The original town hall was built in the 1600s in the Diamond area of the City and was destroyed during the Siege in 1689.
The Guildhall was built in 1887 by ‘The Honourable The Irish Society’ on land reclaimed from the River Foyle at a cost of £19,000 (equivalent to £1.5 million today). The building was named in honour of its connection to the City of London and its guilds.
It was officially opened in 1890 as the administrative centre for Londonderry Corporation. It is the only surviving guildhall still in civic use in Ireland.
Over its 120 year history the Guildhall has been destroyed twice – by fire in 1908 and through bomb attacks in 1972. The grade ‘A’ listed building has many significant features and stories to tell for example:
- 23 stained glass windows. They tell the story of the city and many were gifted by the London Companies.
- The Guildhall Clock was designed as a replica of ‘Big Ben’ in London and was the largest of its kind in Ireland.
- A time capsule buried under the building when the foundation stone was laid in 1887 was recently uncovered. Its contents are in display on the first floor.
- From 2000 to 2005 the Guildhall was the seat of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry headed by Lord Saville, which was published in June 2010.
- A major £9.5m restoration of the Guildhall was completed in 2013 by Consarc and H & J Martin. This included major refurbishment of the building and development of visitor areas and interpretation.
- The original Guildhall organ was installed in the Main Hall in 1891. The organ is the largest in Ulster with the exception of the Mulholland Organ in the Ulster Hall, Belfast