Ulster Architectural Heritage Society
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society exists to promote the appreciation and enjoyment of architecture from the prehistoric to the present in the nine counties of Ulster, and to encourage its preservation and conservation.
The Society organises outings for its members, publishes extensive and scholarly books, lobbies to save individual buildings and townscapes, comments on new developments, seeks to act as a network of information about buildings, architects and craftsmen.
Contact us at:
66 Donegall Pass
Belfast BT7 1BU
tel 028-9055 0213
fax 028-9055 0214
About the Society
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society was founded in 1967 in response to a growing awareness of the value of the historic buildings of Northern Ireland and the threats to their survival. It is widely recognised as one of the most active groups in the British Isles concerned with the promotion of historic architecture and has pioneered a number of important initiatives. Its membership is around 1200, but its influence is wider than this figure might suggest, and it remains the only voluntary body with a remit to campaign for the built heritage across Northern Ireland.
When the UAHS was founded there was no statutory listing in the province. Its campaigns led to the establishment of listed building legislation here in 1972: before that there was no Historic Buildings Council; no historic buildings grants; no conservation areas; and no public buildings record. All those things now exist, and the UAHS has played no small part in their formation. The Society continues to comment on planning legislation, on area plans and on individual planning applications, and its views are often specifically sought by planning authorities and others concerned with development of legislation.
The most public face of the Society is when it campaigns for the preservation of buildings threatened by redevelopment. The Society routinely examines the planning applications published each week across the province, and in a typical week its local planning monitors and staff may examine the drawings for a dozen applications and will comment on three or four; this amounts to up to two hundred applications commented on during the year. While many comments will be comparatively minor, and some are entirely supportive of applications, others will lead to further correspondence and lobbying.
Comments on planning applications can be relatively straightforward, but the Society also appears at Planning Appeals when important conservation issues are at stake. It is not just listed buildings that merit this attention: the Society's campaigns often highlight the importance of the integrity of conservation areas and suggest ways of strengthening legislation to reduce losses in the future. Such pressure was almost certainly instrumental, for example, in the designation of five new conservation areas in Belfast in 2000.
For details of current issues go to News.
If a listed building is threatened with demolition or severe alteration, or if an unlisted building of real merit is threatened, the Society will raise the issue not only with the planners, but also with councils and in some cases with the applicants as well. This can lead to more public prominence for the Society's work when it draws media attention to the issues. Prominent recent campaigns have included Portrush Town Hall and the early but unlisted Ardmara in Bangor. In the latter case there was a particularly strong local lobby, but surprisingly often the Society is the only objector to a planning application, and its comments can provide essential support when the Planning Service or Environment Service wish to refuse an application. When local people are involved, the Society can often provide a more expert or scholarly case to back up the issues residents have identified.
For details of current issues go to News.
The Society's ability to make precise and scholarly comments on planning applications arises largely from the accumulated expertise of the more than fifty publications it has issued. These range from general books on local architecture to monographs on particular architects or houses, but at the core are the historical gazetteers that describe nearly every building in many of Ulster's towns with detailed descriptions and histories illuminated by anecdotes and numerous photographs. Recent volumes include Armagh city, Central Belfast and Bangor. The third of Sir Charles Brett's magisterial and beautifully illustrated county books, that on the buildings of north Co Down, is due to appear in 2002. The Society's books are used by schoolchildren, historians, architects and estate agents, and are widely collected as an invaluable resource on local history and buildings past and present.
Click here for an index to our publications; or here for the full list.
Buildings at risk
Another series of publications in recent years has covered Buildings At Risk. Generously sponsored by the Environment & Heritage Service, these have drawn attention to the plight of more than a thousand buildings lying empty and neglected; some 20% have subsequently found new owners or uses, while negotiations are ongoing in other cases. In parallel with these books has been the publication of directories of architects, builders and craftsmen working in conservation, which helps building owners to identify expert assistance in restoring their buildings.
Click here for further details.
People might say it is easy to draw attention to the plight of such buildings but less easy to solve them. The Society was aware from early on of the need to carry out practical restoration work and therefore collaborated with the National Trust in the establishment of Hearth, a body which acquires and restores historic buildings at risk. The Society continues to nominate half of Hearth's committee. It maintains a close relationship with this body which now manages a hundred houses in restored buildings and has restored many more for sale and for other owners. Examples of buildings rescued by Hearth include the lockhouse at Drumbeg outside Belfast, Georgian buildings in Armagh and Belfast, and the Curfew Tower in Cushendall, many of which would almost certainly have otherwise been lost. Full details of Hearth's current activities can be found on its own website at www.hearth-housing.org.uk.
