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Kelly's Cellars pub - where rebels of 1798 met - among 17 Belfast buildings that face being stripped of listed status


Kelly’s Cellars, established in 1720, in Bank Square, Belfast

Kelly’s Cellars, established in 1720, in Bank Square, Belfast

Kelly’s Cellars, established in 1720, in Bank Square, Belfast

One of the oldest pubs in Belfast could be about to lose its listed status - leaving it vulnerable to development or demolition.

Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Square — where the United Irishmen met to plot their 1798 uprising — is on a list of 17 Belfast buildings which the Department of the Environment has proposed delisting.

The list also includes 4-8 and 10 Church Lane (a series of traditional shop fronts including  tobacconist Miss Moran), the Methodist Church at 11-16 Donegall Street East (which is now the Ulster Bank), and numbers 276-294 Tennent Street, known as Edenderry Gardens.

The delisting proposals will be referred to the Historic Buildings Council and Belfast City Council for review and decisions will be finalised at the end of February.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society said that despite their present condition, all buildings currently proposed for delisting contribute to the value of Belfast’s fragile built heritage and are important resources to promote tourism, economic investment and social regeneration. Kelly’s Cellars, at 30-32 Bank Street, was built in 1720 by merchant Hugh Kelly who kept it as a bonded warehouse selling rum, gin and whiskey. It is renowned as a meeting place for Henry Joy McCracken and the United Irishmen when they were planning the 1798 Rising, with McCracken reported to have hidden behind the bar when British soldiers came for him.

“Whilst it has been altered, the building retains historic character and has significant architectural value. Indeed, the Ulster History Circle recognises its significance as a meeting place for the United Irishmen 1791 to 1798,” UAHS said.

“The building has seen renewal and repair, typical of a building of its age. Unlike scheduling, listing does not imply that a building cannot evolve and change, only that alteration must be done appropriately.”

The Church Lane buildings were restored after bomb damage with traditional-style shop fronts.

“It is due to their listed status that these buildings were restored in an appropriate and sympathetic way after bomb damage. If delisted, these buildings will no longer avail of the protection that once saved them,” UAHS said.

A DoE spokesperson said: “The issue regarding most of the buildings proposed for delisting is that internal investigation has revealed a significant loss of historic fabric. A final view will, however, only be taken once consultation responses have been received. For the first time, interiors are being recorded and detailed historical research carried out. 

“The aim is to provide a clear explanation of why buildings should be considered important enough to have this protection and to ensure that the department has good evidence to protect such structures from unauthorised change in the future.

“As part of this process, NIEA has to date surveyed 824 historic buildings. The vast majority of listed buildings will remain and be protected.”

Buildings that could lose protection

  • 276-294 Tennent Street, Edenderry Gardens
  • Kelly’s Cellars, Bank Street
  • 11 College Place North
  • 13 College Place North
  • 4-8 Church Lane
  • 10 Church Lane
  • Arthur Chambers, 4-14 Arthur Street
  • Ulster Bank (former Methodist Church), 11-16 Donegall Square East

Read more:

Belfast Telegraph