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New Gatelodge exhibition to tell story of Brooke Park

31 May 2019

The historic Gatelodge at Brooke Park will be revealing some of its secrets over the summer as it hosts a special exhibition charting the history of the Victorian Park from its first opening in 1839.

The lodge itself dates back to 1840 and greets visitors at the Cathedral entranceway of the park, which has undergone a major revamp in recent years funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Department for Communities and Derry City and Strabane District Council.

The exhibition will tell the park’s colourful story spanning three centuries and will be open to the public from 1stJune until the 31st August between 10am – 12noon every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Speaking at the opening, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said it was the first time the public would have the opportunity to have access to the unique building.

“It is fantastic that this beautiful, historic Gatelodge will be accessible to the public for the first time and that the story of Brooke Park is being brought to life within this space,” she declared. “The exhibition in the Gatelodge catalogues the history of the park from its first opening, when it was the site of Gwyn’s Orphanage for Boys. And the exhibition will take us down through years, documenting its role in our city’s history to its present day function as a beautiful urban park located right in the heart of the city.

“This is a significant milestone in the redevelopment of Brooke Park making this green space even more open to local people and tourists alike.”

Park Manager with Council, Emma Barron, said the Gatelodge would become a visitor highlight over the summer months. “I am delighted that the public will have the opportunity to visit the exhibition and find out a bit more about the park’s eventful history,” he said.

“Anyone who comes from the city has fond memories of Brooke Park - or the People’s Park as it was known - and this is a great chance to share its history with the visitors who come to enjoy the features, including the Victorian oval pond, which have been so beautifully restored over the past few years.”

Publically maintained for over 100 years, Brooke Park owes its existence to two local philanthropists, John Gwyn and James Hood Brooke. John Gwyn established the city’s first orphanage on the site leaving the bulk of his wealth for the establishment of the facility on his death in 1829. The trustees of his will purchased the land where the park now lies for the sum of £200 on 9 September 1839.

Throughout the Troubles the park fell into disrepair but thanks to an investment of £5.6m, it reopened after two years of extensive regeneration work restoring its Victorian features in 2016. The eight hectare site now boasts Gwyn’s Café which occupies the former orphanage site, a children’s playpark, horticulture centre, contact sport centre, and 3G pitches.