The Society provides speakers for local history societies and extramural lectures, and has organised regular conferences and seminars on aspects of local architecture. A particularly successful recent conference, Bliss or Blitz, focused on the threats to rural vernacular buildings, and this has led to a number of initiatives by the NI Housing Executive and others which may reduce the loss of such buildings. Recognising the need for education at an early stage, the Society has received a Heritage Lottery grant to enable it to employ an education officer for three years to develop materials for schools to use, drawing local buildings into the curricula for history, geography, art and other subjects.
Click here for further details.
All of these activities are vital to the Society, and for many people are sufficient reason to support it. However a full programme of activities for members is also maintained throughout the year, with visits to towns and buildings during the summer months and lectures in the winter.
How you can help our work
Although the Society is primarily concerned with the conservation of historic buildings, its interests range from the prehistoric to the contemporary. It is also concerned that Ulster should have modern buildings of quality that will become the listed buildings of the future. Over the years the UAHS has established itself as a fearless campaigner for buildings of merit, a generous resource of information on local architecture, and a fair and helpful source of advice on conservation respected well beyond the nine counties of Ulster which are its constituency. There are many voluntary organisations protecting wildlife, but only the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society takes an interest in preserving the history and beauty that belong to our historic buildings. New members are always welcome.
Our Committee meets monthly and devises strategies for dealing with current issues of concern as well as organising outings activities and all the other aspects of the Society's work. For additional information about membership or publications, please contact the UAHS office.
Some past Buildings of the Month:
- Harbour Office, Corporation Square, Belfast
- Cottage near Trillick, Co Fermanagh
- Former Elecricity Generating Station, East Bridge Street, Belfast
- Gosford Castle, Markethill, Co Armagh
- Chateau de Chantilly, France
- Drumalis, Larne, Co Antrim
- Elmwood Hall, University Road, Belfast
- Christian Science Church, Rugby Road, Belfast
- Christ Church restored
- Malone Place judicial review
- Red Hall demolished
- Victoria Square inquiry
- Tillie & Henderson
- Carnlough and Glenoe de-listings
- Presbyterian Theological College
- Annadale Brickworks
- Demesne Road, Holywood
- The Planning (Amendment) Bill
- Queen's Great Hall
- Buildings at Risk
- Maison Décoration
- Seamus Heaney's house
- Lower Crescent
- Stays of Execution
- The Albert Clock
- Gresham Arcade, North Street
- Massey Avenue
Our Building of the Month is on the About UAHS page. It should really be called our Building of the Quarter, as it doesn't seem to change that frequently, but we may as well be ambitious. Anyway, previous highlights are listed here.
Become an activist!
Do you want to learn about developments as they happen? Inevitably this website is to some extent retrospective and archival, but we have the facility to e-mail interested members as we issue press releases or comment on major applications and plans. If you want to become actively involved in campaigns, or simply want to be kept abreast of our activities, please ask to be added to our e-mailing list. You should e-mail us at email@example.com if you would like to join it, and if you want to take an active role in planning issues, activities or any other aspect of the Society's work don't forget to let us know.
Christ Church restored (Mar 2003)
Ten years ago the Church of Ireland Christ Church in College Square North, Belfast, closed its doors for the last time, and the building went on the market. Suffering from extensive dry rot and threatened by road plans, it did not find a buyer and vandals broke in. After a series of attacks the roof was burnt off it leaving a charred brick shell. At that stage the neighbouring Royal Belfast Academic Institution (Inst) acquired it with a view to demolishing it and putting a sports hall on the site. Fortunately it remained listed and their application for LBC was turned down.
The Belfast Building Preservation Trust, fresh from its successful endeavours to rescue the similarly burnt-out and threatened St Patrick's Schools in Donegall Street, started negotiations with the school and eventually agreed a lease arrangement that would allow the trust to restore the building to high standards and ensure public access,while the school's library and computer centre would be the main user.
Once they had obtained Heritage Lottery funding building work (Martin & Hamilton, main contractors) could commence, and the restoration has now been completed. A lecture by the distinguished Scottish conservation architect James Simpson has been organised jointly by the UAHS and BBPT and is to take place in the building on 4 April. That will be a chance to enjoy the church's resurrection, in particular the spectacularly recreated coffered timber ceiling over what will be the school's library and the restored marble relief of Sir Charles Lanyon's wife (who worshipped at the church). For more details, click here.
Malone Place, Belfast (Feb 2003)
Malone Place in 1984
Malone Place is a short terrace of mid 19th century houses at the junction of Lisburn and Malone Roads. Much of the terrace changed hands some years ago and has been improved, but the the buildings at the Sandy Row end remained partly derelict. The owners had refused to sell the occupied portion to their tenants and submitted an application for Listed Building Consent to demolish the group.
