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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:
HB01/25/004 A

Extent of Listing:
Not listed

Date of Construction:
1760 - 1779

Address :
Boomhall Culmore Road Londonderry BT48 8JE


Survey 2:
Record Only

Date of Listing:

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:
26/16 NE

IG Ref:
C4500 1954

Owner Category

Local Govt

Exterior Description And Setting

A large rectangular 2 storey stone built house in Georgian style becoming 3 stories on the side overlooking River Foyle. It is presently ruinous without roof, floors and internally finishes. The entrance or W front is 7 bays wide with a 3 bay wide slightly projecting breakfront, symmetrically arranged with projecting single storey small porch with side entry on S side. This porch spans across the basement area which forms a storey height plinth around the building. The porch has corner ¾ engaged Roman Doric stone columns, with deep frieze and cornice and flat roof. The W side has a single window opening now built up as are all the window openings on basement and ground floor. The ground floor windows were formerly tall s/s with multiple planes with ashlar sandstone trim. First floor windows square in proportion with sandstone trim. A bold good moulded cornice terminates the wall tops running round the building perimeter. On the east side is the principal architectural feature of the house. A large polygonal bay, full house height with similarly proportioned window openings on each facet and the central opening at first floor enriched as an aedicule with moulded pediment, consoles and fluted pilasters. Walls are built of good random rubble schist and trimmed with ashlar sandstone (probably Dungiven). On the N side is a small polygonal bay defining the staircase. This may have been a mid 19th cent addition. The walls of the breakfront are smooth rendered. The S and N sides are 5 bays wide with window proportions similar to other facades. The house is sited on sloping ground which falls quickly to the River Foyle and enjoys a splendid view of it and the site of the late 17th century boom laid across the river about this location during the siege of Derry. The house has 2 long avenue approaches and the southern one had a gate lodge now demolished but piers remain.


