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Time capsule buried in 1840 found underneath building later destroyed by IRA bomb

By Eamonn MacDermott

Published 10/04/2015

Ciaran McCartie and Eugene Hegarty with the 175-year-old time capsule uncovered during renovation work
Ciaran McCartie and Eugene Hegarty with the 175-year-old time capsule uncovered during renovation work
The capsule is removed from the foundation stone of the former Gwyn’s Institute
Emma Barron and Colin Kennedy

It last saw light in 1840 and has lain hidden beneath Londonderry since.

A time capsule, dating back 175 years, has been found in the foundation stone of a building.

The lead cylinder was discovered during work to redevelop Brooke Park in Derry and, while it has not yet been opened, it is thought to contain trinkets representing that era.

The capsule was found in the foundations of a building known as Gwyn's Institute which was originally a boys' orphanage but in later years housed a library and an art gallery before being destroyed in an IRA bomb attack in the early 1970s.

The cylinder was pulled from the old foundations and is thought to contain coins and papers from the time.

This is the second time a time capsule has been found in Derry in recent years.

In 2010, during renovation work to the Guildhall, one was found dating back to 1887 and those items are now on display in the landmark building.

Commenting on the most recent find, Colin Kennedy, the parks development manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said they were very excited by the discovery.

"We knew from the papers at the time that there was a time capsule placed in the foundation stone of the former Gwyn's Institute and lo and behold we found it carved into the stone itself.

"The time capsule is yet to be opened and our colleagues in the heritage and museum service will look into that because it needs to be opened in a very sensitive manner so we don't destroy it or its contents inside."

Mr Kennedy said that a rattling sound, which comes from the capsule when it is gently shaken, suggests it might contain coins.

"We know broadly speaking what it would contain but not the detail, traditionally this was a thing done in Victorian times where we would have coins of the day and some papers of the day," he added.

"If you look at the one that was found in the Guildhall, there's coins of the realm there as well, so we can assume there may well be money inside. We need to determine the timescale of when we open this but, obviously, everyone is very excited.

"As an artefact belonging to the city, it will be opened over the coming days with the appropriate care and attention before the contents are unveiled to the public."

Brooke Park is currently undergoing a massive £5.6m regeneration and many of the former Victorian features are expected to be restored, including Gwyn's Pavillion and the ornate central Oval Pond which once existed there.


A directory for the city of Londonderry - published on the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland website - offers a few clues to what life was like around 1840. A New Directory of the City of Londonderry, 1839 paints a vivid portrait of the town just before the Great Famine. William Lamb was Prime Minister and Hugh Fortescue was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It describes Londonderry as a bustling centre of international commerce where you could buy a range of local snuffs and West Indian cigars.

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