Belfast Telegraph

Mansion where the UVF hid its guns during Home Rule crisis is given listed status

By Linda Stewart

The historic home where the Combined Loyalist Military Command announced their 1994 ceasefire has been listed by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.

Fernhill House in Glencairn and its stableyard are among 33 buildings across Belfast that are to be protected with new listings.

The stately home was built by Belfast butter merchant John Smith in 1864 and in 1898, it was sold to the Cunningham family, owners of the Northern Whig newspaper and the tobacco firm of Murray Sons and Co Ltd.

Arms and ammunition belonging to the UVF were stored in the stableyard of Fernhill House during the Home Rule crisis and Lord Carson reviewed the force's west Belfast regiment when they paraded in front of the house in June 1914 before setting off to the First World War.

The estate was bought by Belfast Corporation in 1962 and opened as Glencairn Park. In the 1990s, the building was used by the Glencairn People's Project for a People's Museum, but has since lain empty after closing eight years ago.

Local historian Bobby Foster says volunteers sometimes clean up the exterior and a number of re-enactments have been held to mark the decade of centenaries, but inside the building is derelict.

"The outside of the building looks OK but inside is just a shell," he said.

DUP MLA William Humphrey said Fernhill House is the last of three houses in the area that were owned by the Cunningham family - the others were Glencairn House and Glendivis House - and was the focal point for the Belfast celebrations of the 75th anniversary of VE Day. "I don't think anyone would say the listing is controversial. It's a hugely significant building in unionism and in terms of the formation and development of the UVF," he said.

Among the other listings are eight churches, a George VI pillar box, three Parliamentary posts, a graveyard monument and villas at Cyprus Avenue designed by architects Young and MacKenzie, known for their work on the former Robinson and Cleaver store.

Mr Durkan said the listings were a boost for Belfast, adding: "The listing of these buildings recognises the architectural and historic interest of a wide range of structures spanning over a century of the city's development. The variety of buildings listed reflects the city's diverse and varied history. From older and modern churches, graveyard monuments, pillar boxes and boundary posts, to a stableyard which is part of the outbuildings that once housed a Grand National winner and which was a community museum, they all have fascinating stories to tell.

"Listing these structures will ensure these important cultural assets are preserved and protected." Other buildings listed are former estate workers' cottages and two pavilion buildings on the Stormont estate. The eight churches range from the traditional Gothic Revival examples at Ballysillan Presbyterian and Cavehill Methodist Churches in north Belfast to the modernist design of Orangefield Baptist Church built in 1968. The 1964 chapel at Dominican College was influenced by Le Corbusier's Chapel at Ronchamps in France.

Three Parliamentary Boundary posts dated 1918 in Gilnahirk Road and King's Road mark the outer extent of the Belfast Corporation and Pottinger Electoral ward Division, and are of significance as a remnant of the first election in Britain and Ireland when nearly everyone - bar women under 30 - had the right to vote. "Our built heritage is a precious and finite resource. It is important that we work together to ensure that it is valued and enjoyed into the future and that its potential to contribute to our economic and social wellbeing and regeneration is fully realised," Mr Durkan said.

Protection for our heritage

1 & 2 Stormont Cottages

2, 4 & 6 Cyprus Avenue

99 Upper Newtownards Road

Fernhill House and Outbuildings

Pillar Box, Connsbrook Ave

Orangefield Baptist Church, North Road

3 Parliamentary Boundary Posts, Gilnahirk

Quarry House

2 - 4 Belmont Road, Belfast

Cross of Sacrifice, Dundonald Cemetery

Pavilion, Massey Ave

Bloomfield Presbyterian Church

Woodvale Presbyterian Church

Woodvale Park Bandstand

Ballysillan Presbyterian Church

Holy Trinity C of I Church, Ballysillan

Cavehill Methodist Church

Chapel at Dominican College

Barnageeha, St Patricks Secondary School

585 & 587 Antrim Road

Newington Presbyterian Church

Gate Lodge to Holy Family PS

Hamill Vault, St Joseph's Churchyard, Hannahstown

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