Building of the walls:

  • 1608 and 1609

    Planning and surveying began

  • 1609

    Earl of Salisbury, Lord High Treasurer, suggested to James I a deliberate plantation of Scottish and English colonists on the forfeited estates of the O’Neills, O’Donnells and O’Dohertys.

  • 1610

    A corporate body of London aldermen, merchants and representatives of companies was created. This body was to be called ‘The society of the Governor and Assistants, London, of the New Plantation in Ulster, within the Realm of Ireland’. It was not until the late 17th century that this body became known as the ‘Irish Society’.

  • 1610

    Land was divided between servitors, undertakers and deserving Irish. The lands intended for plantation consisted of 162,500 acres granted to English and Scottish undertakers and 28,520 acres granted to the London companies.

  • 1610

    Derry consisted of old ruins, a few wooden cabins and the remains of Docwra’s two forts.

  • 1611

    Derry was still largely a project in name only. The existing City was tiny, and consisted of an untidy arrangement of buildings within the massive corset of bastions and walls built by Docwr

  • 1613

    Derry was given to the city of London. The Honourable the Irish Society was established to manage the City of London’s affairs in Ireland. The Honourable the Irish Society was first created by Royal Charter in 1613 to undertake the Plantation in the North West of Ulster that was then being driven by the English Crown.

  • 1613

    The Court of the Common Council sent two officials of the Honourable the Irish Society, Alderman George Smithes and Mathias Springham Londonderry to manage and direct the plantation. On the subject of the fortifications, the Commissioners had consulted ten military experts, and plans had been drafted.

  • 1613

    Building of the walls in Derry began

  • 1613

    Two officials of the Honourable the Irish Society, Alderman George Smithes and Mathias Springham were sent to Londonderry to manage and direct the plantation.

  • 1614

    Sir Josias Bodley was appointed by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Chichester, to enquire into the progress of the Plantation. He was not satisfied and he made a very strong report alleging negligence.

  • 1614

    City of London’s Plantation was closely observed by representatives of the Crown (after some of the £45,000 contributed by the Companies had vanished into thin air)

  • 1614

    Peter Benson, a tiler and bricklayer, of London, tendered for the building of the walls of Londonderry for the Irish Society, and obtained the contract to build them.

  • 1616

    The two Commissioners reported. They told of the condition of affairs, which does not seem to have been quite so unsatisfactory as the constant expressions of dissatisfaction from the King would indicate.

  • 1616

    The City’s reps were Alderman Peter Proby and our old friend Matthias Springham, and they were to be attended on by the ever-reluctant Clement Moss, the City of London’s solicitor - They found that about half the fortifications had been erected in Londonderry, two drawbridges were made, and one of the gates was under construction.

  • 1618

    Captain Nicholas Pynnar, the official inspector of fortifications in Ireland had been appointed to survey the progress of the Ulster Plantation and specifically, the works and plantation performed by the city of London and County of London-Derry. Captain Nicholas Pynnar succeeded Bodley in his post and was duly impressed in making his survey in between December 1618 and March 1619. The walls were even higher that Proby and Springham had suggested. that Londonderry had been enclosed within a strong wall 24 feet high, 6 feet thick, and 5,190 feet long, with nine bastions and four crenelated gates, 2 of which had portcullises, 2 of which had drawbridges. His report dated 28th March 1619 provides the first official certification of the completeness of the Derry Walls. ‘The cittie of London Derry is now compassed about with a verie strong wall, excellentlie made and neatlie wrought, beinge all of good lyme and stone’.

  • "
  • 1619

    92 houses (including a school house, 67 feet long by 25 feet broad) had been built within the walls, housing 102 families. Many of those inhabitants were part time farmers. 

  • 1623

    The privy council instructed the late deputy, St. John, now Lord Grandison, and Lords Chichester and Carew, to consider the defects in the fortifications of Derry.

  • 1624

    A report on the condition of all the chief forts and castles, in which they pointed out that, in their existing state, Derry and Coleraine constituted a dangerous gap through which the disaffected could gain possession of the most important part of the north.

  • 1629

    The following return was made of the total disbursements by the Londoners in Londonderry from the 2nd January, 1609, to this year. For the walls and fortifications...£8,357 For digging the ditch and filling earth for the rampire, £1,500: and for levelling earth to lay the rampire, £500...£2,000

  • "

Significant information:

The walls have even provided a useful vantage point and defensive position for the security forces over the course of the Troubles of the past forty years.

In modern times, the walls have served as a spectacular promenade, a line of defence, a stage for theatrical presentations, a course for joggers, a gallery for artworks and, at times, as a contested route for marchers and protesters.