Priestly, Michael

Historical Information

Boom Hall derives its name from the fact that it is sited at the point where the boom was placed across the Foyle to block the relief of the city during the Siege in 1689. For much of the 17th century the land here had been part of the Hon. Irish Society's holdings granted to that body as part of the Plantation settlement. In 1649 the star-shaped 'Charles Fort' fortress was constructed on the land south of the present grounds, and this was reused at the time of the Siege to guard the west side of the boom (site lost to road and housing development). On a 1690 map drawn up by Captain Francis Neville, a small house with what appears to be outbuildings is shown within the vicinity to the west of the fort. Little is known of this or any other dwellings that occupied the site prior to the later 18th century, although there is evidence to suggest that a house that immediately preceded the present was also known as ‘Boom Hall’, and that it may have been sited in the vicinity of the walled garden. There is also tradition that the wider area may have been part of an estate once known as 'Gunsland', but this has never been verified. The present demesne was the creation of local merchant James Alexander (1730-1802, 1st Earl of Caledon from 1790), a younger son of Nathaniel Alexander (1689- 1761), an Alderman of the City of Londonderry. From the early 1750s until 1772 James had a successful career in the service of the East India Company, spending much of this period on the sub-continent and amassing a large fortune. He married Anne Crawford of Crawfordsburn in November 1774 and in early 1776 bought the vast Orrery estate at Caledon. Shortly afterwards he also acquired land in Ballynashallog TD, to the north of the city, from his older brother, Robert Alexander (1722-90). Robert had been accumulating holdings in the vicinity since the 1760s, however a 19th century Alexander family memoir suggests that some of his lands had been in Alexander hands much earlier than this, and that Nathaniel Alexander had lived there is the abovementioned previous 'Boom Hall'. Whatever the case, work appears to have begun on James’s new house almost immediately, for it is captioned on Taylors and Skinner’s road map of the area surveyed in 1777. Following Anne’s death in childbirth in December that year, however, James decided to settle with his young family at Caledon, and in 1779 handed the lease of ‘the new built dwelling house with the offices, houses and lands of Boomhall’ over to Robert, who would already seem to have been overseeing the build. The architect responsible for the house is not known. Edward McParland has attributed it to the Derry-born Michael Priestley (d.1777), who amongst other things designed Prehen House, Lifford Courthouse and the First Presbyterian Church in Magazine Street, but the Boomhall Trust has argued that the stylistically the house bears the hallmarks of Sir Robert Taylor (1714-88), particularly his work at Sharpham Hall in Devon (c.1770) and has also cited possible connections between Taylor and the Alexanders through the East India Company. Taylor had one known Irish commission, the addition of the Assembly Rooms to the market house in Waring Street, Belfast, in c.1775, but no actual documentary evidence linking him, or for that matter any other architect with Boom Hall has yet been uncovered. There are certain seemingly anomalous features about the design, namely the unusual internal layout and differences in the room sizes, and the fact that the breakfront and its full width steps suggests that a portico was planned for the entrance, but never acted upon. The reasoning behind these outcomes is uncertain; perhaps the plans themselves were never finished or perhaps that the client / builder may simply have deviated from them. Robert Alexander died in 1790 the property remained with his wife Anne (nee McCullough) until her death in 1817. Afterwards it was leased to the Dean of Derry, Thomas Bunbury Gough (1777-1860) and from c.1835 to William Ponsonby (1772-1853), Bishop of Derry. The house is recorded in the valuation of 1831 as measuring 71ft x 56 x 28¼, with a ‘porch’ of 10 x 7 x 7, the ‘bow’ (i.e. the rear projection) 19 x 10 x 28¼, a ‘kitchen in the cellar’ of 71 x 38½ x 11¾ and 19 x 10 x 11¾, a ‘cellar store’ of 71 x 17½ x 11¾ and two ‘privys’ of 10 x 10 x 7½ and 8 x 6 x 6. The porch is not marked on the OS map of the previous year, so it was either omitted by the cartographer (a not uncommon occurrence on some 19th century OS maps) or was added to the building at some point in 1830-31. It does not appear on the revised map of 1848-52, although the bay addition to the north side of the house is indicated along with two freestanding structures close to this. These are not marked on an estate map drawn-up by R.H. Nolan & Co. in 1856; however, the bay is undoubtedly much earlier than this, as it is noted in the 1856 valuation. In 1849, James Du Pre Alexander (1812-55), 3rd Earl of Caledon, sold Boom Hall for £6,000 to Daniel Baird (1795-1862), a Castlefin-born merchant and ship-owner who had served as Mayor of Derry in 1847. After Daniel Baird’s death in 1862, his widow, Barbara, leased Boom Hall to Joseph Cooke (1818-96), a former business associate of her husband. Following her death in 1879 it passed to her grandson, Daniel B. Maturin (1849-1924), who had assumed the additional surname Baird in 1875. According to the valuations, he occupied the house from 1883 into the 1890s, but other sources suggest Cooke remained as tenant for most of this period. At some point in the mid-1890s (possibly shortly after Joseph Cooke’s death in 1896), John Barr Johnston (1843-1919), a seed merchant and Mayor of Londonderry in 1897, became the tenant. He is recorded in the 1901 census as occupying the house with his wife, Isabel, their three children and three domestic servants, with the residence itself a ‘1st class’ house with 23 rooms ‘occupied by the family’. The 1904 OS map shows the porch for the first time and a gasometer to the north. Mr. Johnston was followed by timber merchant Henry J. Cooke (b.1852, the son of the aforementioned Joseph) in c.1908, who in the 1911 census is recorded as living here with his wife, Mary, their three young children and five servants. After the latter’s death in 1923 the tenancy passed to his son, John Sholto Fitzpatrick Cooke (1906-75), then a minor, with the freehold inherited by Charles Edgar Maturin Baird (1899-1994) the following year. In 1932 the property was leased to Michael Henry McDevitt (1894-1969), who appears to have been the owner (or part-owner) of M. McDevitt & Co.’s department store in Duke Street. During WWII the house and grounds were commandeered by the government and given over to the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Post-war, Mr Maturin Baird attempted to restore the house, before accepting an offer of £3,000 in 1949 from the tenant Mr McDevitt for both it and 26 acres of the demesne. Much of the rest of the demesne was sold off in the following decade. Members of the McDevitt family continued to live at Boom Hall for a short time after Michael’s death in 1969, but the house was abandoned at some point in the early 1970s and subsequently damaged by fire sometime before c.1976. In the early 1980s the southern third of the demesne was lost due to the construction of Madam’s Bank Road and the Foyle Bridge. Derry City Council purchased the rest of the grounds in various stages in the early to mid-1990s, with the core of the site acquired from a McDevitt relation in 1996. By this stage the house itself had been reduced to a ruined shell and remains as such. References - Primary Sources 1 PRONI D2433 Caledon Papers 2 ‘Taylors and Skinner’s Maps of the roads of Ireland’, (Dublin, 1778) 3 OS maps, Londonderry sheets 13, 14 - 1830, 1848-52, 1904, 1932, 1948-49, 25inch sheets 14-2, 14-3 - 1904 4 PRONI VAL1B/547A-F (1831) 5 ‘Ordnance Survey of the County of Londonderry vol.1 - Memoir of the City and North Western Liberties of Londonderry’ (1837), pp.83, 84, 206. 6 PRONI VAL2B/5/16J (1856) 7 Estate map by Nolan & Co. (1856) [Extracts in refs 17 and 18] 8 PRONI VAL12B/32/8A-G (1860-1929) 9 Census of Ireland, 1901, 1911 [online] Secondary Sources 10 Alexander, R., ‘Account of the Family History of Rev. Robert Alexander (Born 1795)…’ (1946). 11 Ferguson, W.S. et al, ‘Historic buildings…City of Derry’, (UAHS, 1970), pp.53,-54 12 Rowan, Alistair, ‘North West Ulster’, (1979), pp. 49, 401, 402 13 Bence-Jones, Mark, ‘A Guide to Irish County Houses’, (London, 1988), p.45 14 Malley, A., ‘The History of Boomhall, Londonderry’ (unpublished) 15 MacDonald, Philip and McAlister, Grace, “Archaeological investigations of the seventeenth century military landscape at Boom All, County Londonderry”, in ‘Ulster Journal of Archaeology’, Vol.71 (2012) 16 Calley, Daniel, ‘An Historical Gazetteer to the Buildings of Londonderry’, (UAHS, 2013) 17 HED ‘Boom Hall Demesne…Historic Landscape Appraisal’ (Commissioned by Derry and Strabane District Council from SR Historic Environment Ltd, November 2020) 18 HED ‘Boomhall Mansion - The case for listing’ (Papers submitted to HED, February 2021)

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

Not listed

Historic Interest

Not listed


The remains of a substantial rural villa, enjoying a handsome site which is noted within the Northern Ireland Parks and Gardens Inventory. Boomhall was a fine example of Georgian style architecture if a little severe in execution. Though now ruinous, the building retains external architectural detailing and form which complete the story of the house and its outbuildings including the listed stable block HB01/25/004B, making it a building of local interest.

General Comments

Date of Survey

18 October 1999