Belfast Telegraph

Mystery of Belfast's Academy Street name solved by plaque

By Rebecca Black

A new plaque has revealed the origins of a street name in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

While Academy Street is not currently home to any academies, it has been revealed to have been the site of the city's oldest school.

Belfast Royal Academy (BRA) was founded as Belfast Academy on the street in 1785.

Records show that BRA originally inhabited "some large old buildings, converted into school rooms and a house for the principal… a bowling green, playground gardens and rough grazing…"

It is a far cry from its premises on Cliftonville Road, which it moved to in 1880, although the current site has no grazing.

A commemorative plaque has been unveiled at the site of the original school by current headmaster Moore Dickson, along with veteran old-boy Des Simon (99).

"For many years, visitors to the Cathedral Quarter will have wondered why this is called Academy Street when there is no academy here," headmaster Mr Dickson said. "The answer is rooted deeply in the history of Belfast. In 1785, a handful of the city's founding fathers had the vision and the commitment to see that the area beside what was then St Anne's Church would be a suitable location for a school."

Mr Dickson also described the period 230 years ago as a "radical age" for the world.

"The Times was published for the first time, the dollar was chosen as the currency of the United States, the first hot air balloon crossed the English Channel - and The Belfast Academy was founded," he said.

"As the oldest school in Belfast, Belfast Royal Academy is truly an institution at the heart of the city. We are delighted to have marked its origins in this way."

Belfast Telegraph


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