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The City Walls

Among the many historic monuments in Londonderry, the massive city Walls on the west bank of the River Foyle are the most striking and memorable. Built between 1614 and 1619, the original walls are almost perfectly preserved today, making Londonderry one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. Using earth, lime and local stone ( some from ruined medieval monastery buildings ) Peter Benson from London skillfully constructed the thick defensive ramparts and angular artillery bastions following closely the design of Sir Edward Doddington of Dungiven.

The entire cost of the building was met by the The Honourable The Irish Society, comprising of London Businessmen who were responsible for the Plantation of Derry. It was their duty, under a Royal Charter of King James I, to build and maintain the City Walls to help control the local Irish rebels.

In return they were given large parcels of land in the region for themselves. Despite sieges in 1641, 1649 and of course the Great Siege of 1689, the Walls were never breached - proof indeed of their careful planning and excellent construction, and reason for the title of The Maiden City

North-East Wall

At the north-eastern corner of the Walls once stood Coward's Bastion. It was removed in the early 19th century. This bastion was so named because of it's distance from the heavy fighting during the Great Siege.

 

Also at this point is Magazine Gate. Between it and Shipquay Gate one can see seven canons overlooking the Guildhall. One of these canons was presented by Queen Elizabeth in 1590 and the others were donated by various London Guilds.

 On the outside of this raised section of the Walls is a bronze plaque commemorating the heroism of Captain Michael Browning who captained the Ship Mountjoy as it broke the boom in 1689. He relieved the city but fell shot dead in his moment of glory. 

Further along, past Shipquay Gate, lies the Water Bastion where the River Foyle used to touch the Walls at high tide.

East Wall - Church Wall

At Newmarket Street there is a modern day gap in the Walls. This was done in 1861 despite much opposition and is the only break in the Walls. Newgate Bastion is next, then Ferryquay gate, both overlooking the mainly Protestant Waterside across the Foyle. 

Beyond Ferry Bastion and nearby New Gate, a stone watchtower can be seen set high up on the parapet wall. The external parapet was raised here during the Great Siege of 1689 to protect St Columbs Cathedral from the cannon fire of James's army. Next comes Church Bastion and then another Watchtower on the Church Wall.  

South Wall

Then the famous Bishop's Gate, from where can be seen the only remaining tower of the old jail which is now part of the Protestant Fountain Estate (The last Protestant Enclave on the West Bank ). During the Siege of 1689 There was an extra wall,  built out in front of Bishop's Gate, known as a ravelin.

 

Mall Wall - West Wall

The first feature one sees on this section of the Wall is the Double Bastion. So called because of a dividing wall built during the Siege. 

The famous cannon - Roaring Meg (donated to the City in 1642 by the London Fishmongers) was  contained here for many years but is now situated in the Governor Walker Memorial Garden, next to the Memorial Hall. It was said during the Great Siege that 'the noise of the discharge was more terrifying than were the contents of the charge dangerous to the enemy'. Next comes the Royal Bastion overlooking the Bogside estate. This is where Governor Walker's Monument once stood. Just inside the Walls, between Royal Bastion and Butcher's Gate is situated the Memorial Hall (still standing proudly despite numerous attempts to destroy it). Beside Butcher's Gate is the remains of Gunner's Bastion close to where the Master Gunner's house was situated. Near to Castle Gate is a platform called Hangman's Bastion, so named because during the Great Siege, a man was lowered over the Wall at this point but instead of making his escape he was almost hanged when the rope, used to lower him to the ground, caught around his neck.