Formerly the First Derry National School, the Verbal Arts Centre is an iconic, listed building on a corner site of the walls of Derry/Londonderry. 

Adjacent to the Double Bastion near Bishop Gate, it is located at an interface with the Fountain on one side and the Bogside on the other. 

Early years

The First Derry National School was built to a design by W E Pinkerton and opened in 1894.

The building is in the popular Queen Anne revival style.

High roofs, Dutch gables, tall chimney stacks, and mullioned windows are set in an asymmetrical red-brick composition.  

Verbal Arts Centre before

The main entrance is from Stable Lane which once skirted the walled garden of the former Bishop’s Palace.

In 1995, three local primary schools merged, including First Derry, and relocated to the Fountain. The building was acquired by the Verbal Arts Centre, which was established in 1992 as an educational charity to promote literature in all its forms.


The original building was restored and extended in 2000 by architects Hall Black Douglas whose work establishes a narrative thread from dark to light, rising through the levels of the building.

The current reception hall was originally the school's partially covered playground. 

At first floor level the two former classrooms survive almost intact and are separated by the original, fully operational sliding doors. 

Art Works

Commissioned works by leading artists in Ireland provide a visual counterpoint to each floor.

Please click here for a gallery of our art works