Derry City & Strabane - Early Years




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Early Years

Brooke Park

In the early years, Brooke Park was a cherished space within the city and was the centre of many high profile civic functions, in 1902 Mr and Mrs Gilliland of Brook Hall donated ‘two rare and valuable shrubs’ in time for the Royal Visit in 1903. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited the park and planted trees. In 1904 there was a promenade and firework display and numerous flower shows and garden parties. The park was annually re-stocked, for example there is documentary evidence of twenty thousand plants being propagated each year and maintained by a large workforce of gardeners. Throughout these years the Gwyns Institute building housed a museum.

In 1914 the First World War broke out and Brooke Park was used as part of a food production scheme and the Museum was occupied by the Military. In 1927, the war memorial was erected in Shipquay Street and the statue of Sir Robert Ferguson was relocated to the southern section of Brooke Park.

During world war two, the parks committee avoided using the park for allotments, although most of the railings, standards, cannons and railings were requisitioned for the war effort.

Throughout the early part of the twentieth century band concerts and events were very popular and every effort was made to make the Park beautiful. King George VI visited in 1945 and the Princess Royal in 1952. They planted trees with the same silver trowel used by King Edward III in 1903. Queen Elizabeth II visited the Park in 1953, soon after her accession to the throne. On that occasion the press reports comment on the bright display of flowers and cannons to ornament the frontage were borrowed from the city walls.

The planting was maintained during the 1960’s. From 1960 to 65, five thousand ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, heathers and rose bushes were ordered. The building became a library, with exhibition space; both it and the park were well used.