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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Church, boundary walls, gates, railings & piers

Date of Construction:
1780 - 1799

Address :
St Columba's Church Long Tower Street Londonderry Co. Londonderry BT48 6JG


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
26/02/1979 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
C4305 1635

Owner Category

Exterior Description And Setting

Free-standing gabled double-height Renaissance style stone church, built 1784-87, extensively refurbished and remodelled c.1909. Cruciform on plan, facing northeast with twin gabled east and west transepts and two-storey sacristy to rear. Located on a sloping site overlooking The Bogside area of Londonderry with Lecky Road to the north and Barrack Street to the southwest. Cruciform pitched natural slate roof with black clay ridgecomb tiles and set behind slightly raised gables with rendered coping, decorative rendered kneeler stones and statuary to the apexes. At the crossing of the roof-planes is an octagonal louvred lantern with copper domed roof and cross finial rising from a lead-lined base. Moulded cast-iron guttering to moulded masonry eaves course, decorative cast-iron hoppers and cast-iron downpipes. Uncoursed squared schist walling with sandstone dressings (largely repaired with sandstone mortar c.2005). Double-height round-headed nave windows with sandstone sills and 9/12 timber sliding sash windows with spoked heads (unless otherwise stated). Gabled front elevation with gabled entrance porch proud of main facade and flanked by pair of square-plan side entrance porches. Lunette window to the apex with painted statue of St Michael the Archangel to the apex resting on stone panelled base. Three round-headed window openings to the gallery level with central 8/8 timber sliding sash window and spoked fanlight flanked by 3/6 timber sliding sash windows with spoked heads. Diminutive round-headed window openings flank entrance porch with 1/1 timber sliding sash windows. Sandstone ashlar gabled entrance porch with painted statue of Christ to the apex and painted statues of angels to either side atop the kneeler coping stones. Below the apex is a panel with raised lettering; VERE NON / EST HIC ALIUD NISI / DOMUS DEI ET PORTA COELI'. Large compound moulded round-headed door opening with foliate mouldings to archivolt rising from clustered foliate carved columns and piers with full-span impost mouldings and lintel cornice. Two square-headed door openings with central pier having elaborate carvings and lintels inscribed; 'TUIDE ORRAINNE' 'A COLUIM NAOM'. Two replacement double-leaf timber panelled doors and mosaic semi-circular panel over depicting St Columba in the centre with saints either side. Doors open onto stone paved platform and six granite steps, extended across entire front elevation in concrete with thee steel handrails. East side elevation comprises four-bay nave to the right with small side entrance porch flanking front elevation, twin gabled transept to the left with gabled projection on the north side and gabled entrance porch. Elaborate wrought and cast-iron canopy with glazed roof to the re-entrant angle with painted masonry religious statuary on granite base depicting the Crucifixion. The transept entrance porch has two gabled elevations with ruled-and-lined sandstone plastered walls with each gable surmounted by painted statues of angels. Stepped round-headed door openings to each elevation of porch with replacment double-leaf timber panelled doors with mosaic overpanels. The twin transept gables have stone crosses to the apexes and a further painted statue of Christ, The Sacred Heart, to the central valley set on panelled stone base. Tripartite round-headed window openings with stone surrounds to the gallery level and two round-headed window openings to the ground floor of each gable have elaborate leaded stained glass windows with steel mesh protective panels. There are small lunette openings to either side of the tripartite windows. Further round-headed window openings to the south elevation of east transept with leaded stained glass windows and a single storey central projection (confessional) with a circular opening with stone surround and celtic cross insert below a central gablet . Gabled two-bay two-storey sacristy to the rear with advanced entrance bays to east and west. East face has three 2/2 square-headed window openings to the first floor, two round-headed to the ground floor with 2/2 timber sliding sash windows. Ruled-and-lined sandstone rendered entrance porch to east with stepped round-headed door opening having hood moulding and timber panelled door opening onto two stone steps. The south gable has a tripartite round-headed window opening to the first floor with 1/1 timber sliding sash windows and two round-headed window openings to the ground floor with 2/2 timber sliding sash windows. There is a stone cross to the apex of the gable. Rectangular plan west entrance porch has a flat roof with square-headed door opening with replacement timber panelled door opening onto flight of concrete steps and 1/1 diminutive round-headed window opening to left. West side elevation, as per east elevation with exception of south elevation to west transept which is abutted by apsidal projection (baptistry) with tarred domed roof, three lunette dormers and round headed window openings with stone surrounds. Setting: Located on an elevated sloping site to the south of Lecky Road and to the north east of Barrack Street within its own grounds with two graveyards enclosed to the street by original iron railings on low rubblestone plinth walls. Decorative iron gates to the east (Longtower Street) hung on panelled ashlar piers with tapered capstones and iron lamps. Cobblelock finish encircles entire church with single-storey stone school building to the east, two-storey stone and brick visitor's centre (HB01/18/001) to the northwest and flight of stone steps to the northwest opening onto Lecky Street via tall iron gates hung on rusticated sone piers. Materials@ Roof Natural slate RWG Cast-iron Walling Uncoursed squared schist / sandstone dressings Windows Timber sliding sash / leaded stained glass


