Monday, 7 October 2013

Earl Bishop - Frederick Augustus Hervey


Earl Bishop Hervey
Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730 – 1803), known as the ‘The Earl Bishop’, was Bishop of Cloyne (1767 – 1768) and Bishop of Derry (1768 – 1803). In 1779 he became the 4th Earl of Bristol and owner of the family’s ancestral home at Ickworth in Suffolk. As Bishop of Derry he was active, ecumenical and philanthropic; he built splendid residences at Downhill and Ballyscullion, which he adorned with works of art from all over Europe and particularly from Italy. He was so captivated with the Temple of Vesta, at Tivoli near Rome, that he constructed a copy of the temple at the edge of the cliffs at Downhill and dedicated it to his cousin Frideswide Mussenden.

While not neglecting his luxurious tastes he spent large sums of money around Downhill making roads and assisting agriculture. In Derry he constructed a casino (summer house), erected a spire on St Columb’s Cathedral and was the driving force behind the construction of the first bridge over the Foyle.

The Bishop took a lively interest in the local scene. He was fascinated by vulcanology and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his work on interpreting the Giant’s Causeway. He had an intense interest in Irish music and became the patron of Denis O’Hampsey, a blind harper from Magilligan. Denis was a regular visitor to Downhill House to entertain guests and the Bishop visited the harper’s humble cottage in Magilligan.

Although a Bishop in the Church of Ireland he favoured religious equality. He financially supported the construction of not only his own churches but those of his Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian neighbours. He allowed Catholic priests to say Mass in the Mussenden Temple, a provocative decision during the time of the Penal Laws. He prepared the way for a series of Catholic Relief Acts to dismantle the Penal Laws.

The Earl Bishop threw himself ardently into Irish politics. He occupied a prominent position in the Irish Volunteer Movement and attended a Volunteer National Convention in Dublin in 1783, when he proposed legislative independence for the Irish Parliament and stood, unsuccessfully, for election as the President of the Volunteers; his violent language at the Convention led the government to contemplate his arrest. Subsequently he took less interest in politics and spent his later years mainly in Germany, France and Italy. He died at Albano in Italy and his remains were interred at Ickworth Estate, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where an obelisk was erected to his memory by the inhabitants of Derry.


Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and 4th Earl of Bristol (1730 – 1803), has been credited with bringing the Giant’s Causeway to the attention of an extensive audience. During a trip to Italy, two years prior to his appointment as Bishop of Derry, he ascended Vesuvius, which was quite active at the time.
Frederick was almost killed by an ejected, volcanic rock that struck him in the arm. Vesuvius convinced Frederick that he should pursue his investigations into vulcanology. His wife remarked that his personality resembled a volcano in that he needed the occasional eruption to calm himself down.

In Frederick’s time the Causeway was relatively unknown and unfrequented. In 1773 he and Antonio de Bittio, an Italian draughtsman, explored the area around the Causeway and made a number of sketches. At the time there was much argument as to the origins of the Causeway: some stated that it had been constructed by a giant, Finn MacCool; but others supported the view of Archbishop Ussher (Archbishop of Armagh (1625 – 1656)) that it dated back to 4,004 BC, the date of creation. The Earl Bishop, as a result of his volcanic investigations in Italy, formed the view that it had been caused by volcanic action. He distributed Bittio’s sketches to his scientific contacts in Britain and Europe to gain support for his theory. Frederick was to be made a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his scientific work. The Earl Bishop was to confirm the existence of similar volcanic rocks on a visit to the Western Isles of Scotland giving some credence to the folktale that Finn MacCool had built the Causeway from Ireland to Scotland.

The volcanic origin of this entire section of the north coast so pleased Frederick that, when he acquired a portion of church land on a dramatic outcrop just west of Coleraine, he decided to build a house on it, Downhill House


When Frederick Hervey arrived in his diocese in 1768, it was a wild and isolated place. The City of Derry had a population of some 9,000; Coleraine and Limavady were rudimentary towns; Portstewart, Portrush, Bushmills and Articlave were hamlets and Castlerock did not exist; and the main road from Coleraine to Derry was a muddy lane. County Londonderry was regarded as one of the last outposts of the Empire before America.

It was Frederick’s interest in vulcanology, which attracted him to Downhill. By good fortune the land at Downhill was Glebe or Church Lands, which had been leased to tenants. When the lease on the land expired Frederick did not renew it and held the land in trust for his own use. About 1775 he began to build his country house on this huge patch of wild moorland at Downhill.

