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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Cathedral, gates, railings, pillars and walling

Date of Construction:
1860 - 1879

Address :
St Eugene's Cathedral Francis Street Derry County Londonderry BT48 9AP


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
25/05/1976 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
C4303 1715

Owner Category

Church - RC

Exterior Description And Setting

A double-height Gothic-revival style Roman Catholic cathedral with symmetrical tower. Built 1853-1873. Rectangular plan form, with a projecting four-stage porch tower with belfry and octagonal spire to south-west; two storey extension to north c.1988. Located on a triangular site adjacent to the junction of Francis Street and Upper Great James Street, set within its own grounds fronting onto Creggan Street. The principal entrance porch flanked by hardwood braced and sheeted double doors separated by a granite column. It has recessed orders with cusped Gothic-arches executed in restrained moulded granite. Tower buttressed with large tracery window above door, statue alcove above with quatrefoil either side, double lancet trefoil vents and much detail at top with crockets, corner pinnacles, octagonal spire and cross finial. The spire is in a 14th century style, with twelve crocketed pinnacles and diaper stone panelling in bands across the needle. Pitched natural bangor slate roof with black clay ridge tiles; gable walls extend above roofline with stone coping with gabled eaves stone and granite Celtic crosses at apex; four no. ventilation dormers to each side of principal roof; cast iron guttering on stone corbel brackets. Walls are of local blue/green schist stone, coarsed with snecking. Side aisles buttressed with granite ashlar and chamfered weathering stones. Gothic-arched window openings with triple lancet trefoil tracery windows with inset quatrefoils and gothic hood moulding above with label stop-ends. The first floor clerestory has smaller double lancet trefoil windows with quatrefoils, alternating with double ogee lancet windows with trefoils and quatrefoil above. At the north-east corner is a small, two-storey Newry Granodiorite sacristy block which was extended and refurbished c.1988. Decorative wrought iron entrance gates set in ashlar Mourne granite stone pillars. Boundary walls in ashlar granite with wrought iron railings and support posts. Materials: Roof Natural slate RWGs Cast iron Walling Derry schist and Mourne Granite Windows Stone tracery / Setting: Located on the west side of the River Foyle, on an irregular rectangular site between Francis Street, Upper Great James Street, Infirmary Road and Creggan Street, set within its own grounds, which also contain the Bishop’s House (HB01/21/002) and St Eugene’s Primary School (HB01/21/xxx). Decorative wrought iron entrance gates set in ashlar Mourne granite stone pillars. Boundary walls in ashlar granite with wrought iron railings and support posts.


McCarthy, J J Toye, E J McCormick, Liam McCormick Tracey Mullarkey Architects Liam McCormick and Partners