Toye, E J

Historical Information

St. Columba’s Church, a cruciform church located outside the historic city walls in an area known as Long Tower, was constructed in 1784-87. The church was the first Roman Catholic house of worship constructed in the city following the relaxing of the Penal Laws in the late-18th century. The church was constructed on what is traditionally believed to be the site of Teampall Mor, Londonderry’s medieval Cathedral. Christianity arrived in Derry in the 6th century when St. Colum Cille (St. Columba) founded his first church at the site in either 535 or 546 A.D. The association of the settlement with Colum Cille ensured that Doire thrived as an ecclesiastical centre over the following millennium. The Teampall Mor was founded in 1164 and was elevated to the status of a Cathedral in the 13th century. The building possessed a round tower and remained a site of pilgrimage throughout the medieval period. Ó Baoill and Lacey suggest that the curving paths of Magazine Street and Long Tower Street may be a fossilised remnant of an ancient pilgrimage route (or tura): ‘The pilgrimage appears to have started from the bottom of modern Magazine Street … skirted around the outside of the Dubh Regles (‘Black Abbey’) in the vicinity of the present day St. Augustine’s Church … and ended in the area around where the modern Long Tower Church is located (Ó Baoill, p. 74). The Teampall Mor, along with all of Doire’s ecclesiastical buildings, lay in ruins at the end of the Nine Years War (1594-1603) when the fortified town of Derry was founded by Sir. Henry Docwra. The round tower of Teampall Mor was depicted on early-17th century plans of Docwra’s settlement but this had been demolished by the 1780s when only the site of the Teampall Mor was recorded on the 18th century maps of the city. Immediately prior to the construction of St. Columba’s Church, Mass for Roman Catholics in the area was held by Father John Lynch in his house on Ferguson’s Lane or under a Hawthorn Tree which marked the traditional site of the Teampall Mor. Lynch was a prominent local cleric who also said Mass at sites in Ballymagroarty, Aileach and Iskaheen. Collins states that the relaxing of the Penal Laws in the area was due in a large part to the Liberal views of the Earl Bishop of Derry, Frederick Hervey (1730-1803), who favoured religious equality and encouraged building projects within the city (such as the first wooden bridge across the Foyle which was built in 1789-91). Father Lynch requested funds for the construction of the new church in 1783 and raised 500 guineas on the first day. The Earl Bishop gifted 200 guineas towards its construction whilst Londonderry’s Corporation provided 50 guineas (Collins). St. Columba’s Church was constructed between 1784 and 1787 to designs by an unknown architect. The church was first depicted on Porter’s 1799 map of Derry which depicted it as a simple rectangular-shaped building which was orientated along a west-east axis (comprising one of the transepts of the current church with the altar located at the east side of the building). Collins and the UAHS state that the church possessed an earthen floor, could accommodate a congregation of 2,000 standing and cost a total of £2,800. The Natural Stone Database records that the church was constructed of locally quarried Derry Schist and Metabasite. The church was not completed until 1787 but a special concession was made to hold the first mass within the building on 20th December 1786 for the funeral of Father John Lynch. In recognition of Lynch’s contribution to the parish and his efforts in erecting the church, the priest was buried under the Hawthorn Tree where he had said mass during the Penal period (Collins; UAHS; NSD). The first enlargement of St. Columba’s Church was made in 1810 when the nave and galleries were added to the building and the altar was relocated to the north side of the church. Collins states that the local Protestant community contributed towards the cost of the extension, with the Bishop of Derry and Londonderry Corporation providing 50 guineas each. A number of additional changes were made throughout the 1820s. In 1820 the sacristy was added (at a cost of £101) and a timber floor installed. A ceiling was constructed in the church in 1821 and in 1823 new entrance porches were installed. The galleries, which had been begun in 1810, were completed in 1829. Also installed in the 1820s was the church’s baldacchino which incorporated marble Corinthian columns which were purchased in Naples and transported to Derry by the Earl Bishop. The current church organ was installed in 1837 to designs by the Edinburgh firm Bruce, Small & Co. The organ cost £324 to construct and is the only organ by the firm in Ireland (Collins; UAHS). The total rateable value of St. Columba’s Roman Catholic Church and its infant’s school (see HB01/18/001) was set at £100 in 1856 under Griffith’s Valuation (although the buildings remained exempt from taxation). There were few subsequent changes carried out to the layout of the church during the Victorian period although the adjoining Girls' School (HB01/18/002) was added to the grounds in 1893. The roof was reslated in 1890 when new pews were installed to the ground floor of the church and the interior was redecorated with many features that still survive (such as the painting of the Crucifixion and the Stations of the Cross). The most significant alteration to the church took place in the Edwardian period which the church was no longer large enough for the growing congregation. Plans for the enlargement of the building were drawn up by Edward J. Toye, a local architect who entering into an