The only break in the walls was made in the circuit of the walls at Richmond Street, located between the Newgate Bastion and the Water Bastion, in 1861, to make way for a road to enter the city.

In 2005 the surviving 24 cannon were restored.

‘Derry’s Walls’ are perhaps the most famous, visible and enduring physical legacy of the Plantation.

Changes within the walls:

Gates and Bastions:

Ferryquay Gate was replaced by the present day gate in 1866. It was this gate that on December 7th 1688 was closed by the thirteen apprentices to prevent Jacobite troops entering the city, leading to the siege of 1689.

Shipquay Gate is one of the four original gates into the 17th-century city, although the structure we see here today was built in 1805.

Butcher Gate was one of the four original city gates, but the structure you see today was rebuilt in 1810.

Bishop’s Gate was one of the four original entrances to the city. The current gate was erected in 1789 in commemoration of the 1689 siege.
New Gate was first opened by the Corporation in 1787. Before this an opening had been made in the wall at this point allowing access to Wapping Lane (now Fountain Street)

Castle Gate is the smallest and one of the least elaborate of the city’s gates. It was opened through the walls in 1802.
Magazine gate was built in 1865.

It was from Church Bastion that King James II was fired upon as he approached the city on April 18th 1689, when the siege began in earnest.

Between 1976 and 1980 - a series of salvage archaeological excavations were carried out in the centre of Derry. The demolition associated with the bombings during the Troubles and the redevelopment of the city centre provided archaeologists with an opportunity to investigate parts, which would not normally be accessible.

May 1976 - archaeological excavations, financed by Enterprise Ulster, began in the historic city of Derry. The first dig started at the Long Tower, an area with a long established ecclesiastical history.

August 1976 - work began on a new site at the diamond, the centre of the old walled city and an area of the most important residences in Plantation era Derry. Pottery finds from the Diamond site have confirmed the wealth and importance of the people who dwelt in this part of Derry during the 17th century. Possibly the most interesting single discovery is an old 17th century well.

In the course of rescue excavations in the Richmond Street redevelopment are in Derry, the remains of two stone-built houses came to light. The houses possessed ovens built into the side of the fireplaces and in the case of the first house the oven was almost complete. It was possible to show from the excavation that the houses could be dated to the early part of the seventeenth century and further map evidence would suggest a date of c. 1630 for initial occupation of at least one of the houses.

International significance:

The earliest period of colonisation by English adventurers in North America was largely one of unsuccessful experiments in the late sixteenth century. In 1606 the ‘London’ colony was initiated. Jamestown was established whose excavations had similar finds to that of Derry.

For some time, Ulster and North America were equal in attraction, and the outflow from Britain to them was equal in volume.

For much of the seventeenth century the colonisation of Ulster and of the eastern seaboard of North America shared many characteristics. After all, Virginia in America and Virginia in Co. Cavan were founded at the same time and in the same spirit.

As many as 35 percent of all merchants putting capital into Irish plantations between 1586 and 1620 also had investments in overseas companies, most notably the Virginia Company.

1622 - between 25,000 and 35,000 Scots and English had settled in Ulster. In that year there were only a few thousand settlers in British North America, but by 1650 the number had risen to between 40,000 and 50,000.

Between 1586 and 1700 - Ireland as a whole took at least 150,000 British immigrants and possibly as many as 250,000.

Many of the artefacts found during the excavation in Virginia were similar to the ones found during the excavations in Derry in the 1970’s.

Other walled towns in Ireland and Europe:

Bandon, Cork - Richard Boyle was appointed Privy Councillor for Ireland in 1613.  That same year he bought the lease for the town.  At that time Bandon was under constant attack from the conquered natives.  As a result, in 1620 Richard Boyle began the construction of a wall around its perimeter. The wall took approximately five years to build and enclosed an area of 27 acres.

Cartagena, Colombia - Around the time of its founding in 1533

Taroudant, Morocco - Located in the middle of a valley, it is located south of the snow-peaked High Atlas Mountains and about 50 miles away from Agadir.  This town is sometimes called “Little Marrakesh,” according to Lonely Planet, and it is surrounded by red-mud walls that were built in the 16th and 17th century under the Saadi Dynasty.

Veliky Novgorod, Russia - The red brick walls fortifying of the Kremlin of Novgorod still standing today were built in the 15th century.
Carcassonne, France - Living within the 3km-long walls of “La Cité” – the walled medieval citadel within the city of Carcassonne.
San Gimignano, Italy - a medieval walled city perched on a hill that’s famous for 15 tall towers that loom over the town and make the city resemble a medieval Manhattan.


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