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Treasure trove dates back thousands of years

By Staff Reporter

The Art & Artefacts of Our Ancestors exhibition at Garvagh Museum traces the history of the Bann Valley from 3000BC to the first half of the 20th century. All exhibits were preserved and donated by the community, and were used by all creeds and classes. They provide a unique treasure trove of history, with many important exhibits that bring history to life and help us to better understand our shared culture and heritage.

Highlights include:

A five-gallon port wine bottle found in an outhouse of Ballintemple House, home of Major Arthur Rowley Heyland, Ballintemple, Garvagh 1788-1815, who served all through the Peninsular War. He became a friend of the Duke of Wellington. He was killed at the battle of Waterloo. The bottle was brought back from Portugal by Major Heyland. Sadly, it is empty.

A large mace-head from the south Derry area, 3000BC. Made from a stone rounded by water and perforated from both sides. a common practice in the Stone Age. A fine example of an early artefact from prehistoric Ireland.

Bronze Age axe, 1500BC

Ceremonial uniform, worn by Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1910

Working model of a scutch mill and a saw mill. Built by James McIlfatrick of Drumsara, Kilrea, a poet/farmer and the author of a number of books on local history, and donated to the museum after his death in 2001, at the age of 90. The model was restored in 2017 and now forms a central part of the new exhibition.

Garvagh Museum is unique in Northern Ireland in that it is a rural folk museum in the Bann Valley. It had its origins when artefacts collected from the town and district were housed in a small building adjoining Garvagh Secondary School. When the collection outgrew the space, a new building was erected by Enterprise Ulster, with the generous support of local businesses and others.

The location chosen for the museum was the walled garden of Garvagh House, the former seat of the Canning family, who arrived in the early part of the 17th century, during the Plantation of Ulster, as agents of the Ironmongers' Company. George Canning was elevated to the peerage in 1818 and took the title Baron Garvagh.

The walled garden has historic connections with Denis Hempson the great blind harper who had the distinction of having lived in three centuries. He was born in 1695 and died in 1807. George Canning, Dr Bacon and Squire Gage purchased Hempson's first harp while he was resident in Garvagh. At the entrance to the museum, there is a memorial to Hempson in the form of a granite pillar.

This permanent collection is a valuable resource, used by children and senior citizens alike.

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