Friday, 5 May 2017

Brooke Park, Derry

We were in Derry/Londonderry the other day, visiting my mother-in-law.   Missy and I went for a dander about in nearby Brooke Park and very nice it was too.  Brooke Park, by the way, has just undergone a major re-vamp, although where the £5.6 million went I'm not entirely sure - although there was a swanky new cafe in the middle of it, all concrete and glass and what have you which I'm sure swallowed a large chunk of it.

I know, I know - that old underexposure gremlin raising its ugly head again.  That's because I was back using the rangefinder after a long lay-off in favour of the Square-shooter.  First-world problems, I know.  Looking down towards St Eugene's Cathedral.

Brooke Park.  Interesting history - like most places in Derry, to be honest.  In the centre of Brooke Park was a building created in 1839 using the legacy from a Donegal Businessman Mr John Gwyn, who left a small fortune (£40,000) for the provision for orphaned boys (Mr Gwyn being orphaned at an early age).  So I do the swanky new cafe a disservice, since it is on the site of the original Gywn Institute (and with the original cornerstone and a 'time-capsule' embedded in its foundations, apparently).   Gywns' Institute, by the way, has been a children's home (1840-1901), museum, library, pathological laboratory, welfare food centre and civil defence assembly point before being firebombed during "The Troubles" and subsequently demolished.  But it lives again, in the form of the cafe.  I wish I'd taken a photograph of it now.  It's just to the right of the bench in the snap above...

It seems that the actual park came after Gwyn's Institute and opened in 1901, offering 'a place of outdoor recreation for the citizens of Londonderry and to be a place where in particular the working man could enjoy on the Sabbath day his pipe and a pleasant walk or rest after the labours of a severe week's toil'.  A grand Victorian park, then.  Such was the legacy of a certain James Hood Brooke, a Presbyterian philanthropist. Mr Brooke died in 1865 and directed the trustees of his will to procure lands for a public space - specifically stating that the space should remain open on Sundays.  I suspect that was fairly radical for the times and typical of those Presbyterian dissenters.  The monies weren't sufficient for the lands on the Gywn estate and The Honourable The Irish Society agreed to stump up the difference, provided that once the lands were laid out they would be transferred to the Londonderry Corporation and forever maintained by them in perpetuity in accordance with the provisions of the Public Parks (Ireland) Act.  So it's a People's Park - and Mr Brooke is surely content with that, wherever he is.

Christ Church, at the lower end of Brooke Park - just opposite St Eugene's Cathedral. c1830.

On the western slopes of Derry/Londonderry, Brooke Park is all up and down.  A pleasant space, though, in-between the very busy Northland Road and less busy Rosemount Avenue.   Next time I'll take some better snaps - I hope!  Actually next time I've promised Missy that we will go into Christ Church and St Eugene's Cathedral.  All being well it will be recorded on some Ilford film and reproduced here for the legions of readers of this blog.  Indeed.

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