In November the planners issued approval for the "dismantling and restoration" of the buildings, which was a curious expression for what could only amount to demolition and rebuilding. EHS had expressed the view that the rebuilt structure would remain listed - in contravention to their usual view that unless a building has original interiors and other features it would be de-listed. More crucially, the building had not been offered to other parties on the open market, and the Historic Buildings Council had not been consulted about the proposal.
The Society decided that the process had been incorrectly carried out and applied for a judicial review of it. Application was accordingly made for the review and a detailed affidavit prepared, under the guidance of Nicholas Hanna QC and his assistant barrister John Stewart, who generously provided their services to the Society for no fee.
When the application came to court the DoE decided not to contest it, and the Society won the case by default. This is a very encouraging result, but it has to be borne in mind that judicial reviews look only at procedures, not at outcomes. It is possible that the applicant will seek permission for demolition yet again, and it is possible that the planners will grant such permission. However if the proper procedures are followed and the building is offered on the open market at a fair price it is likely that it will be acquired by a new owner willing to restore it.
Red Hall demolished (Feb 2003)
Following the demolition of the Seamus Heaney house last year it was hoped that other buildings with historic connections might have been treated sensitively, and attention had been drawn to the late Victorian house known as Red Hall in East Belfast's Circular Road, where CS Lewis played as a child and later stayed with his lifelong friend Arthur Greeves when he wrote Pilgrim's Regress. It was being sold by the South & East Belfast Health Trust as it was surplus to requirements, but sadly (and quite unnecessarily) when it was not listed they chose to demolish it before selling it. As the house was unlisted and not in a conservation area, the demoilition was legal, but there was considerable outcry about it, and it may have been an anticipation of the demolition control now being introduced for Areas of Townscape Character.
Victoria Square, Belfast (Jan 2003)
In January 2002, the Society took part in the lengthy Inquiry into the proposals for redevelopment of Victoria Square (See Aug 2000).
The Planning Appeals Commission came out against the proposal, citing the Society's evidence as contributing substantially to its decision that wholesale redevelopment of the area was unnecessary and against the interests of the city centre's conservation. The Minister for Social Development, Nigel Dodds, promptly announced that he proposed to ignore the PAC decision and was "minded" to give the scheme the go-ahead, but allowed a month for further comments. In the meantime the Assembly was dissolved and the decision went into limbo. However his direct rule succesor, Des Browne, has announced that he will allow the development to go ahead.
It seems incredible that the outcome of such a detailed and expensive public inquiry, carried out by the PAC, should be ignored by the government, particularly when the question of planning permission has still to be decided. Does this mean that the planning decision has already been made behind the scenes, or is it just allowing the developer to assemble his land so that he has so much muscle that Planning Service will find it virtually impossible to overrule him should they wish to do so? And why is the Kitchen Bar and the adjoining, very early, Telfair's Entry not listed?
Tillie & Henderson (December 2002)
Tillie's in 2002
Londonderry is famous for its enormous Victorian shirt factories, many of which are now listed and many converted to new uses as housing or offices. One of the largest is the Tillie & Henderson factory, which was acquired some years ago by developer Diljit Rana and his company Andras House. Although there was no planning application for the building at the time, we joined Foyle Civic Trust in their concern for the property in the course of 2001. In July 2002 the planning application was duly lodged by Barrie Todd Architects and the battle to save one of the city's landmarks was on.
Built in red brick on the city side of the Craigavon Bridge, it was the biggest factory of its kind in the world when it was built, and one of the earliest of the massive shirt factories which made the city wealthy. Opened in 1857, it had housed a thousand workers by the time it was mentioned in Das Kapital, and more than four thousand in its heyday around 1940. Listed B+, its main elevation was built in 1865 by J G Ferguson. Surely the 120-bedroom hotel proposed by Andras House could be fitted inside the shell of the old factory? But they maintained that the property was in poor condition and continued to lobby the city councillors.
Suddenly, with the Army's Yellow Goddesses struggling to deal with fires in buildings of any height during the firemen's strike, a spate of over thirty fires (apparently 37 in total) were set in the empty factory on successive nights. Most barely damaged it, but on the night of 3 December (three nights before a similarly traumatic fire gutted part of Edinburgh's Old Town) several fires were lit at different locations which succeeded in destroying the roof of the factory.
The water pumped into the building by six fire appliances to douse the fire has left a risk of potential dry rot, but inspection of the factory afterwards showed how local the actual fire damage had been. Paint on most of the cast iron columns supporting the massive timber beams had not even been blistered by the heat (the bowing in the photo is due to a wide angle lens!), while traces of earlier fires which had petered out after charring the surface of the heavy timber floors can still be seen. Although parts of the building are up to six stories, much of it is no more than three stories in height and the compartmented structure means that instability is localised. Contradictory engineers' reports have been circulated, but it is obvious that even such a massive fire has not left the building in much worse structural condition than it had been before.