The energetic Bishop took a keen personal interest in the development of the estate during the 1770s and 1780s. A landscaped park, covering some 400 acres, provided a setting for his new house. Extensive lawns were made around the house; 300,000 trees were planted; streams were dammed to create lakes and cascades; and the park was enhanced by a series of classical buildings.

Downhill House

Downhill House or Castle is now a ruined shell, having rapidly deteriorated since its abandonment after World War II. Both its surviving architecture and its setting give more than a hint of the romantic splendour, which the Bishop set out to achieve. The uninterrupted views over the land and the sea greatly appealed to the Bishop. Work commenced on the House in 1775 and was not completed until 1791. The finished design was largely the work of the Bishop’s architect, Michael Shanahan from Cork. Other artisans included James McBlain from Coleraine, who faced the whole structure with sandstone from quarries at Ballycastle and Dungiven. Initially the House took the form of a compact villa. As the Bishop’s collection of art grew so did the need for space to display it and a new gallery was added to the House.

The Bishop’s visitors would either have driven into the courtyard and made use of an interior entrance to the House or would have ascended the steps on the south front, which led directly into the Lounging Room. The principal room was the two-storey Gallery on the west side; it was also on the west side that the Bishop had his private apartments. A series of rooms along the east side was known as the Curates’ Corridor and was probably for the use of children and visiting clergy. A fine semi-circular staircase in the Hall provided access to the upper rooms; a coffered dome covered the Hall.

Downhill House was noted for the richness of its decoration and the abundance of its works of art. Many of the rooms had elaborate ceilings; the walls were covered with fine plasterwork; and exquisite marble fireplaces adorned the living rooms. The plasterwork, the ceilings and the well-stocked library were all destroyed in a fire in 1851.

The Bruce family inherited Downhill House on the death of the Earl Bishop in 1803; they resided at Downhill until the 1920s. During World War II it was used by the RAF. The property was sold, its contents auctioned and the roof removed in 1949. The National Trust acquired the House in 1980, by which time it had become an unstable and badly vandalised ruin. Work was subsequently undertaken to secure a significant portion of the remaining fabric and make it safe for the public.

Lions’ Gate

Michael Shanahan, the Bishop’s architect, supervised the construction of the Lions’ Gate around 1780 as the principal entrance to the demesne. James McBlain, who had faced the whole structure of Downhill House, carved the stonework. The gateway was originally flanked by two small lodges. The two lions are in fact ounces (leopard-like animals), which formed part of the Bishop’s coat of arms.

Bishop’s Gate

Michael Shanahan was also in charge of the construction of this Gate and James McBlain carved the stonework. The Bishop named the Gate, the Coleraine Battalion Arch, in honour of the Volunteer Movement, whose liberal, reforming aims he strongly supported. The attractively laid out garden and informal plantings around the Gate contain many interesting shrubs and specimen trees. They are the fruits of the work of the warden, the late Jan Eccles, who restored the bog garden created by Lady Bruce in 1910. A tunnel links the garden with the southern part of the park, which was purchased in 1948 by the Forestry Service and subsequently planted with mainly softwoods.

Walled Garden

The location of the Garden was chosen to give some shelter from the salt-laden winds. The Bishop’s architect, Michael Shanahan, was adamant that a walled garden would be necessary if the enterprise was to have any hope of success. The construction of the garden began in 1778, with the enclosed area being enlarged in 1783. The rectangular garden was surrounded by basalt walls, the internal faces of which incorporated brick coursings to support lattice-work for fruit trees and climbing plants.

The Garden was divided into two by a wall with greenhouses along its southern side. A number of small arches through the walls provided pedestrian access. A dovecote was built in 1786 at the end of the main pathway through the Garden.

Flowers, fruit, vegetables and herbs would have been grown and the greenhouses would have provide more unusual fruit and vegetables such as peaches, grapes and cucumbers as well as flowers for the house in winter.

In the 1870s and the early 20th century the garden was altered and a series of walls was built to provide more shelter and support additional greenhouses. The wall on the west side was demolished as part of a road-widening scheme in the 1980s.


The Wall Garden was already in existence when David McBlain, the son of James McBlain, built this structure in 1786; the dovecote was clearly intended to close the vista at the end of the main path across the Garden. An ice-house was constructed beneath the Dovecote; the original intention was to construct it underneath the Mausoleum. The pond in the adjacent field may have been dug at the same time to provide a convenient source of ice as well as a drinking and bathing place for the doves.

