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Specialists uncork secrets as 1817 time capsule is opened in Derry

By Donna Deeney

Published 24/04/2015

Stefanie White opens the 175-year-old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park
Stefanie White opens the 175-year-old lead time capsule buried in 1839 in Brooke Park
One of the coins found inside the time capsule
A medallion found in the time capsule
A medallion found in the time capsule

Almost 200 years after it was sealed and buried, the contents of a time capsule have been revealed.

Specialists have been working for the past fortnight on the lead capsule left in the foundation stone of the historic Gwyn's Institute in Brooke Park in Londonderry to minimise the possible damage to the contents.

Once it was opened yesterday afternoon, coins dating back to 1817 and the will left by the founder of the Gwyn's Institute, John Gwyn, once again saw the light of day.

The small lead box, which was placed in the footings of the former orphanage building in 1839, was opened by conservator Stefanie White.

Clearly caught up in the excitement of the big reveal, Ms White said: "It really is tricky to make sure there is no damage to the contents and we had to treat corrosion around the seal before breaking it with a scalpel.

"It is such an exciting thing to be able to share. It is not every day you get to see a time capsule, never mind open one."

While John Gwyn's will was too damp to read immediately, it is already known that he bequeathed a fortune of more than £40,000 to the people of Derry for the building of a facility to care for young male orphans.

Mayor of Derry and Strabane Elisha McCallion said the time capsule would be a valuable piece in the council's archive collection.

She added: "It was fascinating to finally see the capsule yield up its contents, and to see the conservation process first hand.

"The documents enclosed give an intriguing insight into life in Derry back in the early 1800s, and the institution's benefactor John Gwyn. The capsule is a valuable artefact in itself and I am sure the public can't wait to see it on display."

The capsule was uncovered during a planned excavation of the site, currently undergoing a major renovation as part of a multi-million pound regeneration project of Brooke Park.

The institute building itself was firebombed during the Troubles, and demolished in 1986. A new building - Gwyn's Pavilion - will be a feature of the newly-restored park.

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