The UAHS and Hearth have been involved in discussions with the Foyle Civic Trust and local politicians since immediately after the fire to set up a local building preservation trust that can tackle the restoration in the event of the owners refusing to carry out restoration. Hearth has also offered in the short term to act as a caretaker trust by commissioning feasibility studies into holding repairs and ultimate re-use. Such a trust can do nothing to the building itself without the owner's agreement unless the DoE uses its powers of Repairs Notices or Compulsory Purchase, but the delay before repairs can be carried out would be much reduced if the ground could be prepared by such an initiative. However the chance of such a process working has been much strengthened by the unanimous rejection by Derry City Council of the planners' recommendation to approve demolition. It is rare to get cross-party support for any motion and this is a clear sign that the people of Derry are opposed to the loss of such a significant building. The Historic buildings Council is of the same mind, and in the wake of rumours that bulldozers were being lined up Environment & Heritage Service have taken out an injunction to prevent demolition.
January 2003: The temporary injunction granted to EHS was lifted by a judge on 20 December because they were unwilling to indemnify Andras against possible claims arising from the building's condition, and with several roads around the factory closed, the arguments had become muddier. Immediately after the Christmas holiday Andras moved the bulldozers in and has smoothly (and completely without authorisation) removed Tillies brick by brick to leave a cleared site in readiness for its new building. No Listed Building Consent for the demolition has been forthcoming, and the operation is unauthorised, and may yet become illegal.
The paralysis of the DoE in dealing with this major crisis has been frustrating. If they were going to oppose the demolition it needed to be done promptly, and they are now faced with a fait accompli. If they refuse it now, it will be a meaningless exercise, while if they grant approval it will be seen as caving in to force majeure. The new Minister, Angela Smith, at first appeared likely to take decisive action, but she is now faced with an impossible situation.
De-Listing in Carnlough and Glenoe (September 2002)
The Society was amazed to learn of the delisting of no less than eighteen buildings in Carnlough during the summer (announced quietly on the EHS website). Sadly we are becoming used to the sound of delistings, but to lose so many listings in a conservation area was unprecedented, the more so since there had been an agreement with the last Historic Buildings Council that no buildings would be de-listed in conservation areas until Article 4 Controls were in place to protect the details on which so much townscape character depends.
For whatever reason, the EHS decided in June to implement its Second Survey conclusion that buildings like the Waterfall Bar, despite having a virtually unaltered 19c elevation, should be delisted because it had no interior worth recording, and that the extraordinary butcher's shop converted from a former windmill at the end of the High Street had "no historical or architectural interest". Ironically, one of the most altered buildings in the village, Philip Gibbons' house, which was badly damaged by badly advised repairs some years ago, remains listed. We are not suggesting that it be delisted, since it is historically one of the earliest houses in Carnlough, but we do feel the delisting of the other buildings is unnecessary and very damaging. In particular, the group of two-storey terrace houses facing the harbour, none of which is individually important, have tremendous group value as the setting of the harbour. As for the delisting of the town library,
The burnt-out Courthouse in 1978 ... restored as the town Library
it is a gratuitous snub at the efforts made to restore the building from dereliction following fire damage some twenty years ago. Obviously very little had survived of the interior, but the restored building is a vital adjunct to the bridge that spans the street beside it.
Glenoe at the turn of the century - with the de-listings marked
The once very pretty village of Glenoe above Larne has also been a victim of de-listing, with a group of vernacular buildings below Hearth's hillside terrace now removed from protection and an unlisted building beyond already the subject of a planning application for demolition.
Once again, the Second Survey's admirable concentration on the trees means that it cannot see the wood. Adding to our knowledge of listed buildings is splendid, but removal of important groups of buildings because they are not individually listable is extremely damaging to the character, and indeed the very morale, of our towns.
Theological College, Botanic Avenue, Belfast (August 2002)
The College in 2000, before alterations began
Despite his reputation as the premier architect of the 19th century in Ulster, Sir Charles Lanyon's firmly attributed output is quite small, although it does include some of our most important buildings of the early Victorian period. One such is the grade A-listed Union Theological College (the Presbyterian Assemblies College), with an address on Botanic Avenue but most prominently visible as the eyecatcher at the end of University Square.
The College is actually a complex of important buildings. Lanyon's main central wing with its symmetrical facade and Mannerist portico contains the main rooms and a magnificent dark staircase. While Stormont was being built, the Northern Ireland Parliament met in the library of the College. The two side wings are different, that on College Green leading to the tall-windowed Chapel and the Principal's House, both designed by John Lanyon. The latter is probably the least important part of the complex, but even it is well preserved internally, with most of its original panel doors, fireplaces and cornices, along with most of its fine staircase.