Keeping doves was common practice on estates from the medieval period to the 18th century as they provided a valuable source of fresh meat and eggs. Their droppings were also highly prized as garden manure. The dovecote accommodated about 100 pairs of birds in eight rows of nest boxes with projecting brick perches arranged in a chequerboard pattern around the walls. The birds came and went through a louvred opening on the sheltered south side. Each pair produced two chicks about eight times a year. The young were generally culled at four weeks old, when they were still covered in down and their flesh was tender and succulent.

The ice-house is lined with brick and takes the form of an upright cone with a tapering top. At the centre of the base there is a drain and sump to release melted water via a trap designed to exclude vermin. In frosty weather the chamber would be filled with ice from the pond, the ice being broken into pieces before being rammed down and consolidated with hot water and saltpetre into layers not more than 12 inches thick. Sawdust, straw or chaff would have been spread between the layers of ice. When the level of ice reached the entrance door its saucer-shaped top would be covered with a large mat of straw or reeds. The area above was then used to store meat, game, fish and poultry. The ice was also used in summer for making cold drinks and frozen puddings. Entry to the ice-house would have been via a leather-lined door equipped with a strong lock to deter thieves.

Filling the ice-house normally took one or two days and was undertaken by all estate workers, usually supervised by the gardener. The Bishop expended considerable sums on the whiskey required by the work force to keep out the cold!

Mussenden Temple

The Temple was built between 1783 and 1785 and was named in honour of the Bishop’s cousin, Mrs Frideswide Mussenden, who died at the age of 22, in 1785, before the Temple was finished. Its spectacular position on the cliff edge is an illustration of the 18th century desire to contrast a sublime and romantic situation with a logical and civilised building.

The architect was Michael Shanahan, who based his design on the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. The building was constructed of local basalt and faced with sandstone, which came by boat from Ballycastle. James McBlain carved the basic structure, while his son David was responsible for the decorative work. The Bishop’s coat of arms is over the door and the frieze is decorated with a quotation (in letters originally covered in gold) from the Roman poet Lucretius, translated by Dryden as:
‘Tis pleasant safely to behold from shore the rolling ship and hear the tempest roar’.

The building was intended to be used as a library and the walls were once lined with bookcases. The tolerance and generosity, for which the Bishop was widely known, were demonstrated by the stipulation in his will that the Temple should be used by local Roman Catholics to celebrate Mass.

The Bishop took a special delight in circular buildings and used this form extensively at Downhill, where the domes of the original house and much of its ornamentation, together with the Dovecote and the Belvedere, all bear testimony to this partiality.

On a clear day a magnificent panorama unfolds from the Temple: westwards along the golden strands of Downhill and Benone to the mouth of Lough Foyle and the Donegal Hills; north-eastwards to Islay and Jura; and eastwards across the mouth of the River Bann to Portstewart Strand, Portrush, the Skerries and the Causeway Coast.

The Mausoleum

The Mausoleum, dedicated to the Bishop’s eldest brother George, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was erected between 1779 and 1783. 

It was designed by Michael Shanahan and is closely modelled on a Roman mausoleum at St Remy in France. It was originally topped by a cupola and urn supported by eight Corinthian columns. A marble statue of the Lord Lieutenant stood underneath the cupola. Unfortunately the columns, cupola and statue were blown down in the Night of the Big Wind of 1839. The headless statue is now set within the informal gardens beside the Bishop’s Gate.

Black Glen
The Black Glen lies to the west of the demesne. A sizeable pond was created in the Glen in the 1840s by excavation and the damming of a small stream. It was stocked with fish and was intended as an ornamental feature and a source of food. It is now home to mallard ducks and moorhens.


The Belvedere is an unusual circular battlement structure built of roughly squared basalt with arches piercing the wall. Because of its fine views along the coast it is likely that this was intended as a summer house, with the rectangular building, which formerly existed on the west side, serving as a tea house. The Belvedere was subsequently used for winnowing – separating grain from chaff.