independent practice in c. 1890. Toye became the most prolific Roman Catholic architect in the city after carrying out a large number of contracts for the church which included the design of the adjoining Girl’s School (1893). The builder contracted to carry out Toye’s designs was J. Ballantine. The extension of the church was carried out in 1908 during which time mass was held at St. Columb’s Hall (which had been erected as St. Columba’s Parish Hall in 1888 – see HB01/19/050). The extension added another transept and relocated the altar to its current position. A moulded ceiling was installed to designs by John Shiels of Derry whilst new stained glass windows were added to both transepts and throughout the building. The stained glass windows located at the sides of the galleries and the window depicting Christ the Carpenter in the main entrance porch were designed by Meyer of Munich, internationally renowned German-based glaziers, whilst the remainder of the windows were designed by William Earley of Dublin. The exterior rubble stonework of the church was obtained from Lifford Jail which had been demolished in 1907. Numerous interior features were installed as part of the extension work which was completed in 1909 after a total cost of £28,000 had been expended upon the work. The completed church was reopened and dedicated on 30th May 1909. Collins states that the layout of the church has remained essentially unchanged since the Edwardian extension aside from minor interior rearrangements which were heralded in by the Second Vatican Council (DIA; Collins). The extension of the church resulted in an increase in the value of the building to £260 under the Annual Revisions. The Dictionary of Irish Architects notes that the interior mosaic work (opus sectile) was added in c. 1915 to designs by Ludwig Oppenheimer, an English mosaic artist who operated in Ireland between the 1890s and 1960s. Much of Oppenheimer’s work in Irish churches was removed as a result of the reordering following Vatican II. Calley states that the sculpted onyx-shafted High Altar depicting the death of St. Columba and two side altars were installed in 1920 to designs by Edmund Sharpe of Dublin. The value of the church was increased to £550 under the First General Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1936-57); this was further raised to £1,000 by the end of the Second General Revaluation (1956-72). St. Columba’s Church was included in the Historic City Conservation Area in 1977 and was subsequently listed in 1979. The iron gates and railings surrounding the church were renewed in 1989 with two new gates installed at the main entrance to the grounds. The NIEA HB Records note that the church underwent an interior renovation in 2004 whilst the buildings’ opus sectile was restored in 2008 (DIA; Calley; NIEA HB Records). References Primary Sources 1. Porter’s Map of Londonderry (1799) 2. PRONI OS/6/5/20/2 – Second Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1853) 3. PRONI VAL/12/E/157/1 – Annual Revisions Town Plan (c. 1873-1910) 4. PRONI VAL/2/B/5/16D – Griffith’s Valuation (1856) 5. PRONI VAL/12/B/32/11A-Y – Annual Revisions (1860-97) 6. PRONI VAL/12/B/33/3A-3C – Annual Revisions (1898-1929) 7. PRONI VAL/3/C/6/12 – First General Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1936-57) 8. PRONI VAL/4/B/5/17 – Second General Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1956-72) 9. Ulster Town Directories (1843-1943) 10. First Survey Record – HB01/18/003 (1970) 11. NIEA HB Records – HB01/18/003 Secondary Sources 1. Calley, D., ‘City of Derry: An historical gazetteer to the buildings of Londonderry’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 2013. 2. Collins, M., ‘St. Columb’s Church Long Tower’ Derry: Advertising, Design and Photography, c. 1990. 3. 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. 4. Ó Baoill, R., ‘Island city: The archaeology of Derry ~ Londonderry’ Belfast: Northern Ireland Environment Agency, 2013. 5. 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 -

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H+. Alterations enhancing the building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting K. Group value

Historic Interest

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


Renaissance-style cruciform plan stone church built between 1784-87, located outside the historic city walls on the north side of Long Tower Street. It stands to the immediate west of St Columb’s Girls’ School (HB01/18/002) and to the north-west of St Columba’s Boys’ School (HB01/18/004) and has two graveyards within its grounds, enclosed to the street by iron railings on low stone walls. The church was the first Roman Catholic house of worship constructed in the city following the relaxing of the Penal Laws in the late-18th century. Occupying the site of Teampall Mor, Londonderry’s medieval Cathedral, the present church owes much to the remodelling of 1909 and retains much of the elaborate internal elements including layout, marble detailing and joinery. The remodelling was carried out to designs by E.J. Toye, the most prolific architect of Roman Catholic churches and buildings in the city including the design of the adjoining Girl’s School (1893). The exterior retains much historic detailing such as stone dressings and painted statuary. This church represents a focal point for the catholic community of Derry with its long associations with St. Columba, in addition to being a local landmark and tourist attraction. It is the most significant architectural feature of the Long Tower setting and has group value with both schools adjacent.

General Comments

Date of Survey

10 November 2014