First Derry Presbyterian Church, L’Derry

This was a complex restoration project on a semi-derelict church which was in an extremely bad state of disrepair and had almost fallen into ruin. It was closed in 2002 due to the discovery of extensive dry rot. Silent for almost nine years and successfully completed in May 2011, this church is once again resounding with the voice of its congregation.

Overcoming the complexities and challenges of the project required skilful planning, co-ordination and craftsmanship.

Key Features:

  • First Derry Presbyterian Church is situated inside the historic city walls at Upper Magazine Street. It has a distinguished past that dates back to the 1780’s, but its roots go back even further to before the time of the Siege
  • The site was a very restricted and often congested inner city car park with shared access to the rear of retail units and business premises. This restricted Woodvale’s working area and required stakeholder consultation, liaison and Just-in-time deliveries
  • The first obstacle Woodvale had to overcome on this project was the pigeons. The building was crumbling and dilapidated and the pigeons had left their visiting cards everywhere. Their droppings contain 40 different pathogens, including a major one that affects the lungs, so the first thing we had to do was to clean and decontaminate the building
  • A major complexity required the removal of the existing roof covering and the removal and repair of the 7 major roof trusses, measuring 17 metres long and 5 metres high, which had become unsafe due to dry rot. The trusses had to be housed on-site in a specially designed scaffold structure. Up to 4 metres of the rotten ends were cut off and new pieces manufactured and then spliced on to the existing good timber, before being hoisted up and secured in place again
  • The roof repair also required the formation of a concrete and steel ring beam cast in-situ
  • Other complexities included stone repair and the restoration of stain glass window
  • Internally the challenge was to create a fitting home for the congregation and the extensive use of wood throughout required expert skills from Woodvale’s directly employed craftsmen, particularly for the intricate ceiling
  • During the restoration works, human remains dating back to the time of the Siege of Derry were discovered. Woodvale worked in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency who carried out an archaeological dig, and Woodvale were able to re-programme the works and still deliver the project on time

Style Guru, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen, in an interview with BBC Radio Foyle from First Derry Presbyterian Church commented “It’s got a wonderful wooden ceiling, a very elegant curve to the balcony, very pretty columns and panelling.”

“Very rich, very ornate stain glass, very eye-catching”

“I think because it is such a landmark it is an architectural statement that is so obvious it is very much on the geography of the walls”

“It’s lovely that it feels alive again”

2012 Construction Excellence Award

First Derry Presbyterian Church beat stiff competition from four other shortlisted finalists to win the Restoration Category of the CEF Construction Excellence Awards 2012. This is the second year running that Woodvale have been awarded this category. The other finalists included Crumlin Road Goal, Riddel Hall and The Guildhall, Londonderry.

A delighted Robert Ewing commented “The winning of this major award for the last two years has been well deserved recognition for our Restoration Division. The efforts of all associated with the Restoration of First Derry Presbyterian Church have been recognised and now this iconic building will sit proudly on Derry’s walls to be enjoyed by both congregation and visitors for generations to come. The restricted nature of the site and precarious state of the building prior to commencement added to what was already a very challenging project. As with any major restoration project unforeseen difficulties arose during the construction phase.  However the professional approach and attention to detail of a very experienced Woodvale team led to the completion of a successful project. One of which we are rightly proud.” 


Woodvale First Derry from Woodvale Construction on Vimeo.

Key Project Information
Architect Bond Architects
Value £2.5m
Time-line 63 weeks
Duration 63 weeks
Extra Information
Location First Derry & Claremont Presbyterian Church
Sectors Restoration
The high quality craftsmanship evident throughout the building greatly impressed the Secretary of State, Owen Patterson MP, as did the stunningly beautiful stained glass windows.
The Rev David Latimer