This historic people’s park in the heart of Londonderry has been restored to its former glory after a major regeneration project…
An historic landmark within the Maiden City, this eight-hectare public park was built in 1901 and, thanks to a regeneration project, funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department of Social Development, it has now been transformed for future generations.
The project included the building of the Gwyn’s Pavilion Café on the site of the former Gwyn’s Institute, plus the restoration of the Brooke Park Portico Lodge and the former Victorian Oval Pond. The scheme also comprised an innovative play garden and walled garden, along with a horticulture and environment training centre, a new contact sport centre, and new 3G pitches, all set within a stunningly restored landscape.
The £5.6million revamp got underway inJanuary, 2015 after the council appointed Woodvale Construction to deliver the regeneration project, and MWA Landscape Architects to design the layout.
Woodvale Construction had four building structures on site – the contact sports centre, horticultural training centre, pavilion building, and gatelodge.
The works for the contact sports centre involved under-pinning an historic wall and building a 4m-high reinforced concrete retaining wall, before foundation works (consisting of pad and strip foundations) could start.
A steel portal frame provided the skeleton of the building, which was wrapped with blockwork and timber cladding externally, and insulated. Internally, there is a blockwork finish, with an insulated roof sheet system completing the building.
The works for the horticultural training centre involved traditional strip foundations, ground-bearing slab and an insulated blockwork envelope. Insulated single-roof membrane completed the roof structure.
At the pavilion building, works consisted of piling through an existing basement structure from the previously demolished building, topped with pile caps and ground beams. A steel portal frame was wrapped in traditional blockwork, rendered to finish. A sedum roof finished the building envelope. A reinforced concrete oval shaped pond was constructed below the pavilion and fenced to mirror what had been there originally. It is surrounded by a bespoke cast fencing post and infill detail, with planted flower beds carefully arranged throughout the site.
The gate lodge works consisted of delicately restoring the listed stone-built building and access gates at the Infirmary Road entrance to the park. Repairs to stone, roof, and windows and doors were undertaken on site, conserving the material that was originally used. Throughout the park, several hundred metres of bespoke fencing encapsulates the grounds.
“A big challenge on the project was the water discharge rate from the new storm drainage system,” said Paul Devine, Contract Manager on the project with main contractor, Woodvale Construction. “It was so onerous that large attenuation tanks were required to restrict flow rates entering the under-pressure storm system in the city. The problem here was not to interfere with the existing trees and their root structures. We worked with our design team to reconfigure a solution to enable us to place the tanks into the ground with minimal impact on the existing trees, which we did – and it worked very well.
“A second challenge was keeping the park pathways open, to enable the public to keep using the path whilst construction work was ongoing,” continued Paul. “We accommodated this by introducing some additional paths and fencing, and securing the existing pathways at the very outset of the project. Manned barriers were utilised to manage the pedestrian crossing points.
“The site was 25 acres, which created challenges for our site management of the project. We sourced what was akin to a golf buggy for our management team to efficiently get around the site to keep an eye on operations, safety and quality!
“The weather proved to be another challenge and I would like to thank our Site Manager, Mickey McCann who motivated his team during one of the wettest summers on record, and who made everything happen on site with his strong work ethic.
“We understood that the project was a long time in its conception and we ensured that all our communication was out in the public domain, keeping the community informed about how things were going. The existing leisure centre on site was operating throughout the project duration, which also meant close collaboration. The historic value of the site was not lost on us either. We were aware of the park’s great history and were delighted to bring some of its best features back to life – such as the statue and metalwork throughout the park.
“The ‘Black Man’, as the locals refer to the statue, received a total make-over from our bronze specialist and sculptor, Ed Barton. He oversaw the removal of years of paintwork and restored the statue to its original splendour, a detailed job which took several days’ work on site. The existing iron-work gates and railings to the gatelodge were also painstakingly stripped of years of paint, repaired and re-erected to their original specification.
In addition, to mark the significance of the park in the city’s history, we buried a time capsule in the foundations of the pavilion building, with an on-site ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor.”