Trying to monitor planning applications across the province for both listed and unlisted buildings is not easy, and sometimes we miss one. This was one such, and we were horrified to see building work had been authorised (in less than two months from the time of application) for major works to this building and that work was already under way. Now some alterations are inevitable to every building (in this case the work included disabled access), but there are ways the work can be carried out to minimise the impact; and there are other alterations which might be allowed in a B-listed building, but in a building of this importance alterations should have been minimal and limited to only the essential.
In this case however a new lift shaft is being put in rising above the front elevation, crudely detailed dormer windows are being inserted along one wing, a new apartment block is to be erected alongside newly-blocked windows at the end of the wing, conversion of the Principal's house into five flats has been approved with loss of fireplaces and most of the interior, car parking has been allowed all round the building in place of the presently mostly grassy grounds, and worst of all a glass coffee shop is to be built in the courtyard behind the college with glass links into the chapel and breaking into the main Victorian staircase of the College.
Some of this would have been bad for any listed building, but it should surely not be permitted to a Grade A building. On making further enquiries we found that the Historic Buildings Council had not been consulted on the proposals, and that the decision within EHS had involved only one architect. Procedures for dealing with buildings of this importance will hopefully now be tightened, but only after great damage has been done in this instance.
Annadale Brickworks (Jul 2002)
Archaeologists are currently excavating the site of the old Annadale Brickworks, whence came the bricks for so many houses in South Belfast and further afield in the latter part of the 19th century. Annadale was particularly famous for its special bricks and terracotta plaques, some examples of which along with their moulds have already been recovered. What is particularly fascinating however is the Byzantine complexity of the works that are being uncovered. It will soon be covered over with new houses, so get a look at our pictures.
Demesne Road, Holywood (Jun 2002)
Residents of Holywood have fought a series of battles to save fine early Victorian buildings in the town from demolition, several of which (such as Abingdon and Willesden) have been supported by the Society and featured in our newsletters. Recently the focus has been shifted to Demesne Road in the town, where an application from the developer Ravensblack for apartment blocks at nos.1-3 was likely to be blocked by the proposed listing of the present houses on the site.
Unfortunately EHS procedures for listing no longer involve only consultation with the local district council (which can be a delaying factor), or even that and the notification to the owner (which is as good as a hint that he should organise demolition at once if he wants to), but also requires access to the interior of the building, whether or not it is considered likely to be of interest.
This seems totally unnecessary when a building is under threat, as the owner can delay granting access while he organises demolition, and in this case demolition is exactly what resulted. If the building was being listed for the merits of its exterior, then any interior quality would have been a bonus that has now been lost. Once again the need for spot listing powers (or building preservation notices, as they are officially known) has been demonstrated.
Watched helplessly by local residents, the developers moved the residents out of the house and moved bulldozers in. The building was demolished within hours, and residents presented protests to both Dermot Nesbitt and to Rev William McCrae. The UAHS is being represented at the planning appeal (18 July) into the developer's application to replace the buildings, and it will be interesting to see whether the PAC comment on the loss of a building which was under consideration for listing.
The Planning (Amendment) Bill (June 02)
For some years legislation to strengthen planning legislation has been working its way through the system, and this month it has reached its second reading in the Assembly. The UAHS has been pressing for the new legislation and welcomes it having reached this stage, but was disappointed that the fines proposed for those flouting the law remain pitifully small, and dismayed that the proposal to introduce Third Party Appeals, which had been present in the previous version, had been dropped.
The debate at the second reading on 24 June was lively. Jane Morrice pointed out that "We ask the birds, bees, flowers and trees to see what effect [a development] will have on them, but there is no ... assessment to ensure that the neighbours and the local community are consulted in these stages of the development process." Another member said that "We need a better system [of protecting our historic buildings] than the Minister standing in the street crying, 'Shame!' as the bulldozers do their work." Read more details here.
January 2003: In the wake of the fire and unauthorised demolition at Tillie & Hendersons the government rapidly brought this legislation onto the statute books. As an editorial in the Belfast Telegraph commented on 11 January, "The stable door is being closed, but in many cases the horse has already bolted. Sadly, Northern Ireland has already lost many notable buildings. Seldom have they been replaced by anything that has stood the test of time."
Queen's Great Hall (June 2002)
It is good to be able to record congratulations to Queen's University on the handsome restoration of its Great Hall, which was opened by Prince Charles in February. Sir Charles Lanyon's building (which is fully described in the Society's List of Buildings in the Queen's University Area) derived its inspiration from the great college buildings of Oxford and Cambridge, not only in the central tower with its echoes of Magdalene College Oxford, but also in the Great Hall which referred to the dignified dining halls of the Oxbridge colleges. Over the years it had been painted unsympathetically and acquired a collection of inappropriate alterations, and the recently completed restoration by Consarc Conservation, headed by UAHS committee member Dawson Stelfox has just been given a prestigious RIBA award.
