Belfast Buildings Trust
|Founder(s)||Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE|
|Origins||Founded to rescue historic buildings in Belfast through heritage led regeneration|
Chairman – Paul MillarPatron – Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE DL
|Focus(es)||Heritage led regeneration, built heritage, social and physical regeneration|
The Belfast Buildings Trust (BBT), founded in 1996 as the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust, is a cross-community Building Preservation Trust with charitable status that exists to deliver both physical and social regeneration through the reuse of landmark buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Each building rescued by the trust seeks to regenerate the community it serves in a variety of ways, from traditional skills promotion to job creation and engendering a sense of civic pride. The BBT's work demonstrates what can be achieved through vision, determination and community energy. It is committed to restoring to Belfast those buildings that make it special, and which are landmarks in the heart of the city's communities.
Mr Paul Millar, current chairman of the trust, is a chartered architect with experience in regeneration and restoration work. The founding chair, Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE DL, with a background in public affairs, also has experience of regeneration projects and sits on the board of a number of other regeneration charities, including The Prince's Regeneration Trust.
The BBT has completed three regeneration projects: St Patrick's School, Donegall Street; Christ Church, College Square North; and The Gate Lodge at the former Good Shepherd Convent on Ormeau Road, which now serves as the trust's headquarters.
St Patrick's National School (1828)
St Patrick's was built by Newry architect Timothy Hevey on land donated by the Marquess of Donegall for the first catholic National School in the city. It continued to serve the educational needs of the north of the city until it closed in 1982. Situated in a sectarian interface area (which witnessed the highest murder numbers in the history of Northern Ireland's troubles), the building was nevertheless well beloved of both communities.
A package of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Architectural Heritage Fund and the trust's own borrowings ensured a completed project, and today the building houses offices, a bookshop and a restored classroom, extensively used by both local communities for events from creative writing classes to business seminars.[dead link]
Christ Church (1832)
This church, built by the Dublin architect William Farrell is situated in an equally difficult area between loyalist Sandy Row and republican Durham Street. Having suffered a declining congregation, the church closed in the early 1990s and was the victim of many attacks before arson in 1995.
With a similar package of funding to St Patrick's School and a partnership with the board of governors of The Royal Belfast Academical Institution the building is now restored as a library and IT centre, with extensive community use. The building was opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2003 and has won many architectural and regeneration awards. This building in particular is proof of the way in which restored buildings can bridge communities when politicians' words cannot.
The Gate Lodge (1867)
The gate lodge at the former Good Shepherd Convent in south Belfast was built as the home for the convent caretaker. The architects were Sherry and Hughes, with a later extension and alterations in 1895 by JJ McDonnell. It is a gabled 1 1⁄2-storey lodge, situated adjacent to the key junction of the Ormeau Road and Ravenhill Road. Small as it is, the last family to live in the building numbered eleven, including grandparents, parents and seven children.
Long a landmark for both the local community and commuters alike, the building ceased to be a residence in 1974, and lay empty and derelict until the trust agreed a restoration project with the then owners, the Diocese of Down and Connor, in early 2009. Completed in November of the same year, The Gate Lodge, now remarked upon for its bright red exterior, serves as the offices of the BBT and is once again a much loved landmark for the city.
The Belfast Buildings Trust was renamed in November 2012. This was to better reflect that its work focuses on regeneration in its widest sense.
The BBT is currently engaged in a number of potential regeneration projects across Belfast. These include the former St. Malachy's School in Sussex Place and Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church. In addition, the Trust has been in negotiations with Belfast City Council for some years over the possible restoration of the fine Floral Hall at Belfast Zoo.
Founded by Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE DL in 1996, BBT has long held an awareness of the need to foster civic responsibility and engagement to help protect and regenerate Belfast's historic buildings. To this end, the Trust assumed responsibility for the organisation of the Northern Ireland Schools Debating Competition from Belfast Civic Trust some years ago.
Additionally, BBT plays an active role in advocacy and lobbying with government departments, fellow preservation trusts and other bodies interested in preservation and regeneration. It is a member of the UK Association of Building Preservation Trusts and a leading organisation in the Built Heritage Forum as well as a sister organisation of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.
- The Prince of Wales – HRH arrives in Northern Ireland and opens a first phase of a new hospital in Belfast