Dunboe Churchyard

The Old Churchyard at Dunboe is an ancient Christian site. St Patrick is reputed to have founded the first church here in the 5th century. A medieval church, built on the same site in the 13th century, was in a state of disrepair when the Clothworkers arrived in 1613; they provided £112:14:0 for its renovation. It continued in use until 1689, when it was destroyed by the Earl of Antrim’s army retreating from the Siege of Derry. St Paul’s Church in the village of Articlave replaced it in 1691.

Hezlett House

Hezlett House was erected in 1691 as the residence of the rector of St Paul’s, Articlave. The Hezlett family took over the house in the middle of the 18th century, when a new rectory, Dunboe House, was built for St Paul’s. The architect was Michael Shanahan, who designed Downhill Castle. Hezlett House is now owned by the National Trust.

In 1203 Dunboe Church was used as a depository for the safe-keeping of a precious book. The book, encased in a decorative metal shrine, had been rescued from the library of the nearby Abbey at Duncrun, when it was attacked and destroyed by the Vikings. A story is told that no one was permitted to open the shrine and read the book therein unless it was a man who had never been born, and who rode a horse that had never been foaled. The Earl Bishop reckoned that he was qualified to open the shrine as he had been born by Caesarean operation and his horse had to be physically extracted from its mother. The contents of the book, on the Druids, upset the Earl Bishop so much that it is said that thereafter he never remained in the same place for any length of time and he travelled relentlessly throughout Europe

The old churchyard has a number of interesting tombs. A tomb has been erected in memory of James McBlain, who was involved in the construction of Downhill Castle and the Dovecote. Situated in a corner of the graveyard is the huge family burial place of Sir Henry Hervey Bruce, who inherited Downhill Castle from the Earl Bishop.

Bannbrook House

Bannbrook House, on the Cranagh Road, is an early plantation house pre-dating Hezlett House. By 1761 this private residence had become Church property and was used by Thomas Barnard, Rector/Archdeacon of Dunboe and Maghera. Thomas was the son of Dr William Barnard, the Bishop of Derry, who died in 1768. After Bishop Barnard’s death he was succeeded by the Earl Bishop and the property eventually passed into the Hervey private estate. The Earl Bishop had an extension made to it in 1792, in similar style to the Mussenden Temple. It came into the possession of Rev Henry Hervey Bruce, who inherited the Downhill estate on the death of the Earl Bishop.

Legend has it that Frederick built the spectacular Bishop’s Roadwhich travels from Downhill across the top of Benevanagh to Limavady. It is said that he built it so that he could enjoy the dramatic views on his journeys to and from his Episcopal Palace in Derry. The truth is more prosaic; the Road was a mountain access track for turf-cutting and sheep-tending in the Bishop’s time and did not continue to Limavady. He did contribute, however, to its improvement and made full use of it to exercise his horse, first thing in the morning. 

The construction offered employment to a large workforce and was a forerunner of the Famine Relief Schemes, which were introduced in the 1840s. Frederick brought work to an area that had virtually no sources of employment, with a constant programme of not only road construction but also wall, bridge, rectory and church building, which soaked up much of his church income. But there was a method in his generosity. He knew that happy, actively-engaged tenants were less likely to create trouble than poverty-stricken, disengaged peasants. ‘If we employ the idle’ he wrote, ‘they will make no riots and if we can fill their bellies, they will no more open their mouths.’

One of the best vantage points to appreciate the splendour of the Bishop’s Road is at the Gortmore Viewpoint, which provides stunning views over the flat lands of Magilligan, which were Glebe or Church lands, leased to the Gage Family by successive Bishops of Derry from the 1630s. The Ordinance Survey of Ireland selected these flat lands as the triangulation baseline for the mapping of Ireland in 1827.

This is a land steeped in mythology: Manannan Mac Lir, the Irish Neptune, lived in the depths of Lough Foyle and navigated its waters in a metal boat; Mangan of the Golden Slipper walked across the waters from Magilligan Point to Greencastle without getting his feet wet; the Banshee of the Roe roamed the heights of Benevenagh; and the fairies resided on the notorious Tunn Banks. The remnants of three ancient churches dating to the 5th and 6th centuries are located at the foot of the cliffs: Screen; Tamlaghtard Old Church; and Duncrun Abbey. The Vikings stormed the Abbey in 1203, slaughtered the monks and devastated the priceless library. A Martello Tower, constructed at Magilligan Point in 1812, guards the entrance to Lough Foyle.

