Archeologists uncover Londonderry’s oldest building

The excavation site at the Apprentice Boys Hall extension off Bishop Street Within, where the oldest dated building in Derry has been discovered
The excavation site at the Apprentice Boys Hall extension off Bishop Street Within, where the oldest dated building in Derry has been discovered

The oldest building ever discovered in Londonderry city centre has been found during construction work, with intact centuries old wine bottles, clay pipes and even pottery fragments which date from the 1100s.

The shock find was revealed by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan and archeologists from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on Thursday.

The building was discovered during a routine excavation on the site of the Apprentice Boys of Derry’s Memorial Hall Museum extension.

Archeologists believe the brick and wood building perished during the O’Doherty Rebellion of 1608 – pre-dating the city walls by several years.

The building had stone foundations and a cellar above which the upper floors were constructed of timber.

When the building burnt down its wooden walls and roof collapsed into the cellar, where they have now been found – just over 400 years later.

The collection of artefacts unearthed during the dig include a strap handle for a medieval pot dated to between the 12th to 14th centuries, musket balls and a small cannon ball.

NIEA archeologist Paul Logue said the find was “absolutely fabulous”.

He said: “We were able to date the building’s foundation to 1601 or 1602, before the walled city, before the Plantation. We know by 1610 from Plantation maps it was gone.”

Minister Mark H Durkan said: “Derry is famed for its rich history and heritage. It seems the further we go on, the more we discover about our past.”