Long Tower

18 Pump Street,Derry


The present Long Tower Church began life, though on a much smaller scale in 1783. It was the inspiration of Father John Lynch, a native of Balteagh, Dungiven, and theological graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris, who was the Parish Priest of Derry at that time. He lived in a house off Ferguson’s Lane, the site of which is preserved today as a rest area.


Located near the Hawthorn tree which marked the traditional site of the Teampall Mor, the great Cathedral of Derry. Fr Lynch considered times were favourable to the building of a Church in the city and in 1783 he set about raising funds, including 200 Guineas from the Protestant Bishop of Derry.


Building commenced in 1784. The design of the church was a straight forward rectangle, comprising one of the transepts of the present church with the altar near the present side door facing Bishop Street. It had an earthen floor and was estimated to hold 2000 persons standing. It was still unfinished when Father Lynch died on December 20th, 1786, but as a mark of honour it was opened for his funeral, the preacher addressing his congregation from a pile of stones left in a corner by workmen. At his own request Father Lynch was buried beneath the Hawthorn Tree where he had so often said Mass in harsher times.


Father Lynch was succeeded by Rev Charles O’Donnell, a nephew of Bishop McDevitt and Dean of the Diocese. Doctor O’Donnell was later made Bishop in 1797, and continued residing in Ferguson’s Lane where he acquired the adjoining houses and opened a small seminary for students of the priesthood. In 1810 he began the enlargement of the Long Tower Church, by adding a nave and galleries, and changed the altar to the northern side of the Church. The general pattern and outline of the altar has remained unchanged to the present day. Originally, the four large columns supporting the canopy over the altar were made of timber, but the Corinthian capitals of Italian marble which rest on them are the originals, acquired from the Protestant Bishop, Lord Bristol, when his plans for building a house at Ballyscullion were abandoned.


Over the years many additions and improvements were made to the church. The building itself contains an abundance of historical artifacts; stained glass windows, the Hannigan Monstrance, the organ in the Central Gallery, the Communion rail constructed from Carrara marble and the opus sectile pictures around the church all come together to add to the historical look and feel of this magnificent building.


As you enter the church grounds you will see a series of seven ceramic reliefs depicting stories from the life of St. Columba. At each of the frieze there are 2 panels made up of tiles designed by local primary school children, based on the themes of friendship and peace.
long-tower-church Map Detail

St Columba &
Long Tower Church

Despite this absence of a direct link there is a lasting conviction that Columba was the founder of Derry, and that, while the Long Tower Church may or may not be situated on the site of the ancient Dubh Regles, or the Teampall Mor, it is sufficiently close to be a lasting memorial to his life and work.

The church which he built there came to be known as the Dubh Regles, the black church, and was long believed to have stood somewhere in the precincts of the present Long Tower Church, but modern scholarship would tend to place it further up the hill in the vicinity of St Augustine's Church within the walls.