There are many amusing stories relating to the Bishop and the strand at Downhill. It is said that the Bishop organised horse races for his curates along it; the winner being appointed to a vacant parish. He also organised an annual race between his Church of Ireland and Presbyterian ministers along the strand. The Presbyterians were described as ‘lean, mean and hungry’ compared with his own ministers, who led a more comfortable existence and were described as ‘well fed and portly’. The Presbyterians were victorious in the races much to the amusement of Frederick, who said that he would need to establish a riding school for them.


The old Church of Tamlaghtard, was one of three foundations in the Roe Valley attributed to St Colmcille. No trace can be found of the original church established by the Saint in the 6th century but the ruins of a medieval church stand on its foundations.

The medieval church was used as a place of worship for the Protestant community until 1773 when a new church, St Cadan’s, was erected in a more central part of the parish. St Cadan’s is a simple three-bay church with a tower. The Church was built with assistance from the Earl Bishop and it bears the hallmarks of his architect, Michael Shanahan. St Cadan’s formed part of Frederick’s building programme and bears striking architectural similarities to many churches all over his diocese. His building programme was to earn him the title, ’the edifying Bishop’.

The Earl Bishop bestowed the old church on the Roman Catholic community, a provocative decision during the time of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws. The Roman Catholic community made use of it until 1826, when the present Church of St Aidan was built.

Tradition connects St Aidan with the original church at Tamlaghtard. In 635 Aidan, an Irishman educated in Iona, went to Lindisfarne (Holy Island), Northumbria at the request of King Oswald to establish a Christian community in the Celtic tradition. Aidan died in 651 and was buried on Holy Island. King Oswiu, Oswald’s successor, called a meeting of the Synod of Whitby in 664 to decide whether to follow Celtic or Roman usages in such matters as the calculation of the date of Easter and the hairstyle of monks.


The Synod marked a vital turning point in the development of the church in England. It decided in favour of Rome because it believed that Rome followed the teaching of St. Peter, the holder of the keys of heaven. The decision led to the acceptance of Roman usage elsewhere in England and brought the English Church into close contact with the Continent. Colmán, the abbot of Lindsfarne, and his monks refused to change their Celtic practices and withdrew to Iona. Colmán was allowed to take with him the relics of Aidan, who had been central in establishing Celtic Christianity in Northumbria. Colmán returned to Ireland in 664 and deposited the relics of St Aidan at Tamlaghtard.


The grave of Denis O’Hampsey stands alongside St Aidan’s grave. Denis (1695 – 1807) was one of Ireland’s most distinguished harpers. He had the distinction of living in three different centuries and marrying at the age of eighty six. Denis lived in a cottage at Ballymaclary; the Earl Bishop gave him three guineas and land free of rent to build his cottage. A close relationship developed between the Bard and the Bishop; the Bishop was a frequent visitor to his humble cottage and Denis was invited to Downhill Castle to entertain the Bishop and his guests.


The cemetery has also an interesting grave of the Allisons, an early Planter family. In 1769 Joseph Allison became disillusioned with life in Magilligan after a visit from his landlord’s agent. After having paid him the rent, Allison served him supper with a silver spoon. As the agent departed he informed him if he could eat with silver spoons then he could afford an increased rent.  Members of the Allison family set off for Philadelphia but were shipwrecked off Nova Scotia. They made it to land, where the family prospered. A grandson founded the first university in Canada, Mount Allison University. Descendants of the Allisons still retain the silver spoons in Canada.

Near the present church of St Aidan’s is a holy well, which had its origins in pagan times. The change from paganism to Christianity was accomplished smoothly over a period of time with the minimum disruption to the old way of life. Churches were built alongside sacred pagan places and healing wells were rededicated to Christian saints.

Site of Denis O’Hampsey’s Cottage

Denis O’Hampsey, one of Ireland’s most distinguished harpers, was born at Craigmore near Garvagh in 1695, lived in three different centuries and died in 1807 at the age of 112 years. Shortly after his birth his father moved to Tyrcrevan in Magilligan to inherit the family lands. It was here that Denis was raised. When only three he contacted smallpox and lost his sight. At an early age he decided to learn the harp and at the age of 18 he commenced his professional career playing at the homes of local landlords. He was later to undertake extensive tours through Ireland and Scotland each lasting nine or ten years.

