LONDONDERRY, a city and port, in the parish of TEMPLEMORE, and county of LONDONDERRY (of which it is the chief town), and province of ULSTER, 69 ¾ miles (N. W. by W.) from Belfast, and 118 ½ (N. N. W.) from Dublin; containing 10,130 inhabitants. It was originally and is still popularly called Derry, from the Irish Doire, which signifies literally "a place of oaks," but is likewise used to express "a thick wood." By the ancient Irish it was also designated Doire-Calgaich, or Derry-Calgach, "the oak wood of Calgach;" and Adamnan, abbot of Iona in the 7th century, in the life of his predecessor, St. Columbkill, invariably calls it Roboretum Calgagi. About the end of the 10th century, the name Derry-Calgach gave place to Derry-Columbkill, from an abbey for canons regular of the order of St. Augustine founded here by that saint; but when the place grew into importance above every other Derry, the distinguishing epithet was rejected: the English prefix, London, was imposed in 1613, on the incorporation of the Irish Society by charter of James I., and was for a long time retained by the colonists, but has likewise fallen into popular disuse.

The city appears to be indebted for its origin to the abbey founded by St. Columbkill, according to the best authorities in 546, and said to have been the first of the religious houses instituted by that saint; but the exact period of its foundation and its early history are involved in much obscurity. In 783 and 812 the abbey and the town were destroyed by fire; at the latter period, according to the Annals of Munster, the Danes heightened the horrors of the conflagration by a massacre of the clergy and students. The place must have been speedily restored, as, in 832, the Danes were driven with great slaughter from the siege of Derry by Niall Caille, King of Ireland, and Murchadh, Prince of Aileach In 983, the shrine of St. Columbkill was carried away by the Danes, by whom the place was also thrice devastated about the close of the 10th century: in 1095 the abbey was consumed by fire.

In 1100, Murtagh O'Brien arrived with a large fleet of foreign vessels and attacked Derry, but was defeated with great slaughter by the son of Mac Loughlin, prince of Aileach. Ardgar, prince of Aileach, was slain in an assault upon Derry in 1124; but on the 30th of March, 1135, the town with its churches was destroyed by fire, in revenge, as some state, of his death: it also sustained a similar calamity in 1149. In 1158, Flahertagh O'Brolchain, abbot of the Augustine monastery, was raised to the episcopacy and appointed supreme superintendent of all the abbeys under the rule of St. Columb, by a synodical decree of the Irish clergy assembled at Brigh-mac-Taidhg, in the north of Meath. O'Brolchain immediately commenced preparations for the erection of a new church on a larger scale; and in 1162 he removed more than 80 houses adjacent to the abbey church, and enclosed the abbey with a circular wall.

In 1164 Temple More, or "the great church," was built, and the original abbey church was thenceforward distinguished as Duv Regles, or "the Black Church:" the new edifice was 240 feet long, and was one of the most splendid ecclesiastical structures erected in Ireland prior to the settlement of the Anglo-Normans; its site was near the Black Church, outside the present city wall, and is now chiefly occupied by the Roman Catholic chapel and cemetery; both edifices were entirely demolished by Sir Henry Docwra, governor of Derry, in 1600, and the materials used in the erection of the extensive works constructed at that period; but the belfry or round tower of the cathedral served till after the celebrated siege, and has given name to a lane called the Long Tower. In 1166 a considerable part of the town was burned by Rory O'Morna; and in 1195 the abbey was plundered by an English force, which was afterwards intercepted and destroyed at Armagh.

In 1197, a large body of English forces having set out from the castle of Kill-Sanctain on a predatory excursion, came to Derry and plundered several churches, but were overtaken by Flahertach O'Maoldoraidh, lord of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, and some of the northern Hy-Niall, and a battle ensued on the shore of the adjoining parish of Faughanvale, in which the English were defeated with great slaughter. In this year Sir John De Courcy came with a large army and remained five nights; and in the following year also, having made an incursion into Tyrone to plunder the churches, he arrived at this place, and during his stay plundered Ennishowen and all the adjacent country; while thus engaged he received intelligence of the defeat of the English at Larne by Hugh Boy O'Nial, which caused him to quit Derry.

