Belfast Telegraph

Derry Masonic Hall damaged as gales knock slates off roof

By Brendan McDaid

Gale force winds have caused extensive damage to the roof of the Freemasons’ headquarters in Londonderry.

A large section of the Grade 2-listed Masonic Hall roof in the city centre came crashing down as winds reached 90mph in the city on Tuesday.

As a result the Bishop Street ‘within’ area has been shut down to traffic and pedestrians and looks likely to remain closed until tomorrow morning.

Architects and loss adjusters were yesterday assessing the damage at the landmark building opposite the city's courthouse.

The bill for repair is expected to run into thousands of pounds with construction workers yesterday trying to battle the elements to provide a temporary cover onto the exposed rafters.

The Masonic Hall dates back to the mid-18th century and was previously homes to Bishops of Derry. Famous hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander, who penned All Things Bright And Beautiful, was resident with her bishop husband from 1867 to 1896.

Karl Pedersen of Mullarkey Pedersen Architects surveyed the damage to the palatial building yesterday afternoon.

“There is quite a bit of damage to the south west corner,” he said. “Obviously with the height of the Masonic Hall — it is the tallest building in that immediate environ — it took the brunt of the south-westerly wind.

“The ferocity of the wind hitting that corner of the building lifted the slates and rafter ends snapped in two like twigs. There were slates of the hall strewn all over Bishop Street, even on the steps of the courthouse.”

Mr Pedersen said officials were working closely with Derry City Council to ensure public safety.

The Bishop Street ‘within’ area is home to numerous traders and services, with some expressing concerns that the cordons are damaging business.

City Centre manager Jim Roddy said: “It is not something that is needed at a time when every sale is so important but at the same time the traders realise that people’s safety comes first and people respect the fact the masons are on the ball and trying to get it sorted as quickly as possible.”

Factfile

The Masonic Hall site’s history dates back to the Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600s.

The Londoners who built the City’s Walls also erected a dwelling for the Protestant Bishop of Derry on the site.

The current palatial hall was built in 1753 in the time of Bishop Barnard and was extensively reconstructed by his successor, the Earl Bishop.

The building was still the official residence of the bishops of Derry and Raphoe until 1945, when it was sold to the Masonic Order.

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