Northern Ireland news

Historic gate lodge at Derry's Brooke Park opens its doors after 179 years

Derry's Brooke Park and gate lodge has been restored to its Victorian splendor.
Seamus McKinney

A gate lodge at one of Derry's most popular public amenities has been opened to the public for the first time in its 179-year history.

The building at Brooke Park opened on Saturday following a major refurbishment with an exhibition detailing the story of the Victorian park which overlooks Derry city centre.

Stretching from Rosemount to St Eugene's Cathedral, Brooke Park is the largest green area within the inner city area.

It was opened in 1839 as a “people's park” with lawns, walkways and an attractive Victorian fish pond.

It was also home to Derry's first orphanage, Gwyn's Orphanage for Boys.

The park was originally bequeathed to the city by philanthropists John Gwyn and James Hood Brooke.

For many years the orphanage building served as the main library in the city as well as a home for education authorities.

However, the park fell into disrepair during the Troubles when the grounds were taken over by the British army after their deployment in the city in 1969.

The Gwyn's Institute building became a frequent target of paramilitaries and was eventually destroyed in a fire before it was demolished.

In recent years the park has been restored to its Victorian splendour while the Gwyn's Institute site has been brought back to life with a restaurant, sports and horticulture facilities.

The original gate lodge beside St Eugene's Cathedral has also undergone an overhaul.

The exhibition will reveal many of the secrets of Brooke Park's history and Emma Barron of Derry City and Strabane District council predicted the gate lodge would become a major visitor attraction over the summer.

“Anyone who comes from the city has fond memories of Brooke Park, or the People's Park as it was known – and this is a great chance to share its history with the visitors who come to enjoy the features, including the Victorian oval pond, which have been so beautifully restored over the past few years.”

Derry mayor Michaela Boyle said the exhibition, which runs until August 31, would be the first time the gate lodge has been opened to the public.

“The exhibition will take us down through years, documenting its role in our city's history to its present day function as a beautiful urban park."

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