Belfast City Hall

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Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall 2.jpg
Belfast City Hall
General information
Architectural style Baroque Revival
Location Donegall Square
Town or city Belfast
Country Northern Ireland
Coordinates 54°35′47″N 5°55′48″W / 54.59639°N 5.93000°W / 54.59639; -5.93000
Current tenants Belfast City Council
Construction started 1898
Completed 1906
Renovated 2009
Cost Approx £360,000[1]
Client Belfast Corporation
Height Roof – 174 feet (53 m)
Design and construction
Architect Alfred Brumwell Thomas
Quantity surveyor WH Stephens
Main contractor H&J Martin

Belfast City Hall is the civic building of the Belfast City Council. Located in Donegall Square, Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, it faces north and effectively divides the commercial and business areas of the city centre.

History[edit]

A black and white photograph, showing a stately-looking two-storey building with white walls, extending out of shot to the left and right, with an arched cart entrance at the centre. A modest clocktower rises above the entrance, and the building is surrounded by neat shrubbery and iron railings. A wide street crosses left-right outside of the fence, with a handful of horse-drawn carts and pedestrians in 19th century clothing.
The White Linen Hall, or the Linen Hall Library as it was in 1888. Now replaced by the City Hall.

The site now occupied by Belfast City Hall was once the home of the White Linen Hall, an important international Linen Exchange. The Street that runs from the back door of Belfast City Hall through the middle of Linen Quarter is Linen Hall Street.[2]

Plans for the City Hall began in 1888 when Belfast was awarded city status by Queen Victoria. This was in recognition of Belfast's rapid expansion and thriving linen, rope-making, shipbuilding and engineering industries. During this period Belfast briefly overtook Dublin as the most populous city on the island of Ireland.[3]

Construction began in 1898 under the supervision of architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas and was completed in 1906 at a cost of £369,000. Belfast Corporation (now the council) used their profits from the gas industry to pay for the construction of Belfast City Hall. Local firms H&J Martin and WH Stephens were among the companies involved in construction. James G. Gamble, architect, was the clerk of works.

The city hall in Durban, South Africa is almost an exact replica of Belfast's City Hall.[4] It was built in 1910 and designed by Stanley G. Hudson, who was inspired by the Belfast design. The Port of Liverpool Building, designed by Arnold Thornley and completed in 1913, is another very close relative.[5]

On 1 August 2006 the City Hall celebrated its centenary with a "Century of Memories" exhibition and family picnic day.[6]

On 3 December 2012, City Council voted to limit the days that the Union Flag flies from City Hall to no more than 18 designated days. Since 1906, the flag had been flown every day of the year. The move was backed by the Council's Irish nationalist Councillors and by its Alliance Party Councillors. It was opposed by the unionist Councillors. On the night of the vote, unionist and loyalist protesters tried to storm City Hall. They held protests throughout Northern Ireland, some of which became violent.[7]

Exterior[edit]

The grounds of City Hall are popular for relaxation during the summer. In the background are the dome at Victoria Square Shopping Centre and the Belfast Wheel.

The exterior is built mainly from Portland stone and is in the Baroque Revival style. It covers an area of one and a half acres and has an enclosed courtyard.

Featuring towers at each of the four corners, with a lantern-crowned 173 ft (53 m) copper dome in the centre, the City Hall dominates the city centre skyline. As with other Victorian buildings in the city centre, the City Hall's copper-coated domes are a distinctive green.

The Titanic Memorial in Belfast is located on the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

The pediment sculpture is by F. W. Pomeroy, assisted by local carver J. Edgar Winter, and features on the reverse side of the current series of £10, £20, £50 and £100 sterling banknotes issued by the Northern Bank.[8]

The design of the building is reminiscent of the Old Bailey in London.[citation needed]

Illuminate project[edit]

Floodlights have been added to City Hall to light up the building in a variety of colours and combinations. Using the same technology as the Empire State Building in New York, a white illumination will be applied to the building, after dusk, and it will also be 'colour-washed' on special dates.[9]

Occasion Date Colour
Gay Pride Saturday 6 July 2013 Rainbow
Orangefest Friday 12 July 2013 Orange and purple
Polish Independence Day Monday 11 November 2013 Red and white
Chinese New Year Friday 31 January 2014 Red and yellow
St Valentine's Day Friday 14 February 2014 Red
International Women's Day Saturday 8 March 2014 Purple
St Patrick's Day Monday 17 March 2014 Green
May Day Monday 5 May 2014 Red
Queen's official birthday To be confirmed – first or second Saturday in June 2014 Red, white and blue

Interior[edit]

The interior has a number of notable features including The Porte-Cochère and Grand Entrance, The Grand Staircase, The Reception Room and The Great Hall. The latter was destroyed during the Belfast blitz and subsequently rebuilt.

