Belfast Telegraph

Residents demand answers as history lies in the rubble

by Fiona Rutherford

Palmerstown Residents’ Association is demanding answers about the site of shipyard founder Gustav Wolff’s cottages.

Two years ago, residents were stunned as a demolition gang moved onto the site of the cottages at 2-4 Station Road, Sydenham, at 7am, and destroyed the historic buildings.

The cottages were the last remaining part of the Gustav Wilhelm Wolff estate known as the Den, but were not listed so there was no impediment to their being demolished.

Now the site is for sale, together with numbers 290-292 Holywood Road, with planning permission for 28 apartments and underground parking.

Terry Hoey, chairman of the residents’ association, says the cottages could have become part of a major tourist industry, but were demolished to make way for apartments that have never been built. The lack of activity on the site has rankled with the group.

“The developer has never been back to the site to clear it or to ensure it is made safe by removing the rubble that was once two historical cottages of the like that has never been seen before in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Mr Hoey says the decision by the Planning Service to allow the cottages to be demolished was “very short-sighted”.

“The cottages meant so much to the community of Sydenham, and were part of the history.

“Why was the community not involved in any decisions taken to demolish the cottages, removing the only remaining link to Harland and Wolff ship-builders and Gustav Wilhelm Wolff?

“The cottages were also a vital link to our children's history,” said Mr Hoey.

“The Sydenham community want answers. The shipyard of Harland and Wolff has meant so much to the larger Sydenham area as so many fathers and sons from the Sydenham area worked for the company . That vital link has now been broken.

“We look at the Titanic Quarter as not having a shipping history. It may take the name of a liner that was built in the shipyard, but that is all it achieves.

“Harland and Wolff has built many ships and liners — they were the world’s best. They employed a lot of Northern Irish people, yet this is not marked in any way at the Titanic Quarter.

“So many people worked and died at Harland and Wolff, none of whom have been remembered in any way at all.

“Great ships were built, but are no part of the Titanic Quarter — names we should never forget, like the SS Canberra, Seillean, and Olympic, yet they are forgotten.

“We also seem to have forgotten the names of the passengers and the workers who lost their lives on the Titanic.”

Mr Hoey added: “2-4 Station Road would have been the community museum of Harland and Wolff for our children's history, and yet it lies in ruins.”

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