In congratulating Professor Sir George Bain whose vision led to the realisation of this ambitious project, and Hubert Martin and Gary Jebb of the University's Estates department, perhaps the UAHS may be permitted to enjoy a little reflected glory, since the advisory committee of the University which steered the project through was almost entirely composed of past and present committee members of the society, led by Prof Bruce Campbell.
PADDI (June 2002)
As the years go by the web becomes an increasingly useful tool for researchers, and we know from our own site's statistics that there is a continuous succession of people wanting to learn more about Ulster buildings. While we hope our own site will remain essential reading, we are delighted to see that PADDI, the Planning Architecture Design Database Ireland, which has been largely managed by UAHS committee member Karen Latimer, is now fully operational and was launched on 10 June.
This is a comprehensive index to publications and other information about Irish buildings, and is easy to use and packed with information. If our own site search fails to throw up the answers you are looking for (and inevitably that will happen quite often) try PADDI next.
Buildings at Risk (June 2002)
After a period in abeyance while funding was not available, we were delighted to be able to agree a new package with Environment & Heritage Service and to appoint a new Heritage Projects Officer. This change of title reflects the wider brief that has been agreed, which will include publications and conferences along with the Buildings at Risk catalogue itself. The sub-committee on buildings at risk is chaired by Ian McQuiston.
Andrew McClelland, a young building surveyor who recently completed a conservation course in Slovakia, has been appointed to the post and started this month. If you know of buildings at risk or have questions or information about any featured in the previous catalogues please contact Andrew
On this site stood... (May 2002)
For some years there has been a low-key campaign for the restoration of the house at 16 Ashley Avenue where Seamus Heaney lived for some years while lecturing at Queen's University. Unfortunately the building went through the hands of a succession of developers and declined each time as they saw it only as the access to a landlocked piece of valuable real estate. As the house deteriorated the campaign gained support and in April the city council came out in favour of it. It was quite an achievement to get cross-party agreement on the issue, and remarkable to have DUP councillor Nelson McCausland stating forcefully that because of the many fine buildings lost during the Troubles and since then to developers "We must now ensure that we preserve any building of historical significance".
Unfortunately the high profile for the building and the growing feeling that it should be listed led the developers (David Andrew Creighton, Michael Frederick Head and Patrick Joyce) to demolish before it became impossible. New Environment minister Dermot Nesbitt was embarrassed and annoyed to find that his soothing comments one day that listing was under consideration and the building was not at risk had to be followed the next day by damage limitation explaining that the developer had been within his rights to demolish the unlisted building but that it was the developer and not the DoE that was at fault in carrying out the demolition.
The UAHS believes that while architectural merit should be the normal criterion for listing, historic interest should be taken into account, and that 16 Ashley Avenue could have been listed as a "typical" house of its period (it had not been much altered) with the additional historic interest associated with one of Northern Ireland's most famous writers. A precedent has been set with the recent listing of Little Lea, C S Lewis' family home in East Belfast. Although admittedly a finer building in much better condition, there is no doubt that its important literary connections, highlighted by Ian Adamson and others, led to its positive appraisal.
The Italianate stucco buildings of Upper and Lower Crescent together form the finest example of set-piece planning in Belfast, and have featured regularly among the Society's concerns in recent years. The buildings are listed as well as being part of the Queen's conservation area, and it has been galling to watch the demolition of 4-6 Upper Crescent followed by the facade retention of nos.1-3 in recent years. Lower Crescent was damaged by the conversion some years ago of The Fly, where in order to accommodate a super-pub the entire interior of one building was gutted and now an application has been submitted for total demolition of no.7, along with reconstruction of the front elevation.
The UAHS has objected strongly to this. We believe that for all the settlement problems the terrace has suffered over the years (evident in leaning walls and bending string courses), the buildings are still generally sound, and that the structural problems arise from the proposed alterations to the buildings rather than from any inherent instability. In objecting to this application, we pointed out that the DoE's own structural engineers (who might be expected to look at ways of strengthening the building and retaining its quality) took a more depressing view than the engineers retained by the developers, who recognised that the building could be kept.
Stays of execution
Cabin Hill (see April 2001) has now been statutorily listed following the representations of the UAHS and many local people. The outcome of development plans for the area will be ascertained in the wake of a planning appeal to be heard on 17 September 2002.
This appeal has found against the development of the grounds of Cabin Hill, following its listing.
Queen's University has withdrawn plans to demolish Fitzwilliam Place (see November 2000) following public outcry.
The Albert Clock (Apr 2002)
After a year enshrouded in scaffolding the tip of the Albert Clock's spire emerged at Christmas and its appearance has became more thrilling as each stage was dropped over the course of the last few months. First the lantern appeared, lit at night, then the clock face, newly gilt, the ornamental canopy over Prince Albert, and finally the lions at the base. Belfast City Council's commitment to seeing the project through, assisted by Heritage Lottery funding, and the expertise of McConnell's stonemasons under the supervision of Consarc Conservation have revealed the Albert once again in all its heartwarming glory.
