A time capsule containing newspapers and coins dating back to 1887 has been unearthed in Derry city by stonemasons. The find has been described as an important archaeological and historical discovery.

Derry Council museum curator, Craig McGuicken described the find as the most significant historical discovery in recent years. “It was placed there deliberately as a time capsule,” he said.

The workers made the discovery during the restoration work at the Guildhall in Derry City. The items were contained in a sealed glass jar which dates back to the laying of the first foundation stones of Guildhall on August 23rd, 1887.

The contents of the capsule included a sovereign, a half-sovereign, a crown piece, a double florin, a sixpence piece, a three-pence piece, a penny and a halfpenny. It also contained pages from several newspapers including the Londonderry Journal, Londonderry Standard, Londonderry Sentinel and the London Times.

Stonemasons located the capsule in a cavity of the foundation stone which was laid 123 years ago by Sir J Whittaker Ellis, who was the then governor of the Honourable Irish Society and by the Mayor of Derry Sir Thomas Leckey.

According to newspaper records the Londonderry Journal reported the day after the laying of the foundation stone that ““only a few hundred ladies and gentlemen were present within the enclosure, but a large number of people collected on Shipquay Gate and Magazine Gate and the wall space between these points overlooking the place at which the foundation stone was being laid”.

Róisín Doherty from Derry City Council’s museum services department said that the find reiterated the importance of the Guildhall within the community.

“The last time this vessel was open, the last hands to touch these items were those people back in 1887, so it emphasises the human side to the story. It also symbolises the Guildhall’s position as a hub of the city for almost a century and a half.

“From an archaeological and historical viewpoint, finding these items and documents was fantastic,” she said.