In 1792 Denis participated at the Belfast Harp Festival, where he attracted the attention of Edward Bunting, who had been appointed to take down the airs played at the Festival. Bunting paid a visit to the cottage of Denis, immediately after the Festival, to collect additional ancient airs. It was Frederick Hervey, the Earl Bishop, who gave Denis three guineas and land free of rent at Ballymaclary to build his cottage. The Bishop and his family came to the house-warming and his children danced to the harp. Denis was also a regular visitor to Downhill Castle, where he entertained the Bishop’s guests. Frederick Hervey was not the only member of the local gentry to visit the cottage and many stopped their carriages outside his home to listen to his playing. Denis died in his cottage in 1807 with his harp by his side. The harp is now preserved in the Guinness Museum in Dublin, where it is proudly displayed in keeping with its place in the history of Irish music. The harp symbol on all Guinness advertising is a representation of the O’Hampsey harp.

During Bunting’s visit to Magilligan Denis told him that he had married a Donegal woman from Greencastle, when he was 86 years of age; he remarked to Bunting that

‘it must have been the devil that buckled us together – she is lame and I am blind’.

 A gravestone at St Aidan’s Church indicates that there was a daughter from the marriage.

Tamlaghtfinlagan Church is regarded as the best of all the churches for which Frederick Augustus Hervey was responsible. It was built in 1791-1795 at the joint expense of the Earl Bishop and a landlord, John Beresford. The Fishmongers’ Company also contributed to the building. The architect appears to have been Michael Shanahan but David McBlain played a part in the design of the tower and spire. When the church was being built the Bishop counselled Beresford against making it too large. A small congregation in a large building would be
‘as uncomfortable as ridiculous. The building should decorate the country if it cannot receive it, and at least be a monument and an example to posterity how well the Squire and the Bishop could draw together’.

The interior contains a number of monuments – the most renowned being that of Jane Hamilton, wife of the Sir Randel Beresford, who had leased an estate from the Fishmongers’ Company. There are also four monuments to members of the Sampson family, two of whom were agents of the Fishmongers. Frederick is also remembered; the roundels on the window nearest the Chancel are those of the Earl Bishop.

The churchyard contains the grave of Blind Jimmy McCurry, a fiddler, who played the Londonderry Air in Main Street, Limavady one market day in 1851, when Jane Ross annotated the melody for the first time. Nearby is the grave of Tom Nicholl, a ploughman who discovered the Broighter Gold Hoard in 1896.The Hoard consists of an exquisite gold boat with filigree oars, a decorative gold collar, a gold tureen and several gold necklaces and bracelets.

Sadly Frederick was never to see the completion of his church at Ballykelly; he had left Ireland for good in 1791 before the building was finished. It was the Rev Harry Bruce, who was Frederick’s cousin once removed, who benefitted from the completion of the church. Harry had been a mediocre student at Trinity College and had little prospect of advancement. He was in love with a Derry girl, Letita Barnard, whose parents were close friends of Frederick’s. Since Harry had no career prospects, the Barnards refused to let the young lovers marry. Frederick intervened, making Harry rector of Tamlaghtfinlagan and thus giving him a regular income.

When Frederick went abroad in 1791, Harry acted as his agent and ran his estates for twelve years. In the meantime the Bishop had fallen out with his immediate family and he left all his Irish possessions to Harry, when he died in 1803. Harry was now a person of substance and arrived in style at Tamlaghtfinlagan in a coach, drawn by four horses, to conduct services

Tamlaghtfinlagan old church lies over a mile to the south-east and stands on the site of a monastery founded by St Colmcille in the 6th century. This medieval ruin, which may date to the 13th century, was the predecessor of the Garrison Church constructed on a virgin site at Walworth by the Fishmongers in the early 17th century. This church was located near a castle erected by the Fishmongers, which was surrounded by a bawn and four flankers, three of which still exist.

The Fishmongers embarked on a substantial programme of building, modernisation and philanthropy in the early 19th century. During this period several fine buildings were constructed at Ballykelly such as the Model Farm, Ballykelly Presbyterian Church and Manse, Agent’s House, Surgeon’s House, Agriculturist’s House and a row of Terrace Houses.

Two miles to the North at the Roe Park Resort, Limavady is the site of the Convention of Drumceatt (AD 590), where St Colmcille intervened successfully on behalf of the bards of Ireland, who were threatened with eviction. Limavady is also closely associated with the melody to Danny Boy, which was composed by a local harper, Rory Dall O’Cahan


Derry had a special appeal for Frederick Augustus Hervey, the Earl Bishop. The city was the one place where he could do no wrong. When he returned to the city in 1790 after a long absence on the continent, he was met by an all-out civic celebration. In his speech to the people of Derry on that occasion, Frederick proclaimed that for a Bishop
‘The softest down in his pillow is the love of his fellow citizens and their applause the brightest jewel in his mitre.’

