from the erection of a prison at Ferryquay Gate and the loss
of some cannons 'lent' to the Parliamentary forces in 1650,
the Walls lay virtually neglected for 40 years.
deterioration that resulted in their weakened condition at the
time of the Great Siege was noted by Lord Macaulay, the 19th century
historian. His account was based on an inspection of the Derry
fortifications by a French engineer, Jean Thomas. Lord Macaulay
in truth, to a military eye, the defences of Londonderry appeared
contemptible. The fortification consisted of a single wall overgrown
with grass and weeds: there was no ditch even before the gates:
the drawbridges had long been neglected: the chains were rusty
and could scarcely be used: the parapets and towerswere builtafter
a fashion which might well move [engineers] to laughter; and these
feeble defences were on almost every side commanded by heights.
Indeed those who laid out the city had never meant that it should
be able to stand a regular siege, and had contented themselves
with throwing up works sufficient to protect the inhabitants against
a tumultuary attackof the Celtic peasantry.
was great controversy over the Walls, mainly because they were
not built in the normal pattern of that period. They lacked a
moat, a counterscarp (the outer side of the ditch), buttresses,
outworks and suitable platforms for the few cannons they had.
But no-one could explain why, if the Walls were so badly constructed,
the army of King James could not capture the city.
reasons for the failure of the Great Siege, its cause was well
known. The Protestant people of England were fearful of their
Catholic king, James II, and replaced him. Prince William of the
Netherlands, also a Protestant, was approached to lead a bloodless
revolution in November 1688 which forced James to flee to France.
Francis Nevill’s map of the besieged Derry in 1689.
Ireland there was armed resistance amongst the Catholic Irish
and English troops loyal to James. A contingent of these Jacobite
forces (as they were known) arrived at Derry's Ferryquay Gate
on 7 December 1688. Led by the Earl of Antrim, they had been sent
by Tyrconnell, the Catholic viceroy, to take over command of the
the city's own troops had been sent to Dublin some weeks beforehand,
the Protestant inhabitants feared a massacre. Thirteen apprentices
of the city rushed to close the Gates and this action marked the
symbolic beginning of the Great Siege. It is still celebrated
today but on 18 December each year due to the change in calendar
Colonel Robert Lundy returned with the garrison's forces, he set
about strengthening the Walls against a Jacobite attack. He ordered
the building of a triangular defensive wall (a ravelin) outside
Bishop's Gate and also outworks to Windmill Hill in the west and
south to the west and south to the river.
the eve of the siege, all the buildings outside the city Walls
(on both sides of the Foyle) were set alight by the defenders
to prevent them being used as cover by the besiegers.
On 18 April
1689 King James II arrived at Bishop's Gate in the mistaken belief
that if he requested the garrison to surrender they would accede.
His only reply was a barrage of shot which not only repulsed the
Jacobites but registered the actual beginning of the siege. Four
times King James demanded the surrender of the city. Four times
he was refused. Frustrated, he returned to Dublin leaving his
generals to besiege the Walls for 105 days.
the siege the Walls were continuously bombarded by James's forces
under Marshal Dc Rosen. Cannons and mortars caused great damage,
mostly to the section between Bishop's Gate and Butcher's Gate
which received the brunt of the attacks.
reinforce the bulwarks the defenders made running repairs by using
barrels filled with earth and gravel to replace the smashed parapets.
At various times they had to place timber and sods outside against
the Gates to protect them from the enemy's 'battering pieces'.
They even built a small fort (from casks filled with clay) outside
the Walls in the vicinity of Lord Docwra's Bulwark. It is called
Walker's Fort in maps of the period, probably because the then
joint Governor, Rev George Walker, ordered its construction.
By such makeshift
means and by venturing outside occasionally to disrupt the enemy,
the defenders contrived to defy the besiegers until relief came
on 28 July 1689.
William King, Bishop of Derry (1691-1702), said the siege failed
because the besiegers were cowards. The supporters of King James
argued it was the lack of cannons, mortars, scaling ladders and
battering rams which made their task almost impossible.