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Derry's long-forgotten cellars set to reveal their historic secrets

By Donna Deeney

Published 08/07/2016

The vaults beneath Derry’s walls
The vaults beneath Derry’s walls
The vaults beneath Derry’s walls

Long-forgotten cellars that lie below Londonderry's historic walls could soon be brought back into use.

The existence of two large vaulted cellars and a number of corridors were already known about - but it is suspected that other rooms may exist.

Now a survey which is being undertaken by Government experts will see many of the streets within Derry's Walls being excavated later this year.

The Friends of the Walls group, set up to promote the famous landmark as a major tourist attraction, has said the cellars could draw visitors in the same way as the underground streets of Edinburgh.

Niall McCaughan, chairman of the group, said: "The Friends have proposed a Derry Walls museum and the cellars under the Diamond would make a central and intriguing location.

"We have contacted the council to express our interest, if today's survey shows it is feasible to reuse the cellars for this purpose."

"The historic cellars extend from the War Memorial south under the roadway towards the Bishop Street exit from the Diamond.

"Preliminary investigations by the Friends of the Derry Walls indicated that at least two large vaulted cellar rooms with ancillary corridors exist - with the possibility that other rooms may have been blocked up at some time.

"Architectural drawings in the Tower Museum show that plans were made in either World War Two or the Cold War to reuse the cellars as a shelter and communications centre."

The results of the survey could also answer questions about just when the cellars were constructed. Mark Lusby of Friends of the Walls said: "Vaulted brick-built wine bins indicate that the cellars date from an earlier period.

"They seem to follow the southern outline of the old Corporation Hall but extending south away from the War Memorial, under the roadway.

"It would be interesting to know if any cellars exist under the War Memorial itself.

"It would also be interesting to know if the 19th century cellars were built on any of the foundations of the 17th century town hall.

"The Friends of the Walls would like to see a full survey of the remaining cellars of all the buildings within the Derry Walls.

"Even fragments of cellars preserved underground can give us clues to the evolution of the Walled City."

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