INFORMATION ABOUT THE CHURCH
First Derry Presbyterian congregation has existed since around1640 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
That building was demolished in 1777 and the current building opened in 1780.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.
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.
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.
First Derry Presbyterian Church is now a listed Historic Building Grade B+.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE BLUE COAT SCHOOL.
The former Blue Coat building behind the Church has been fitted out as a Heritage Centre. Interpretation panels and audio visual displays tell the story of the 17th century Plantation of Londonderry
This is a story of Scots Presbyterians who became Irish Presbyterians who became Derry Presbyterians and who became New World Presbyterians.
The themes explored include:-
- the Scottish settlers who came to the North West in the 1600’s
- the contribution they made to the region through farming,
commerce and public life.
- the challenges faced throughout the 17th.and 18th centuries
- the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant in Derry,1642.
- the role of the Presbyterians 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 great migration of Presbyterians in the 18th century from Derry
to the New World.
- the key events in history which shaped Derry and the role which
First Derry played in these events. e.g. first and second world wars.
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.”