Belfast, Royal Avenue 1897

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Caption for Belfast, Royal Avenue 1897: During the 19th century, the well-laid-out streets to the south beyond Donegall Square were matched (at least in orderliness) by those built on the reclaimed land near York Street. In between, there remained a triangle of small slum streets beginning at Castle Place. In 1878 the Town Council obtained powers to clear the area; they began by extending the town centre with a fine new street connecting Castle Place with York Street. There was already the beginnings of a route in one very old narrow street, but all signs of Hercules Street were to disappear, along with its 40 fleshers and their killing yards. Four thousand people were to lose their homes, but it was said that they would have no difficulty in finding somewhere else to go. The same confidence ordained that the thoroughfare was to be 80ft wide and lined with tall buildings built to a uniform height. These were to be fronted with shops to create a first-rate retailing zone. The councillors were right to name it Royal Avenue. The photograph shows the Provincial Bank, which had in fact been in 'Hercules Place', now absorbed. Its railings and shrubs helped to put it in line with the new Avenue, and it became number 2. It was listed among the five best bank buildings in Belfast. Next is the Ulster Reform Club, marking the real start of the Avenue. Those who formed it looked to the great Mr Gladstone to bring changes in society; but even as the Club was being built, it became known that he had now decided to give Ireland a devolved government, with a Parliament in Dublin. The club became the gathering point of the Liberal Unionist Party. The next domed building was very new in 1897; and marks the luxurious 200-bedroom Grand Central Hotel. This was the essential hostelry of all important visitors to Belfast for many generations.

An extract from Belfast Photographic Memories.

Memories of Belfast


I was lucky in that I lived in an area that was not often touched by the violence that was going on in Northern Ireland at the time, but a telephone conversation with my mum in recent days brought back memories of life in Belfast when 'the troubles' were in full swing. She had just heard the news of the recent (...Read full memory)

My cousin and I lived at the top of the Oldpark Road, near Ballysillan, in the mid-1950's and every Saturday morning during our tenth and eleventh years, we would catch the bus into town, walk around the City Hall and down to swim at the Ormeau Baths. After we had our permitted 30 minutes, we would walk back to a cafe (...Read full memory)

back in the years 1947 /1950 ,my grand mother and I would spend a day at Hazelwood ,if I recall correctly by the steps they had a little carnival ,then we would make our way to the Floral hall ,which in those days had a silver tea room ,whiter than white table cloths ,the waitress,s dressed in black with white (...Read full memory)

After school - Belfast Royal Academy - a liitle gang of us would take the bus down to Royal Avenue and head for the Lombard restaurant in Lombard Street. It was a very comfortable, spacious place, founded by the Ulster Temperance Society and open evenings too, where you could sit as long as you liked, with waitress (...Read full memory)

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More about this scene


Caption for Belfast, Royal Avenue 1897: During the 19th century, the well-laid-out streets to the south beyond Donegall Square were matched (at least in orderliness) by those built on the reclaimed land near York Street. In between, there remained a triangle of small slum streets beginning at Castle Place. In 1878 the Town Council obtained powers to clear the area; they began by extending the town centre with a fine new street connecting Castle Place with York Street. There was already the beginnings of a route in one very old narrow street, but all signs of Hercules Street were to disappear, along with its 40 fleshers and their killing yards. Four thousand people were to lose their homes, but it was said that they would have no difficulty in finding somewhere else to go. The same confidence ordained that the thoroughfare was to be 80ft wide and lined with tall buildings built to a uniform height. These were to be fronted with shops to create a first-rate retailing zone. The councillors were right to name it Royal Avenue. The photograph shows the Provincial Bank, which had in fact been in 'Hercules Place', now absorbed. Its railings and shrubs helped to put it in line with the new Avenue, and it became number 2. It was listed among the five best bank buildings in Belfast. Next is the Ulster Reform Club, marking the real start of the Avenue. Those who formed it looked to the great Mr Gladstone to bring changes in society; but even as the Club was being built, it became known that he had now decided to give Ireland a devolved government, with a Parliament in Dublin. The club became the gathering point of the Liberal Unionist Party. The next domed building was very new in 1897; and marks the luxurious 200-bedroom Grand Central Hotel. This was the essential hostelry of all important visitors to Belfast for many generations.

An extract from Belfast Photographic Memories.

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