Derry Area Plan 2011
Appendix 4: Historic Gardens, Parks and Demesnes (Page 1 of 2)
Register of Historic Gardens, Parks and Demesnes
The demesne was established in the 17th century, the present house dating from 1686 (HB 2/6/6). There are fine mature trees with glen side walks leading to the River Faughan, to which there is public access. This area was recently improved following a report by Dr. Tim Edwards of UU, which emphasised the public amenity importance of this area. Tree planting is recorded in A Register of Trees in County Londonderry 1768-1911 for the years 1773 to 1776. The house is set in lawns with shrubs and trees a short distance away. The walled garden has not been cultivated in the last 20 years, half was an orchard, separated from the rest by a beech hedge, which still exists. The house is privately owned. There is an enclosure on the site (SMR LDY 22:17).
The demesne dates from the 17th century, when the house was known as Skipton Hall. The present house was begun in 1729 (HB 1/7/8). Atkinson wrote in 1833 of “....full grown timber, richly planted glen, an excellent garden, walled in and in full bearing, and sanded walks for the accommodation of the passenger through its richly wooded lawns....”. The house is still surrounded by mature trees, with a lime and beech avenue and woodland walks. The raised portion to the north west of the house, The Bower, once had a Moss House and was a vantage point. It is now overgrown and has been quarried. The shape of the demesne has changed little. There are terraced lawns near the house and a series of ponds on descending ground, controlled by sluices.
Built as a villa circa 1780, the surrounding land was acquired to create a landscape park which slopes down to the River Foyle. The house, lodge and gates are Listed (HB 1/25/2B). Some original tree planting remains. In Notes of a Journey in the North of Ireland in the Summer of 1827 Mitchell wrote that “Upon the grounds, evidently neither expense nor skill has been spared in furnishing and maturing one of the most luxuriant collections of shrubs I ever beheld”. There is also more recent planting on the site in the arboretum, begun in the 1920s. This important collection has been added to since that date, maintained and catalogued. There are over 100 flourishing varieties of rhododendron, which are a speciality of the collection. Boom Hall and Thornhill whilst individually identified on the Supplementary List, complement the planned landscape at Brook Hall and are to be regarded as part of its riverside setting.
Formerly the grounds of Gwyn’s Institute from 1840, the buildings were demolished in 1973 and the outer walls are retained. The public park was established in 1901 and is named after a benefactor. The last member of the Brooke family died in 1899, having donated £15,000 some time before for the purposes of funding a park for the public. Gwyn’s Institute came on the market in 1901 and was purchased with the aid of money donated by The Honourable The Irish Society. It is now administered by Derry City Council.
Note on Maps HG 1 to HG 3
Delineation on the maps of parks and smaller domestic gardens are simple to establish. However delineating garden areas in demesnes presents a problem. In some cases where appropriate, former parts of the demesne which were and still are farmed have been excluded. Originally these areas in many cases would have been enhanced by strategically placed trees and ornamental buildings. Cores have been identified, usually in the vicinity of the main houses with remaining interesting layout and planting, which retain historical value as planned landscapes. At the same time it must be acknowledged that this land may represent only part of the original holding.
A Supplementary List of Historic Gardens, Parks and Demesnes also exists.