Historical Information

St. Eugene’s Cathedral was constructed between 1853 and 1873, however the initial decision to construct the building came in 1838. Prior to the erection of the cathedra,l the Long Tower Church (HB01/18/003) remained the only Roman Catholic place of worship in the cityside of Londonderry, having been constructed in 1786; however with the granting of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and the repeal of most penal laws, it was decided at a meeting in the Long Tower School in 1838 that the ‘building of a cathedral was a praiseworthy object.’ The meeting, chaired by Bishop Peter McLaughlin appointed a committee to raise the necessary funds, however due to the decade of famine that followed, the project was delayed until the 1850s (UAHS, p. 28). The current cathedral stands on a triangular plot of land formed by the intersection of Francis Street, Creggan Street and Infirmary Road; this is believed to have been near the original site of a former Dominican Friary and the area was then known as ‘Friar’s Gort.’ In 1849 the Bishop of Derry Francis Kelly acquired the current site and resumed preparations for the construction of the cathedral. The foundation stone was laid on 26th July 1851, however it would be over two decades before the cathedral would be completed and opened (Builder, p. 502). Rowan states that the first architect appointed ‘made grave errors in building the foundations’ and was dismissed. The design of the cathedral is attributed to James Joseph McCarthy (1817-1882). A Dublin-based architect whose earliest independent contract was St. Columb’s Church on the Waterside (1838-41 – see HB01/11/002), McCarthy is described by the Dictionary of Irish Architects as the leading architect of Irish Catholic churches in the mid-Victorian period. The Gothic Revival style of St. Eugene’s Cathedral was a result of McCarthy’s friendship with Augustus W. N. Pugin, an English architect who was the pioneer of the Gothic Revival movement. McCarthy was appointed to complete Pugin’s unfinished works after his death in 1852; these contracts were carried out at the same time as McCarthy was designing St. Eugene’s Cathedral and McCarthy undoubtedly brought some of his mentor's distinctive Gothic Revivalism into his own design. The Natural Stone Database records that McCarthy used locally-quarried Derry Schist and Mourne Granite for building the cathedral (Rowan, pp 383-384; DIA; Natural Stone Database). Building work proceeded sporadically over the following two decades due to funding issues. The cathedral appeared on the second edition of the Ordnance Survey map of 1853 along its current shape suggesting that the ground plan had been completed by that time; the building was also included in Griffith’s Valuation (1856) and the Annual Revisions which recorded that the plot of land was leased from a Mr. William Hazlett. The cathedral was completed in 1873 after an estimated cost of £40,000 and ceremoniously opened by the Bishop of Derry on 4th May of that year. In 1873 the Annual Revisions set the rateable value of the church at £400, a rate at which the building remained by 1931. In 1873 the furnishings, pulpit and font were installed within the new cathedral; the Irish Builder notes that these were the work of Earley & Powells, Dublin-based church decorators; the completion of the cathedral was then followed by the building of the Parochial House (former Bishop’s Palace – HB01/21/002) in 1876. Stained glass windows were installed in the aisle, side chapels and the chancel of the cathedral between 1880 and 1902 by the German glaziers Mayer & Co; these included a window dedicated to Bishop Kelly who had ensured the completion of the cathedral (Irish Builder, p. 47; Rowan; UAHS). When originally completed, St. Eugene’s Cathedral lacked its current spire. In 1899 at a meeting in St. Columb’s Hall, Bishop O’Doherty stated that ‘it is now 60 years since the first collection was made for the contemplated building, 48 since the foundation stone was laid and 26 since it was solemnly dedicated for divine worship, and yet it remains unfinished’ (St. Eugene’s Cathedral website). The construction of the current spire commenced in 1900 to designs by Edward J. Toye (1857-1932), a local architect whose independent practice ‘was a busy one in which work for the Catholic Church predominated.’ The spire, which is 256ft in height and topped by a granite cross, was completed by Christmas Eve of 1902 when the carillion of bells installed by Gillett & Johnson rang out for the first time. With the completion of the spire Early & Powell returned to the cathedral to carry out a number of further alterations including the building of the eastern turrets (and the statues within their niches) in 1904; in the same year the organ gallery was extended and a high altar with reredos added (UAHS; DIA). Following the completion of the spire, St. Eugene’s Cathedral became the tallest building in Londonderry at 256ft (St. Columb’s Cathedral reaches a height of 191ft); Lacey states that ‘the sheer size of the cathedral … was an architectural symbol of the arrival of a confident Catholicism in the city’ (Lacey, p. 186). Alterations to the cathedral were made throughout the 20th century. E. J. Toye built the gate lodge in 1905 and installed the canopy over the pulpit in 1906; the canopy, which weighs two tonnes, was built by Ferdinand Stufflesser of Austria in Austrian oak. This was followed by the addition of the sanctuary lamp (by Ashlin & Coleman) and the installation of a new heating system in 1905. The interior of the church was completely repainted and redecorated in 1921 by James Patrick McGrath and on 21st April 1936 the cathedral was consecrated after its debt had been finally eradicated. The First Revaluation increased the value of St. Eugene’s Cathedral to £1,500 in 1935, however this was further raised to £2,050 by the end of the Second Revaluation (1956-82). The current church organ was installed in 1955 and, post-Vatican II, the church sanctuary was reorganised to adhere to changes in the liturgy. In 1964 a temporary wooden alter was installed whilst Liam McCormick & Partners designed the new free-standing altar and pews which were completed in 1975 (Irish Builder, p. 606; Rowan; UAHS; DIA). St. Eugene’s Cathedral was listed category B+ in 1976; in the 1980s a series of three major renovations to the cathedral were carried out. In 1985-87 the external stonework of the building (including the tower and spire) was restored and repointed whilst the roof was replaced with natural Welsh Bangor Blue slates; the first phase carried out by George Cregan & Sons. The second phase involved the construction of the granite sacristy to the north side of the building; this has been the only major change to the ground plan of the cathedral and was the work of O’Neill Bros, built in 1987-88, designed by McCormick Tracey Mullarkey Architects. The third and final phase was carried out in 1989 and focused on the interior decoration of the cathedral; George Cregan was contracted once more to provide new seating, reorganise the sanctuary and install a new floor. The total cost of these three phases came to £1.2 million which was raised locally. In 2012 a structural report suggested that structural repairs should be made to the cathedral’s tower to remedy cracking discovered in its central stone support column (NIEA HB Records; St. Eugene’s Cathedral website). References Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/5/20/1 – First Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1830) 2. PRONI OS/6/5/20/2 – Second Edition Ordnanec Survey Map (1853) 3. PRONI VAL/12/E/157/1/7 – Annual Revisions Town Plan (c. 1873) 4. PRONI VAL/2/B/5/16H – Griffith’s Valuation (1856) 5. PRONI VAL/12/B/32/11A-ZA – Annual Revisions (1860-1897) 6. PRONI VAL/12/B/33/2C-2F – Annual Revisions (1898-1931) 7. PRONI VAL/3/B/6/4 – First Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1935) 8. PRONI VAL/4/B/5/17 – Second Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1956-72) 9. O’Hagan’s plan of Londonderry (1847) 10. Builder (9 Aug 1851) 11. Irish Builder (15 Nov 1900; 10 Sept 1921) 12. Ulster Town Directories (1852-1918) 13. First Survey Record – HB01/21/001 (1970) 14. First Survey Image – HB01/21/001 (No Date) 15. NIEA HB Records – HB01/21/001 Secondary Sources 1. Calley, D., ‘City of Derry: An historical gazetteer to the buildings of Londonderry’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 2013. 2. Ferguson, W. S; Rowan, A. J; Tracey, J. J., ‘List of historic buildings, groups of buildings, areas of architectural importance in and near the city of Derry’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1970. 3. Lacey, B., ‘Siege city: The story of Derry and Londonderry’ Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, 1990. 4. Rowan, A. J., ‘The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster’ London: Yale University Press, 2003. Online Resources 1. Dictionary of Irish Architects - 2. Natural Stone Database website - 3. St. Eugene’s Cathedral website -