In 1203 the town was much damaged by fire; and in 1211 it was plundered by Thomas Mac Uchtry and the sons of Randal Mac Donnell, who came hither with a fleet of 76 ships, and afterwards passed into Ennishowen and laid waste the whole peninsula. This Thomas and Rory Mac Randal again plundered the town in 1213, carrying away from the cathedral to Coleraine all the jewellery of the people of Derry and of the north of Ireland. A Cistercian nunnery was founded on the south side of the city in 1218, as recorded in the registry of the Honour of Richmond; but from the Annals of the Four Masters it appears that a religious establishment of this kind existed here prior to that period. Nial O'Nial plundered the town in 1222; and, in 1261, sixteen of the most distinguished of the clergy of Tyrone were slain here by Conor O'Nial and the Kinel-Owen or men of Tyrone. In 1274 a Dominican abbey was founded on the north side of the city, of which even the site cannot now be accurately traced.

Edward II. granted the town to Richard de Burgo, Earl of Ulster, in 1311; but from this period till the reign of Elizabeth, prior to which the English exercised no settled dominion in Derry, no event of importance connected with the place is recorded. In 1565, Edward Randolph arrived in the Foyle with seven companies of foot and one troop of horse, to repress Shane O'Nial, Earl of Tyrone, who had renounced his allegiance to the English crown; and a sanguinary engagement taking place on the plains of Muff, the Irish chieftain was signally defeated. An encampment was then formed by the English near the city; but in a sally against some of O'Nial's forces, who had ostentatiously paraded before it, the English general was slain by a party who had concealed themselves in an adjoining wood, and the command of the garrison was given to Colonel St. Lo. The English converted the cathedral into an arsenal, and on the 24th of April, 1566, the gunpowder blew up by accident with so much damage as to render the place untenable; the foot embarked for Dublin, to which city also the horse returned, passing through Tyrconnell and Connaught to avoid O'Nial.

In 1599 it was again determined to fortify Derry, a measure long deemed essential in order to divide and check the power of O'Nial and O'Donell, the accomplishment of which object was favoured by its situation and the friendship of O'Dogherty of Ennishowen. With that view Sir Henry Docwra, in 1600, entered the Foyle with a British force of 4000 foot and 200 horse, and landed at Culmore, at the mouth of the river, where he erected a fort. He soon obtained possession of the city, and constructed fortifications and other works for its defence and improvement, pulling down the abbey, cathedral, and other ecclesiastical buildings for the sake of the materials. On the termination of the war at the commencement of 1603, the garrison was reduced to 100 horse and 150 foot under the governor, and 200 foot under Captain Hansard; and at Culmore were left 20 men.

Sir Henry now directed his attention to the improvement of the place with so much zeal as to entitle him to be regarded as the founder of the modern city. A number of English colonists settled here on his invitation; he obtained grants of markets and fairs, and, in 1604, a charter of incorporation with ample privileges. But in 1608, after the flight and forfeiture of O'Nial and O'Donell, the growing prosperity of the new city was checked by the insurrection of Sir Cahir O'Dogherty, the young chief of Ennishowen, who took both Culmore fort and Derry, at the latter of which Sir George Paulet (to whom Sir Henry Docwra had alienated all his interests) and his men were slain; as many of the inhabitants as could escape fled, and the town was plundered and burned. A large part of Ulster having escheated to the Crown on the attainder of the above-named earls, proposals of colonization were made to the city of London, in which this place is described as "the late ruinated city of Derry, which may be made by land almost impregnable."

In accepting the offers of the Crown the city agreed to erect 200 houses here, and leave room for 300 more; 4000 acres contiguous to the city were to be annexed to it in perpetuity, exclusively of bog and barren mountain, which were to be added as waste; convenient sites were allowed for the houses of the bishop and dean; the liberties were to extend three miles or 3000 Irish paces in every direction from the centre of the city; and the London undertakers were to have the neighbouring fort of Culmore, with the lands attached, on condition of maintaining in it a competent ward of officers and men. In 1613 the inhabitants, having surrendered their former charter, were re-incorporated, and the name of the city was altered to Londonderry.

