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Date set for revamped Guildhall to open doors

A date has been fixed for the public reopening of Londonderry's Guildhall following a £10m makeover.

The internal and external restoration project has now been completed with a completely redeveloped interior and lay out.

It will now reopen on Monday, June 10 to the general public with a major new Plantation exhibition and interpretation centre on the ground floor along with a new cafe.

The Guildhall has been closed since November 2011 to facilitate a massive internal overhaul of the historic building, while the outside of the building has also undergone a complete makeover.

It was due to reopen in the spring of this year but it was confirmed recently that because of delays it will now not reopen until next month — almost halfway through the UK City of Culture year.

The council chamber has been moved to the first floor of the historic neo-Gothic building in the heart of Derry.

The Guildhall contains some of the most finely-crafted and unique stained-glass windows in the whole of the UK.

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It also contains a magnificent concert organ which is deemed one of the finest in Europe.

The Guildhall clock, modelled on Big Ben in London, is the fourth largest clock in Ireland with each of the four faces measuring 13ft 6in in diameter.

When it reopens the Guildhall will host one of the world’s most technologically advanced tourist attractions.

Specially designed hand-held iPod and scanner devices, already in use by visitors to the Empire State Building, will be operating at the Guildhall.

This will be the first time such objects have been used anywhere in Europe and they will enable visitors to zoom in on features such as the elaborate stained glass windows.

A faithful model of Derry City in the 17th Century has also been created in minute detail by experts, including those who worked on the Titanic models in Belfast, as a centrepiece of the new attraction.

The interpretation centre will look at the history and differing perspectives on the Plantation through the use of artifacts, interactive panels, touch screen technology, puzzles and fancy dress.

Mayor Kevin Campbell had a sneak preview at the new Guildhall just before his year in office comes to an end.

He said: “It is absolutely spectacular and I think local people as well as visitors are going to be very, very pleased.

“The building itself has held its character which is very important but it has been modernised with lifts and facilities and it is now a fantastic asset.”

Background

The original Guildhall of Derry was built in the Diamond within the city walls. This was destroyed by fire in Victorian times and a new location outside the walls was selected.

The Guildhall was built on its present site in 1887 by The Honourable The Irish Society at a cost of £19,000. It was opened in 1890, but within 20 years was largely destroyed in a fire and only the present day clock tower survived. The entire building was rebuilt and reopened in 1912.

During the Troubles the Guildhall was attacked numerous times, with two bombs in 1972 causing major damage.

However the Guildhall was again refurbished and reopened in 1977 at a cost of £1.7m.


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