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting K. Group value

Historic Interest

T. Historic Importance S. Authenticity V. Authorship Y. Social, Cultural or Economic Importance W. Northern Ireland/International Interest R. Age


Decorated Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral constructed 1853–1873, the Mother Church of Derry Diocese, located on the west of the River Foyle, between Francis Street and Infirmary Road. St Eugene’s Cathedral was built to designs by James Joseph McCarthy (1817-1882), a Dublin-based architect described as the leading architect of Irish Catholic churches in the mid-Victorian period. The cathedral precinct encompasses the Bishop’s House (HB01/21/002), St Eugene’s Primary School (HB01/21/003) and the gate lodge at William Street (HB01/21/022). The Gothic Revival style of St. Eugene’s Cathedral was a result of McCarthy’s friendship with Augustus W. N. Pugin. The spire was added in 1903 to designs by Edward J. Toye (1857-1932). External fabric, and overall character, style and proportions, all intact and of highest quality. The c.1988 extension to the NW side by McCormick Tracey Mullarkey Architects is wholly sympathetic, with excellent detailing, all employing traditional materials. Significant interior, with stained glass windows to the aisle, side chapels and chancel by Meyer of Munich and rose window by Clokey & Co. The post-Vatican II remodelling of the sanctuary area complements the historic character, including marble sanctuary furniture to designs by architect Liam McCormick. A fine example of the style, this cathedral has landmark qualities set in urban surroundings and continues to serve as a socially and historically significant building within the local community and across the whole Diocese.

General Comments

Date of Survey

10 January 2014