cathedral and Walls
St Columb’s Cathedral, built in 1633, is the earliest intact building to survive in the city. It was the first purpose built Protestant Cathedral in the British Isles and is a typical London church of its time. It has seen great changes over the years but its essential character as a late Perpendicular Gothic church remains. Its style is often referred to as ‘Planters Gothic’ as the fine web like detail often associated with the Perpendicular is dispensed with in favour of a more robust and defensible construction.
This typical section of wall at the ‘Fountain’ shows clearly that the external faces slope backwards from the base in a ‘batter’. This is
part of the design and aimed to deflect canon balls. Behind the external surface is 2 metres of stone further reinforced by c.8 metres of earthen ramparts to the rear. The use of the projecting bastions to allow defenders to fire along the sides of the wall can be clearly understood. As originally constructed, the base of the wall at this section was further defended by a ditch which followed the line of the structure.
This small arched door in the Walls is likely to be of early construction. It is a ‘sally port’ or secret exit from the city away from the main approaches. Inside, it is now blocked up after about three metres. The route beyond, though the graveyard, is understood to have collapsed. A major commander of Gaelic Irish forces during the Confederacy of Kilkenny (1642-50), Owen Roe O’Neill, is said to have used the entrance to visit the inhabitants and
discuss supporting them at the time of the 1649 siege. This siege occurred because Parliament in London had decided that the city should not be controlled by a Scottish Army which had crossed into Ulster during the uncertain period of the English Civil War.
Owen Roe engaged this army and relieved the garrison.