One of the most historic and culturally significant monuments in Londonderry is set to reopen in time for a special celebration of the city’s walls.
The Royal Bastion and plinth atop the historic walls, upon which once stood a column nearly 100-feet tall and a statue of the Siege hero Governor Walker until the monument was destroyed by the IRA in the 1970s, have been closed to the public for decades.
Inside the soaring pillar was a spiral staircase with 110 steps hoisting the Rev George Walker, a clergyman whose leadership helped the city’s defenders withstand the horrors of the Great Siege, to his lofty position high above the city.
But on August 27, 1973, a 100lb bomb was detonated by the Provisional IRA that brought both column and statue crashing to the ground.
Only the stout, stone plinth remained and the Royal Bastion on the central western side of the Derry Walls has been closed to the public – until now.
Restoration, conservation and repair work has now been completed, meaning the bastion and plinth can be reopened to the public in time for the Walls 400 programme of events designed to celebrate the completion of the famous walls in 1619.
The works, paid for by Stormont’s Department for Communities, involved the restoration of the plinth, creation of a new access point, internal staircase, ornate railings and interpretive panels.
Mark Lusby, volunteer co-ordinator for the Friends of the Derry Walls organisation, said: “The plinth sits on Royal Bastion, which is one of the seven bastions which are a key feature of the Derry Walls. Since the explosion in 1973 that bastion has been closed off to the public.
“For the first time in 30 years a key feature will be open to the public again. People will be able to walk around the base of it, and as part of the Siege Museum experience people will be able to get guided tours.
“The plinth itself is a memorial to the heroes of the Williamite side during the Siege of Derry. It remains a memorial, even without the pillar, but this additional investment means we have an opportunity to open that up and talk about the entire story of the Siege of Derry, including the Jacobite side of that story.”
Billy Moore, Siege Museum chairman, said: “Walker’s plinth was constructed between 1826 and 1828. Sadly and tragically it was destroyed by an IRA bomb explosion in August, 1973.
“The Apprentice Boys did own the plinth and the pillar so we have always held that hope that with enough goodwill from everyone the pillar can be rebuilt again, but we realise that is not going to happen in the near future.”
He continued: “Meanwhile, what we have here is Walker’s plinth. We, in the Siege Heroes Museum, will be hosting guided tours to the top of it so visitors and tourists can look down at the Jacobite encampments that once surrounded the city during the Great Siege. We also hope that this would be an educational facility for the many schools who come to visit us at the museum.
“Hopefully our city has moved on and it will no longer be a target for vandalism and destruction and hopefully we can cherish the rich history and heritage that we have in our city.”