To the rear of First Derry Presbyterian Church is a refurbished Blue Coat School, now home to the The Blue Coat School Visitor Centre. This centre is a small museum on the history of Church, the history of Presbyterians in the city (and beyond) and the role Presbyterians played in the 1689 Siege of Derry.
In the 1640s organised Presbyterianism commenced in Ulster with many Derry Presbyterians signing the Solemn League and Covenant in 1644 protesting at royal interference in church affairs. The formation of the congregation now known as First Derry took place at around the same time.
Presbyterianism played a major role in the Siege of Derry in 1689 to the extent that following the lifting of the Siege Queen Mary gave a significant donation to the Presbyterians to construct a new meeting-house. By the 1770s the original meeting-house became too small for the numbers attending services and so the current First Derry Presbyterian Church was erected.
The rich history of Presbyterianism is depicted through a mixture of graphic design, original objects, digital interactives and models, together with a recreation of life in the Blue Coat School in the early 19th century.
When visiting, and I highly recommend you do, visit the museum prior to visiting the church as the museum display continues into the church.
First Derry has, in its history, founded five schools throughout the city including the Blue Coat School which was founded in 1773. The 1773 school was extended via the construction in 1820 of a no longer existing girls school adjacent to the church. Both schools were replaced by the First Derry National School in 1894. This later building, now the Verbal Arts Centre, is the rather grand building you can see beside the Roaring Meg cannon at Double Bastion on the southwest corner of the Walls.
The Blue Coat School was funded via a combination of contributions from the Honourable, the Irish Society (created by Royal Charter (James I) in 1613 to undertake the Plantation in the North West of Ulster and importantly protect the Planters and a major benefactor of the city ever since), church collections and voluntary contributions. Boys attending the school were educated and clothed and subsequently apprenticed to trades. While at school they were members of the church choir.
In general terms Blue Coat Schools were charity schools, the first of which was founded in England in the 16th century. They are known as “blue coat schools” because of the distinctive blue uniform originally worn by the pupils. The uniform included a blue frock coat, and yellow stockings with white bands.
Opening Hours – Apr to Sept: Tue-Fri 10am-4pm
Admission – free but donations to the Church & Visitor Centre maintenance are appreciated.
Address: Upper Magazine Street
Directions: Access from the City Walls
This entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Londonderry/Derry. I suggest you continue with my next entry – The Apprentice Boys – Memorial Hall and Museum – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – The City on the Foyle.