FIRST DERRY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
First Derry Presbyterian congregation has existed since around 1640 but the first Church built on the present site was in 1690. This was funded mainly by a gift from Queen Mary, wife of William of Orange, as a thank you to the Presbyterians who defended Derry during the Siege of 1689.
Major alterations took place in 1828 and 1896. The 1896 alterations involved internal work, including the robust coffered pine ceiling, to designs of William Pinkerton and carried out by Joseph Ballentine. At this time the Dungiven sandstone facade which was a result of the 1828 alterations, had no portico. The reworking of the facade and addition of the portico took place in 1903, once again to designs of William Pinkerton and built by Michal Sweeney at an approximate cost of £2,500.
In the first decade of the 21st century extensive dry rot and stone damage was discovered causing the closure of the Church in 2002. After an extensive and sensitive restoration the Church re-opened in 2011 with an interdenominational service of thanksgiving. The Church, which is currently in excellent condition, is a testament to the perseverance and dedication of its members and now operates not only as a place of worship but as a shared space accessible to all with the aim of improving community relations.
We are delighted that our church is now a Listed Building: Historic Grade B+
Surviving the Troubles
From 1968 onwards the Church and its congregation suffered years of attack and vandalism. Nine members of the congregation lost their lives through terrorism. In 1984 the Church suffered its worst damage with an arson attack which burnt through the ceiling, rafters and roof slates. The Church was closed in July 1984 for repairs and re-opened in February, 1986.
THE BLUE COAT SCHOOL
The Blue Coat School – history
THE BLUE COAT SCHOOL HERITAGE CENTRE
The site of the original Blue Coat School can be found at the back of our Church, it is now home to The Blue Coat School Heritage Centre where you can discover, through interpretation panels and audio visual displays:
- The Plantation (1600s)
- Learn about the Scottish settlers who came to the North West in the 1600’s and the contribution they made to the region through farming, commerce and public life.
- The challenges faced by the settlers throughout the 17th and 18th centuries
- The Solemn League and Covenant in Derry (1642)
- Presbyterians and their role in the Siege of Derry (1689)
- their exclusion from public office under the Test Act (1704)
- their contribution to advancing education and the link with Magee
- The Migration of Presbyterians from Derry (1700s) to the New World
- Major historical events and the role of First Derry in these events. e.g. World War I and II
- The Troubles in Northern Ireland and their impact on First Derry.
OVERVIEW BY JAMES STEVENS CURL FROM HIS BOOK,”THE LONDONDERRY PLANTATION,1609-1914.”
“It is more than tragic that a country, endowed with beauties second to none; inhabited by people who still understand the rules of hospitality, of civility, and of conversation; and graced by buildings and towns of great quality set in landscapes of a haunting loveliness, still wallows in the problems of the 17th.century….so few have grasped the historical predicament of the descendants of the Plantation settlers and those who resisted them: the legacy left by the Planters is now as much a part of the Irish heritage as are the great monuments of Gaelic antiquity.”