‘A new building on the site of the former Institute is fitting as it will provide amenity in future’

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A specially crafted cornerstone made from the original Quoins of the former Gwyn’s Institute, has been placed in the north east corner of the new Gwyn’s Pavilion, one of the key features of the regeneration of Brooke Park.

Marking a new chapter in the park’s history, the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Elisha McCallion, officially placed the stone, crafted from sandstone blocks dug from the original foundations of the historic building, which was constructed in 1839.

The stone has been laid in the North East corner of the building in keeping with stone masonry tradition, marked with the simple inscription of the year of its placement.

A special time capsule will also be buried following on from the discovery of the original 175-year-old time capsule, which was unearthed in April during a planned excavation of the site.

Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey MLA said: “The laying of the foundation stone and burying of the time capsule at the new Gwyn’s Pavilion is a symbolic link between the past and the future.

“The £700,000 investment by my Department in this exciting project will help restore the foundation stone and will further enhance the rich history of Brooke Park.

“I welcome the latest phase in the restoration of the park and look forward to seeing the completed Pavilion.”

Mayor McCallion said it was exciting to see the park project move another step closer to completion.

“I am delighted to be here today for what is another important historical moment for Brooke Park.

“A new building on the site of the former Gwyn’s Institution is fitting as it will provide amenity in the future, as one of the many new facilities which will soon be on offer to the public.

“The discovery of the time capsule a few months ago really caught the public’s imagination and the placing of the new capsule in the north east corner of the building appropriately heralds the beginning of a new chapter in the park’s story.”

The new Gwyn’s Pavilion is part of a £5.6m regeneration of the Victorian park, and the building will be constructed on the original site of the old Gwyn’s Institute, a former boys’ home founded with money bequeathed to the city by Donegal businessman John Gwyn.

The regeneration project is part-funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund through their Parks for People Programme, and the Department for Social Development.

Paul Mullan, Head of HLF Northern Ireland added: “Money raised by National Lottery players is making a huge difference to projects and people across Northern Ireland. Here in Brooke Park a much loved and valued community asset is being transformed for everyone to use and enjoy, and it is fantastic to see this project move one step closer to completion.”

The Gwyn’s Institute building has had a fascinating series of functions over the centuries, from its days as a children’s institute, 1840 - 1901, before it served as a museum, a library and a pathological laboratory. Later it became a welfare food centre and even a civil defence assembly point during the war, before it was eventually firebombed during the Troubles and demolished in 1986.

Work at the site is expected to be completed next year, and will include the restoration of some of the park’s most memorable features, such as the oval pond, the Gate Lodge and the ‘Black Man’ statue.