Carrara, Pavonazzo and Brescia marbles are used extensively throughout the building as are stained glass windows featuring among others the Belfast Coat of Arms, portraits of Queen Victoria and William III and shields of the Provinces of Ireland.

Various memorials are located in the building, including ones to Frederick Robert Chichester, Earl of Belfast, Sir Crawford and Lady McCullagh and the 36th (Ulster) Division.

City Hall Dome 
First floor Rotunda 
Sculpture of the Earl of Belfast 
Central staircase 
Main entrance 

Grounds[edit]

Garden of Remembrance and The Cenotaph, Belfast

The gardens surrounding the City Hall are a popular with office workers taking their lunch in the summer months, as well as tourists and teenagers gathering in their dozens to enjoy the green.

Various statues stand in the grounds, including one of Queen Victoria by Sir Thomas Brock. There is also a granite column dedicated to the American Expeditionary Force, many of whom were based in Belfast prior to D-Day.

Brock also designed the marble figure of Thane, the Titanic Memorial, in memorial to the victims of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The ship was built in Harland and Wolff's shipyard located in the east of the city. The monument was originally located at the front gate of City Hall, at the junction of Donegall Square North and Donegall Place.

There is a memorial to Sir Edward Harland, the former head of the Harland and Wolff shipyard and Mayor of Belfast from 1885 to 1886. It too was sculpted by Thomas Brock.[10]

The grounds also house Northern Ireland's main war memorial, The Garden of Remembrance and Cenotaph, at which wreaths are laid on Remembrance Day.

James Magennis VC, the only Northern Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross during World War II, is also commemorated in the grounds. The Leading Seaman won the medal while serving in the Far East in 1945. A 6-foot-high (1.8 m) memorial to Magennis, made from Portland stone and bronze, stands in front of the City Hall. It was erected in 1999.

On 3 January 2006 Belfast City Councillors ratified a plan to erect a statue to the late Belfast footballer George Best in the grounds of the City Hall. Following approval from the Best family, the George Best Memorial Trust was created in December 2006. The trust's patron David Healy contributed £1,000 to the estimated total cost of £200,000.[11]

In October 2007 a 60 m Ferris wheel was constructed in the grounds, giving passengers panoramic views 200 ft (61 m) above the city. The wheel had 42 air-conditioned capsules, which could hold up to six adults and two children. The wheel finally closed at 6:00pm on 11 April 2010 and was removed during May 2010.[12]

In 2008, the Imjin River Memorial was relocated here when the St Patrick's Barracks in Ballymena closed. The memorial commemorates Irish[13] troops lost in the Battle of Chaegunghyon in January 1951 during the Korean War.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brett, C.E.B. Buildings of Belfast 1700–1914. Page 67. Friar's Bush Press, Belfast, 1985.
  2. ^ The Linen Hall Library, one of Belfast's oldest cultural institutions, that occupies a site in Donegal Square North in front of today's City Hall, started life within the walls of the White Linen Hall.
  3. ^ The Victorian Web, National University of Singapore. Victorianweb.org (12 September 2006).
  4. ^ BBC Schools website. Bbc.co.uk.
  5. ^ Brett, C. E. B. Buildings of Belfast 1700–1914. Belfast: Friar's Bush Press, 1985; p. 65.
  6. ^ BBC news. BBC News (1 August 2006).
  7. ^ "Violence in Belfast after council votes to change Union flag policy" BBC News 3 December 2012 Retrieved 5 December 2012
  8. ^ "Northern Ireland". Ron Wise's Banknoteworld. Archived from the original on 8 October 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008. 
  9. ^ Belfast City Hall – Belfast City Council. Belfastcity.gov.uk (1 August 1906).
  10. ^ Belfast City Council. Belfastcity.gov.uk.
  11. ^ BBC. BBC News (30 January 2007).
  12. ^ Belfast City Council[dead link]
  13. ^ "Royal Ulster Rifles Korean Memorial". Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "War Memorials Trust". Retrieved 18 April 2014. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
none
Home of the
Parliament of Northern Ireland

1921
Succeeded by
Assembly's College Building

Coordinates: 54°35′47″N 5°55′48″W / 54.596484°N 5.930053°W / 54.596484; -5.930053