Belfast Telegraph

Belfast council's decision to list two Victorian buildings welcomed

By Rebecca Black

The listing of three grand old Victoria buildings in Belfast has been described as a "new dawn" for protecting our built heritage.

The properties include two on North Street in the city centre - where last year there was outrage when a similar property was bulldozed - as well as a large "gentleman's residence" at Malone Park.

Located at 156-164 North Street, Windsor Buildings date back to 1895 and stretch to a red storey sandstone exterior which include carved decoration reading "McB", believed to be after Robert McBride who built it. In 1901 it housed G Bolton & Co which 'manufactured 'boys' washing suits and blouses etc' and in the 1920s was the meeting place of the British Order of Ancient Free Gardeners.

The second building listed is 166-174 North Street, 'Merchants Buildings', built around 1899 of red brick with sandstone lintels. The central doorcase includes a lions rampant carrying shields with the monogram 'FC', for Francis Curley. The attic floor of the building served as Belfast's Municipal School of Art from 1901 to 1907, prior to its relocation to the Belfast Institute of Technology at College Square North.

The listing comes less than a year after 97-105 North Street was demolished.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) welcomed the listing.

"As the first buildings are listed by issue of Building Preservation Notice since devolved powers in 2015, can this actually be interpreted as a game changer for protection of Belfast's historic buildings", Nikki McVeigh told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It goes without saying that the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) welcomes Belfast City Council's decision to endorse the listing of prominent Victorian buildings 156-164 and 166-174 North Street, the 120 year old Windsor and Merchants buildings.

"Any action attributing value and protection to the city's remaining historic fabric, given decades of incremental losses, must deliver due credit to Belfast City Council and the members of the city council planning committee.

"There was apparent ease in the way that 'almost listed' buildings at 97-105 North Street were demolished last year. Belfast City Council had been informed of the buildings' significance and of the intention to list. The council's power to serve a Building Preservation Notice (BPN) could have been used to protect the buildings in the interim, but no such action was taken. The demolition of these buildings, as well as the previous loss of the Elephant Buildings and bar, now a car park, added further to the almost complete demise of Upper North Street, once one of Belfast's most attractive principal historic trading streets."

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