Gresham Arcade (Feb 2002)
The Society has been pressing for extension of the central conservation area to include upper North Street, which has some good Victorian buildings. Sadly a big hole has been put into the area with the demolition of the Gresham Arcade and one half of the Elephant Buildings. To add insult to injury, someone has absconded with the famous Elephant, which had moved from an earlier building when North Street was widened in the 1880s and had survived until the demolition of its neighbours.
The Elephant Bar in 2001... The Bar now without the Elephant
The village of Waringstown contains a large proportion of 18th century buildings laid out around an attractive main street. Apart from Waringstown House itself, one of the most prominent is the Grange, a stone building that has been a restaurant in recent years. The Society has opposed plans for a new housing development of its orchard, which would not only reduce the historic setting of the house but would also greatly damage the attractive wooded setting of the village itself.
When is a crack fatal? (Jan 2002)
The 19th century estate village of Seaforde, near Newcastle, is a pleasant and remarkably intact group of almshouses, estate workers houses, parish church, agents houses and big house, preserved not through conservation area status (which it does not enjoy) but through the interest and ongoing concern of the Forde family who developed it, and in more recent years of Hearth which has restored a dozen houses in the village.
Unfortunately they do not own every building in the village, and in recent years only its listed status has prevented the demolition of nos.2-4 Main Street, a crucially located group of house and village shop, whose former owner sold the building to a developer, and whose current owner has applied for permission to develop apartments and some new houses on the site.
Despite the concerns of the Planning Service, the Society, Hearth, and many local residents, EHS has made it known that it plans to de-list the building on the basis that the repair of a structural crack in its back wall would be so damaging to the original fabric of the property that it would no longer merit listing. Hearth has argued that the crack could be repaired quite straightforwardly and that many features of the building (not least the early shopfront) make it of great importance to the integrity of the village and the group value of the terrace of which it forms a part (see Hearth's website). A decision on the latest planning application is currently with the planners.
Massey Avenue, Belfast
At the "back entrance" to Parliament Buildings at Stormont stand a pair of very grand gate lodges in immaculate beaux art detailing which sets off the gates and prepares the mind for the impact of Stormont itself. Local residents have been objecting strongly to planning applications to develop the lodges and their grounds. While this has resulted in a reduction of the impact of the proposals, there is still a new development on the cards, which will come roughly between the two lodges shown in this photograph. The Society believes that development should not be permitted at all in this very sensitive site.
Publications - index
The Society's publications range from general books on local architecture to monographs on particular architects or houses, but at the core are the historical gazetteers that describe nearly every building in many of Ulster's towns with detailed descriptions and histories illuminated by anecdotes and numerous photographs.
The Society's books have appeared steadily since 1968. They are used by schoolchildren, historians, architects and estate agents, and are widely collected as an invaluable resource on local history and buildings past and present. Recent volumes include Armagh city, Central Belfast and Bangor. The second of Sir Charles Brett's magisterial and beautifully illustrated county books, that on the buildings of Co Armagh, appeared in 1999.
Alternatively, select your area of interest in the following INDEX:
Antrim, Glens of
Bangor, Clandeboye House
Belfast, Botanic Gardens
Belfast, May Street Music Hall
Belfast, Old Museum
Belfast, Rosemary St Presbyterian Church
Belfast, High Court
Belfast, Joy Street area
Belfast, Malone House
Belfast, Palm House
Belfast, Queen's University area
Belfast, St Malachy's Church
Bliss or Blitz
Botanic Gardens, Belfast
Buildings of Co Antrim
Buildings of Co Armagh
Buildings of North Co Down
Church Monuments, Irish
City of Derry
Classical Churches of Ulster
Clough, Co Antrim
Clough, Co Down
Co Antrim, Buildings of
Co Armagh, Buildings of
Co Down, Buildings of
Cushendun, Five Big Houses
Derry, Earl Bishop of
Diamond as Big as a Square, The
Down, North Co
Dungannon, RIC Barracks
Dungannon, St Patrick's
Earl Bishop of Derry
Enniskillen, Ely Lodge
Fishmongers' Company in Ulster
Five Big Houses of Cushendun
Gatelodges of Ulster
Glens of Antrim
Gothic Revival, J J McCarthy and the
Heritage Newsletter / Review
Holywood, Tudor Lodge
Introduction to Modern Ulster Architecture
Introduction to Ulster Architecture
Irish Church Monuments
Islandmagee, Methodist chapel
J J McCarthy and the Gothic Revival
Jersey, St Helier
Joy Street, Belfast
Kilmood, Florida Manor Court House
Legacy of Light: History of Irish Windows
Malone and Stranmillis
Mausolea in Ulster
McCarthy, J J
Model Schools, Ulster
Modern Ulster Architecture, An Introduction to
Newry, Downshire Road Presb Church
Palm House, Belfast
Queen's University area, Belfast
Six Road Ends
Square, The Diamond as Big as a
St Helier, Jersey
St Peter Port, Guernsey
Ulster Architecture 1800-1900
Ulster Architecture, An Introduction to
Ulster Model Schools
Workhouses of Ulster
Buildings at Risk
The Society is not just concerned with fine buildings that have survived intact from past generations: it is particularly active in identifying buildings whose merit is less appreciated, and are at risk of loss through demolition or decay.
