April 20

This Day in History

General Interest

Apr 20, 1689:

Siege of Londonderry begins

James II, the former British king, begins a siege of Londonderry, a Protestant stronghold in Northern Ireland.

In 1688, James II, a Catholic, was deposed by his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, in a bloodless coup known as the Glorious Revolution. James fled to France and in 1689 landed in Ireland, hoping to incite his Catholic supporters there and regain the British throne. Aided by French forces, James captured Dublin in late March and in April marched on Londonderry, the northern town where Irish supporters of Britain had fled.

On April 20, 1689, James, having encircled Londonderry, began a bombardment of the fortified city, causing devastating fires and significant loss of life. However, despite this and other assaults, the city refused to surrender, and its poorly supplied defenders managed to repulse repeated attacks from James' soldiers. In the face of famine conditions, George Walker, the joint governor of the town and an Anglican clergyman, gave inspired public sermons that roused the people to a fierce resistance. Finally, on August 1, after 105 days of siege, British forces arrived to relieve the defiant Protestant city, and James retreated.

Eleven months later, at the Battle of Boyne in eastern Ireland, James suffered a final defeat against the forces of William and Mary. George Walker, the defender of Londonderry, was killed during the battle.

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