The Earl Bishop brought enlightenment and ecumenism to Derry and religious tolerance permeated the life of the city during the final decades of the 18th century. He also made many practical contributions to the city: he was responsible for the construction of the first bridge at Derry; he contributed to the building of the Long Tower Chapel; he constructed a summer house or casino; and he refurbished the Bishop’s Palace

Foyle Bridge

Despite the fact that a settlement had existed at Derry since the sixth century, the first bridge to be built across the River Foyle was opened only in 1791.

Prior to this the only way of traversing the river was by ferry. One visitor to the city in 1759 noted that there were three large ferry boats in operation, one carrying 120 passengers and the other two around 80 passengers each.

Bishop Hervey was the first person to pursue the construction of a bridge. The Bishop was involved in continuous correspondence and discussion on the subject. Dissatisfied with his architect’s design for the bridge he wrote to a friend in France to enquire if anyone could provide a plan and elevation of the bridge at Schaffhausen in Switzerland, which he thought might serve as a model for Derry. He was also in contact with a Sardinian architect, Davis Duckart, regarding plans he had drawn up for a stone bridge. Work finally commenced in 1789 when a Boston firm, Cox and Thompson, began the construction of a wooden bridge. The bridge was officially opened in 1791 at a cost of £16,294:6:0; the Bishop donated £1,000 to the Bridge Fund. There was an opening device in the bridge to allow river traffic to proceed upstream. This was necessitated because the citizens of Strabane had opposed the building of the bridge on the grounds that it would interfere with their trade. A toll-house was constructed on the bridge and complicated gas and water pipelines installed, which had to be disconnected whenever shipping wished to move upstream.

By 1863 the wooden bridge had to be replaced. A new bridge, the Carlisle Bridge, was built of iron and had two decks; the lower level was used for connecting the various railway networks, which had set up terminuses on both sides of the river. In 1933 the Carlisle Bridge was replaced by a similar two-level structure named the Craigavon Bridge.

St Columb’s Cathedral

St Columb’s Cathedral was built between 1628 and 1633 by the Honourable the Irish Society at the highest point inside the walled city.
The church was erected near the site of a medieval cathedral, the Tempull Mόr (Great Church), and was dedicated to St Colmcille, who established a Christian settlement in the city in the sixth century. In the entrance to the Cathedral a small stone, reputed to come from the Tempull Mόr, carries the inscription
‘the true God is in the Church and truly he is to be worshipped’.
Nearby is the dedication stone with its inscription:
‘if stones could speak then londons prayse should sound who built this church and cittie from the ground’.
The Cathedral was built by William Parrott at a cost of £3,800. St Columb's was the first Cathedral in the British Isles to have been built after the Reformation and is a fine example of 'Planter's Gothic'.
There was practically no change in the appearance of the building from 1633 to 1776 when the Earl Bishop added 21 feet to the tower, and erected above this a very tall and graceful stone spire, making a total height of 221 feet. About 20 years afterwards, his addition to the tower showed signs of giving way. The whole structure had to be taken down and rebuilt, the tower being completed in 1802 and the spire being added about 20 years later.
The building played an extremely important role in the Siege of Derry in 1689, when two guns were mounted on the tower of the Cathedral for the defence of the city. Many items deriving from the Siege are displayed in the Cathedral including a hollow cannon-ball in which Jacobite surrender terms were fired into the city.

Frederick was enthroned at the Cathedral in March 1768 and there are several reminders of his period of office.
His wooden pew stands near the altar and the Chapter House Museum has an impressive desk, which belonged to the Bishop.


Intriguingly the Cathedral also has a pair of the Bishop's flintlock pistols.

