The argument as to whether it's Ferguson Street or Ferguson's Lane persists to this day despite the fact that the name is officially Ferguson Street.
According to the late John Bryson's excellent book, The Streets Of Derry, it was indeed a country lane linking Bishop Street to Foyle Road in 1780. It had previously been known as Edward's Lane and in 1830 Ferguson's Lane cut through gardens, orchards and two or three ropewalks; one of which was located at the spot where Dodd's Bar is today. A ropewalk was a long and narrow area where ropes were made.
Two names are linked to Ferguson's Lane, one being Thomas Ferguson, a leaseholder of plot 78 in 1738. The other name was that of John Ferguson, a captain in the Derry Irish Volunteers in 1779. These 'volunteers' were militia formed by British landowners to 'defend' Ireland while the British army was fighting during the American War of Independence.
There is no actual date in The Streets of Derry as to when houses were first erected on Ferguson's Lane but it does refer to a Andrew McLoughlin who built a house, where McLaughlin's Close is today, in 1850. This person was named as a landlord on Ferguson's Lane so it is highly likely that the houses were there at that time.
According to John Bryson's research the name was changed from Ferguson's Lane to Ferguson Street in 1860. Numbers 1 to 17 were replaced in 1901, when Bellevue Avenue was built and the house at McLaughlin's Close was rebuilt in 1902. Numbers 41 and 43 were demolished in 1935 when Maureen Avenue was built, number 65 in 1945, numbers 49 to 63 in 1980? (John's question mark)
During my own research I came across an old map of Ferguson's Lane with the houses marked on it. What is interesting is that there is clearly an orchard on the bottom left hand side and across from it there is what appears to be one of the ropewalks.
It's incredible to think that despite the name having been changed in 1860 that many people in Derry still refer to it as Ferguson's Lane.
Getting back to my question, Are the smaller houses on Ferguson Street the oldest terraced houses in Derry today?
John Bryson only referred to houses which had been demolished, in his research. We must therefore assume that the other houses on Ferguson Street must be those smaller ones which remain on the left hand side and the four small ones on the right hand side and that they were the original houses which stood on Ferguson's Lane since at least 1860.
If this is the case they must be the oldest remaining terraced houses in the city. Rosemount was still countryside back then and the first streets weren't built up there until the 1870s.
Two of these houses on Ferguson Street have been derelict for years and in a bad state of disrepair but with the possibility that they are part of the oldest street still remaining as it was they must be obtained and preserved. Given that both houses are situated next door to each other they could be put to use in a way that benefits the local community.
Might I even suggest that the two houses are transformed into living history museums showing how people lived in Derry in the 1800s and in the 1900s. Why not even include outdoor toilets?
Thomas Dixie Elliot is a Derry artist and a former H Block Blanketman.
Follow Dixie Elliot on Twitter @IsMise_Dixie