Derry City Council and the Plantation of Ulster: remembering 400 years

Published in Early Modern History (1500–1700), General, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2009), Plantation of Ireland, Reviews, Volume 17

75_small_1259263772The HMS currently operates four museums—the Tower, Harbour, Workhouse and Foyle Valley Railway Museums. An Archive Service and a programme of learning activities allow staff to raise awareness of the collection and of the region’s history. Learning is at the heart of the HMS, with a range of activities for all ages, based on the permanent and temporary exhibitions.
In May 2009 the Tower Museum received an Irish Museum Award for the exhibition An Armada Shipwreck—La Trinidad Valencera, and another from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board as best tourist attraction. In 2007 the HMS and Donegal County Museum hosted an exhibition to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls. The following year, it co-convened and hosted a conference in the Guildhall to mark the quatercentenary of Sir Cahir O’Doherty’s rebellion, a crucial postscript to the Flight and prelude to the Plantation of Ulster, the seminal event in the city’s early modern history.
As part of the five years of scheduled events to mark the Plantation of Ulster, a major programme is now under way to raise awareness and improve understanding of this pivotal event in the city’s history. Partners include the City of London, the Donegal County Museum, the Honourable the Irish Society, the London Metropolitan Archives, the Northern Ireland Museums Council and the University of Ulster. The programme seeks to increase understanding of a key event in the history of these islands; to promote greater understanding of our shared history; to celebrate richness in cultural diversity; to attract visitors to the city for their enjoyment and the city’s benefit; and to provide a legacy for future generations.
As well as co-convening, hosting and subsidising conferences and related academic initiatives, the HMS will take the lead in the heritage-based aspects of the Plantation programme, providing a range of opportunities for local communities, institutions, businesses and visitors to the city to participate.
Plantation goes to the heart of our divided histories, and the programme must uncover both separate and interconnected stories. The success of the project will depend upon the early inclusion of as many interested parties as possible and the early development of robust working relationships in the city, across the province, island and Irish Sea, comprising community, educational, public and private representation and the development of a broad-based consultation exercise.
Enquiries: Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service, Harbour Museum, Harbour Square, Derry BT48 6AF, +44 (0)28 7137 7331,,

Craig McGuicken and Bernadette Walsh are, respectively, curator and archivist of Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service.

This publication has been supported financially by Derry City Council through its Heritage and Museum Service.




In partnership with the Donegal County Museum, with funding from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism, three popular history books have been commissioned which will look at the history, process and legacy of the Plantation in Derry/Londonderry and Donegal.

Archaeological project
Closely related to the ambition to improve our local collections is the aim of developing our understanding of and access to the archaeology of the Plantation period. A Northern Ireland Museums Council grant has enabled the HMS to commission a report that details the collection of objects unearthed during a series of salvage excavations carried out in the city between 1976 and 1980. These excavations, directed by Dr Brian Lacey, concentrated on areas of the modern city associated with the early seventeenth-century settlement.

Archives Project
A project undertaken between the HMS, the University of Ulster and the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) aims to establish the nature of the archive collection relating to the Honourable the Irish Society and the Plantation of Londonderry. Dr Valerie McGowan-Doyle has written a detailed, scholarly checklist of this vast collection of archives, a resource that will enable academics, local communities and visitors to obtain a greater understanding of the development of the city and county since the seventeenth century. Its contents span four centuries and cover a wide range of subjects, including economic, business, environmental and colonial history. The second phase of the project will establish partners and funding to allow a comprehensive digitisation project to take place.

Consultation projects
Public consultation and engagement are vital to ensure understanding of, commitment to and development of the programme. The HMS has received generous funding packages from Peace III to facilitate cooperation with Strabane District Council, Omagh District Council and Donegal County Council. These projects include a touring exhibition and a community consultation process, which will encourage participation and understanding of our shared heritage.

Increase understanding and raise awareness

The Plantation of Ulster has left us with a legacy of cultural and religious diversity recognised by many as one of our key strengths and the HMS’s programme will work towards greater community development, economic growth through tourism and regeneration in the Plantation City.


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