The natives having conspired to take the town by surprise, a supply of arms was sent from London in 1615; an additional sum of £5000 was ordered for completing the walls; and, that it might not in future be peopled with Irish, the Society issued directions that a certain number of children from Christ's Hospital, and others, should be sent hither as apprentices and servants, and prohibited the inhabitants from taking Irish apprentices. Leases of most of the houses were granted for thirty-one years, and to each was allotted a portion of land according to the rent, with ground for gardens and orchards; 300 acres were assigned for the support of a free school; and of the 4000 acres the Society allotted to the houses or granted to the mayor 3217, including a parcel of 1500 acres which were set apart to support the magistracy of the city, and which subsequently became a source of contention between the Society, the corporation, and the bishop.

In 1618 we find the fortifications completed, at an expense of £8357; but notwithstanding the adoption of these and other measures of improvement, the increase of houses and inhabitants was very slow, and the operations of the Society were made the ground of various representations to the Crown respecting the non-fulfilment of the conditions of planting. In 1622, commissioners were appointed to enquire into the affairs of the plantation, to whom the mayor and corporation presented a petition complaining of many grievances resulting from the conduct of the Society, one of the chief of which was the non-erection of the specified number of houses: this enquiry led to several sequestrations of the city and liberties until 1628, and for some time the rents were paid to the Crown.

In the rebellion of 1641 the English and Scottish settlers received a considerable supply of arms and ammunition from London, and having secured themselves within the walls, successfully defended the city from the attacks of the rebels under Sir Phelim O'Nial. In 1643 the inhabitants of Londonderry and Coleraine sent letters to the lords-justices urging their impoverished condition and praying for relief. Sir John Vaughan, the governor, having died this year, Sir Robert Stewart was appointed to the command of the garrison, of which five companies aided in his defeat of Owen O'Nial at Clones, on the 13th of June. Towards the close of the year the parliament having taken the covenant, the London adventurers sent over an agent with letters desiring that it should be taken within their plantation; but in the year following the mayor was ordered by the lord-lieutenant and council to publish a proclamation against it.

Colonel Audley Mervin, who had been appointed governor by the Marquess of Ormonde, was nevertheless obliged from expediency to take the covenant: in 1645 he was displaced by the parliament, and was succeeded by Lord Folliott. Sir Charles Coote, the parliamentary general, having, in 1648, treacherously seized upon the person of Sir Robert Hamilton, forced him to surrender Culmore fort, by which the parliamentarians became masters of all the forts of Ulster, except Charlemont. The Marquess of Ormonde having failed in his attempts to induce Sir Charles Coote to join the king's cause, the latter was blocked up in Derry by the royalists; and soon after the city and Culmore fort were regularly besieged by Sir Robert Stewart, who was subsequently joined by Sir G. Monroe and Lord Montgomery with their respective forces, and Charles II. was proclaimed with great solemnity before the camp of Derry.

The decapitation of the late king having excited general horror among the majority of the people of the north, they rose in arms and soon obtained possession of all the towns and places of strength in that quarter, except Derry and Culmore, which, after a siege of four months, and when the garrison, consisting of 800 foot and 180 horse, was reduced to the greatest extremities, were relieved by Owen Roe O'Nial, to whom Sir Charles Coote had promised a reward of £5000 for this service; and by the defeat of Ever Mac Mahon, the Roman Catholic general, the following year, at Skirfolas in Donegal, Coote finally reduced all Ulster under the power of the parliament. After the Restoration, Charles II., in 1662, granted letters patent to the Irish Society, containing, with very little alteration, all the clauses of the first charter of James I.; this is the charter under which the Society and the corporation of Derry now act.

In 1684, the same monarch constituted a guild of the staple, with powers as ample as those enjoyed by any other city or town: in the following year, owing to the decay of trade, the corporation complained to the Society that the government of the town was too expensive for the magistrates to sustain, and solicited an abatement of the rent.

County Londonderry | City of Londonderry | Londonderry City History | Londonderry Topography | Londonderry Trading | Londonderry Government | Diocese of Derry | Londonderry Churches | Londonderry Cathedral | Londonderry Schools | Londonderry Hospitals | Londonderry City Antiquities

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