Along with its regular publications, another series in recent years has covered Buildings At Risk. Generously sponsored by the Environment & Heritage Service, these have drawn attention to the plight of more than a thousand buildings lying empty and neglected; some 20% have subsequently found new owners or uses, while negotiations are ongoing in other cases.
For a sample of the information held on these buildings, click on the entry for the warehouse at Sugar House Quay in Newry, which is currently on the market and needs an imaginative new owner.
In parallel with these books has been the publication of directories of architects, builders and craftsmen working in conservation, which helps building owners to identify expert assistance in restoring their buildings.
The directories include useful hints on the general principles of restoration as well as the lists of specialists.
The Society provides speakers for local history societies and extramural lectures, and has organised regular conferences and seminars on aspects of local architecture. From April 2000 for three years it has also appointed an education officer to develop materials for schools to use, drawing local buildings into the curricula for history, geography, art and other subjects. This has been made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The material which follows is currently employed by the Education Officer in schools, and more details are available from him.
The UAHS aims to develop appreciation of Ulster's built heritage from the earliest times to the present. The society's education programme contributes to the curriculum at Key Stage 2.
The study of Ulster's buildings contributes to:
- Art and Design by heightening sensory experiences
- English through written descriptions of buildings and places
- Geography by creating environmental awareness
- History by developing a sense of the past and its physical legacy
- Mathematics by the use of shapes and the relationship of shapes
- Religious Education by looking at the form and function of church buildings
- Science by studying the physical elements of buildings
We offer an illustrated introductory lesson about the development of Ulster architecture from the earliest times to the present. This is suitable for Key Stage 2 pupils and is available by contacting the Education Officer, who will be happy to visit your school.
Many of the parts of the curriculum can be addressed simply by looking carefully at the buildings in your area. A town trail is an ideal way of allowing pupils to study their built environment and to present their findings. Currently the UAHS runs two guided town trails:
The Cathedral area of Belfast: This trail is ideal for EMU groups as it covers St Patrick's Catholic Church and St Anne's Church of Ireland Cathedral. It encourages pupils to look at the streets in the area, observing their relationship to one another and the building materials used. Involves map-reading skills, numeracy, literacy and drawing.
Caledon, County Tyrone: Caledon is an excellent example of a Georgian village and is largely unspoilt. The trail enables pupils to look at buildings and discuss, question, draw and record what they see. Art and design, geography and history are incorporated into the trail. You can download the pages for this here.
If you would like to take part in either of these trails or have a trail made of the area around your school, then contact the UAHS EDUCATION OFFICER, telephone 028 9055 0213
See also our glossary of local architectural terms, and information sheets on the Stone Age, Irish monasteries, and Georgian houses.
Join the UAHS
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society invites you to join - to enjoy our special events and give your support to the preservation and restoration of the best of Ulster's built environment.
The UAHS exists to promote the appreciation and enjoyment of good architecture of all periods - from the prehistoric to the contemporary - in the nine counties of Ulster. It seeks to encourage the preservation and restoration of buildings of merit or importance; and to increase public awareness of the beauty, history and character of local neighbourhoods.
Despite the Society's success, there are many continuing pressures ranged against the preservation of our heritage of fine buildings, unique vernacular buildings and local skills.
The Society asks you to help in influencing public opinion to ensure that the best conservation practices and legislation are implemented to protect the vulnerable heritage of good buildings in the cities, towns, village and countryside of the province.
As a member you will have the opportunity of attending and paricipating in a wide and varied programme of events throughout the year. Members of the UAHS enjoy a discount of 25% on purchase of any of our publications, and the privilege of access to many privately owned buildings not normally open to members of the public.
The UAHS organises approximately ten events each year. These range from lectures at Queen's Festival to visits to historic towns and villages, or they may relate to the subject of our latest publication.
Membership is £14 per annum (joint annual membership £20), and Corporate Membership £45 per annum. Students aged under 25, £7. If you can pay by Covenant or Direct Debit it will reduce the Society's expenses and give us greater benefit from your membership.