William Alexander was installed here as the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe (1867-1896); his wife, Cecil Frances was one of Ireland’s greatest hymn writers. She composed some 400 popular hymns including ‘There is a Green Hill Far Away’ and ’Once in Royal David’s City’.
Long Tower Church


The Long Tower Church takes its name from the medieval Round Tower, which stood nearby and which
survived until the middle of the 17th century. Father Lynch began building the church in 1784 with the support of the Earl Bishop. Prior to the construction of the church Father Lynch had said Mass under a hawthorn tree, which still stands alongside the church. Hervey donated £200 to the building fund; four Corinthian columns, said to have been brought from Naples and ear-marked for his house at Ballyscullion, were also acquired from the Earl Bishop.
These columns still provide a surround to the High Altar. The Bishop persuaded the all-Protestant corporation to make a contribution to the construction of the church. A spirit of enlightment and tolerance had developed in the city at this time, fostered by the Earl Bishop.

There is a tradition in Derry that the Long Tower Church occupies the site of the original monastery founded by St Colmcille in 546 AD.
Father Doherty, the parish priest at the beginning of the 20th century fostered the tradition. He refurbished the church and installed magnificent stained glass windows telling the story of St Colmcille’s foundation of the monastery in Derry. He had a stone with two indentations, embedded at the foot of the shrine in the church grounds; these were said to have been created by the Saint’s knees during prayer. Just below the church is St Columb’s Well, where St Colmcille is reputed to have extracted water from a rock to baptise a dying child.
The Casino
The Earl Bishop built a summer house, or casino, in the church’s deer park just outside the City Walls. The park is surrounded by a wall of cut stone from a quarry at Dungiven. This wall also contains pumice stone, which was acquired by the Bishop at Vesuvius and conveyed by him to Derry.
When the weather was favourable the family would take a short carriage drive to the Casino for picnics from the nearby Episcopal Palace within the walls. John Wesley visited the Casino in 1787 and remarked on the ‘delightful summer-house, 50 feet long, which the Bishop had erected on the point of a hill with a beautiful view’.
In the late 19th century the Casino was sold to the Catholic Church authorities, who established St Columb’s College in 1879 to prepare students for Maynooth and other ecclesiastical colleges, as well as for other pursuits. The Casino was demolished to make way for the College’s Chapel during World War II. By good fortune, a few decades earlier, a close copy of the Casino was built nearby allowing us to see what the original building looked like.
The College has now moved to another location and a new school, Lumen Christi, has taken its place. St Columb’s will be remembered, however, for the number of its distinguished students, which include Seamus Heaney, Seamus Deane, Brian Friel, John Hume and Phil Coulter.
Within the grounds of the College are the remains of a 17th century Windmill Tower, which served as a dovecote for the Casino. One of the set battles during the Siege of Derry took pace in the vicinity of the Windmill.

The Bishop’s Palace
The Palace in Bishop Street was the official residence of the Earl Bishop. The Palace had been built about 1761 by his predecessor, Dr Barnard, on the site of an Augustinian convent and was almost rebuilt by the Bishop. Much of the original fabric of the Palace still exists and the basement has a number of interesting rooms, including servants’ quarters, a wine cellar and a smoke room, which have remained unchanged since the Bishop’s time. One or two records exist regarding the refurbishment of the Palace: one relates to the cleaning of the Palace for the painters in 1787; another makes reference to the repair of window sashes, coach-house doors, brass works for window curtains and a lock for Mrs Bradley’s door. Mrs Bradley was the housekeeper not only at Bishop’s Street but also at Downhill. At the rear of the Palace a garden extended up to the City Walls.

Frederick and his family lived here until 1790. It was on the steps of the Palace that he made his last great appearance to the people of Derry, when he was greeted by a huge civic reception. It is proof of the esteem in which he was held by the populace, that he was accorded such a welcome in spite of the fact that, in over 30 years as Bishop, he had spent only 12 in his diocese.
William Alexander was the Bishop of Derry and resided here from 1867 – 1896. He was an eloquent preacher and author of numerous theological works. His wife, Cecil Frances, was one of Ireland’s greatest hymn writers. She composed some 400 popular hymns including ‘There is a Green Hill Far Away’ and ’Once in Royal David’s City’.
The Palace remained the residence of the Bishops of Derry until 1946 when the Freemasons acquired the property.
Bishop’s Gate
Derry Walls were built during the period 1613-1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile in circumference and vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet, are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city.
The four original gates to the Walled City were Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total.
In 1789 celebrations were held in Derry to commemorate the Siege of Derry. A great procession made its way to the Cathedral, led by the Earl Bishop and accompanied by the Catholic Bishop and his clergy and the Presbyterian clergy and elders. The procession proceeded to the Bishop’s Gate, where the foundation stone of a new triumphal arch was laid by the mayor.