contains local newspapers of the day, coins and a handwritten manuscript which has now been restored. In 2013 a new capsule was buried.
- From 2000 to 2005 the Guildhall was the seat of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry headed by Lord Saville, which was published in June 2010. The inquiry heard from 900 witnesses, received 2,500 witness statements with evidence amounting to 160 volumes and an estimated 20-30 million words.
2013 – A new chapter in the Guildhall
A major £9.5m restoration of the Guildhall has just been completed; the building which has been closed since 2012 to accommodate the restoration is now open again to the public and whilst retaining its civic function it now also boasts a new multifaceted tourism experience providing a central hub for visitors exploring the city. The huge undertaking began in 2011 included external restoration works to the stonework, roof, windows, stained glass and the clock. During the second phase of the project work was carried out on the internal restructure to to offer the following facilities:
- An interactive Tourist Information Point
- An new dedicated exhibition exploring how the Plantation has shaped our history
- A new cafe area
- Interpretation panels throughout the building to bring its many special features to life
Click here for a look at the full restoration work of the Guildhall
Guildhall Opening times:
Mon to Fri: 10am – 5.30pm
Sat: 10am – 5.30pm
Sun: 10am – 5.30pm
For details of Births, Deaths and Marriages previously located in the Guildhall and now operating from 14 Magazine St, Derry, click here
Tel: 028 71 376510
Email: Nuala.McKeever @derrycity.gov.uk