Two great architects who built this city

The Memorial Hall in Society Street. An exhibition on the life and works of John Guy Ferguson, who was born in the Fountain on August 11, 1929, and would later design the Mem and become Governor of the Apprentice Boys, is planned for the start of Londonderry UK City of Culture.
The Memorial Hall in Society Street. An exhibition on the life and works of John Guy Ferguson, who was born in the Fountain on August 11, 1929, and would later design the Mem and become Governor of the Apprentice Boys, is planned for the start of Londonderry UK City of Culture.

LONDONDERRY historian Trevor Temple has announced plans to hold an exhibition at the start of UK City of Culture 2013 to commemorate the life of true Fountain son and Apprentice Boy John Guy Ferguson who has left an indelible mark on the city through his landmark architectural works.

Mr Temple said the exhibition is provisionally scheduled for January next year and is part of a three year ‘DiverseCity’ programme, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Last year when funding for the ‘DiverseCity’ project was announced the Holywell Trust said it would help provide a modern understanding of the relationship between the local community and the iconic City Walls.

Now the Ferguson project will quite literally be about people’s relationships with the very bricks and mortar that comprise historic Londonderry.

Perhaps an inevitable Apprentice boy having been born on August 11, 1829, Mr Ferguson went on to put his own imprint on the town designing a number of iconic buildings including the old Guildhall and the Memorial Hall. He would also rise to the Governorship of the Apprentice Boys.

Mr Temple explained the rationale behind the exhibition on the life of the famed Fountain Street native: “He was a well know architect from the city and designed some of the most important shirt factories like Welch Margetson and Tillie and Hendersons.

“He also designed the Guildhall before it was burned down in 1908 and worked on St Augustine’s Church on the walls.

“He also designed the Memorial Hall. So he was responsible for all these prominent buildings, landmark buildings in the city, and he was actually born in Fountain Street on August 11.”

Before his death in 1901 Mr Ferguson worked on dozens of buildings all over the North West.

These included Limavady Market; Raphoe Presbyterian Church; Ballybofey Market House; the Shaw and Finlay Warehouse, Orchard Street; Waterside Methodist Church; Presbyterian Church’s in Buncrana and Moville; the Lecky Road Gas Works; the Glasgow Steam Packet Offices and Stores; St Columb’s Cathedral; and the Cathedral Primary School.

The notice of his death in the Irish Builder in 1901 described him as “a prominent Freemason and Orangeman” and the following year a mural tablet to his memory was erected in the vestibule of the Apprentice Boys’ Memorial Hall.

Explains Mr Temple: “I thought that coming into City of Culture year we’ll hopefully be able to hold an exhibition of his life and work in January 2013 in the Thiepval Gallery. It’s a really positive story about someone who contributed a lot to the city.”

Intriguingly, whilst clearly taking a lead role in the literal construction of much of Protestant Londonderry as we know it today, Mr Ferguson also had an indirect influence on many buildings closely associated with the city’s Catholic community.

This is through the legacy of his protégé and assistant Edward J. Toye who went on to do a lot of work for the Catholic church and design numerous branches of the Hibernian Bank around the North West.

Mr Toye made his mark on the architecture of Catholic Londonderry almost as emphatically as Mr Ferguson did on the Protestant city.

During a long career that saw him sit on Londonderry Corporation from 1897 until 1902 Mr Toye worked on various wings of St Columb’s College in Bishop Street; the Ulster Hotel; Nazareth House; Long Tower Girls’ School; St Eugene’s Convent School; Hibernian Bank, Shipquay Street; St Eugene’s Cathedral; various National Schools all over the North West; the Strand Road Technical School; and St Patrick’s Pennyburn.

Mr Temple said the Ferguson exhibition will be a joint one and will also feature Mr Toye’s story, which will be very much in keeping with the theme of ‘DiverseCity.’

“One of his pupils was also a man called Edward Toye. He was a Catholic, who was responsible for a lot of the Catholic buildings in the town such as St Columb’s College, St Columb’s Hall and Pennyburn Chapel.

“I’m hoping to do an exhibition based on their stories. That’ll be part of the Divercity project as well,” he said.