Researcher calls for celebration of Waterside built heritage

History researcher, Mark Lusby, who serves as co-ordinator for the Friends of Derry’s Walls, this week said it is time for Waterside people to embrace this side of the Foyle’s rich history.

He said it is time for Waterside residents to become champions for the area’s unique but fragile natural and built heritage.

“It often is said that the Waterside has little to attract the visitor,” he said.

“It is presumed that most visitors to Londonderry go directly to the city centre without stopping in the Waterside. All of Derry’s civic and voluntary museums are located on the Cityside; only one of City’s arts venues is located in the Waterside.

“The main visitor destinations for visitors are the Walled City and the ‘Free Derry’ neighbourhoods, both on the Cityside. But leaving the monumental City Walls and the iconic Free Derry Corner aside for a moment, the Waterside really has just as much to offer as any other historic neighbourhood in Derry-Londonderry,” Mark said.

“The opening of the Peace Bridge creates potential for a new dynamic for visitors, naturally producing a circular walking route, taking them into and from the Waterside via the Craigavon Bridge and the Peace Bridge. The Peace Bridge also establishes the Ebrington/St Columb’s Park as a convenient arrival, parking and orientation point for visitors to Derry, allowing them to approach the Walled City as a pedestrian over the Peace Bridge.

“So what are the historic Waterside’s top eight built and natural heritage assets? Here’s my list but what would be on yours? Number one has to be the 1841 Ebrington Star Fort with its curtain walls, projecting bastions and gun loops. Number two on my list is the 1840 Union Workhouse on Glendermott Road, the first to be built in Ulster and a potent reminder of the Ireland’s Famine-era. Number three is St Columb’s Park with its late Georgian period house, Gaelic-era church ruin and designed picturesque garden and woodland landscape. Number four are the Waterside’s two Victorian railway termini. Northern Ireland has lost all of its Victorian-era end-of-line stations apart from the two in the Waterside.

“The Waterside has the best views of the Walled City, the river Foyle and the Inishowen Hills. The climb to Dunnfield and the aptly-named Derry View and Eskaheen View are well worth the effort so these Waterside viewpoints are number five on my heritage (and fitness) list.

“The identity of Waterside is very much influenced by its topography with the dominant characteristic being steep streets of terraced houses, clinging to hillsides, with church spires almost at the end of every street. So the steep terraced streets and church spires of the Waterside are my number six.

“Number seven are the ancient Irish woodlands and riverside walks out to Prehen House with its Georgian-era fishpond and 17th Century fortified bawn remains.

“The Waterside should be able to claim at least half of Craigavon Bridge and the Peace Bridge so the engineering heritage of the Waterside’s two iconic bridges would be number eight on my historic Waterside list.

“This list is not exhaustive. The wider parish of Glendermott and the roads to Donemana, Eglinton, New Buildings and Claudy take in even more heritage sites.

“The Waterside is already a community with an identity informed and reinforced by its landscape and topography,” Mark said. “It is also already an emerging tourist destination. The Waterside needs an interested, focused and active local history group.”

An evening talk and discussion on the history and heritage of the Waterside has been arranged for Wednesday, February 24, from 7pm to 8pm in Waterside Library, the former Union Workhouse.

It will also be an opportunity to discuss the setting up of a Waterside History Circle.

Everyone interested in the history and heritage of the Waterside is welcome.