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Belfast Titanic Quarter

Belfast Titanic QuarterBelfast Titanic Quarter
Belfast Titanic QuarterBelfast Titanic Quarter

 

Belfast Titanic Quarter

 

Knowing Your Way Around Belfast Titanic Quarter.

When you are in Belfast it is worth taking a tour of the Titanic Quarter. Many people find it very strange why the people of Belfast are so proud of a ship which actually sank. Our usual reply to that is, "It was ok when it left here."

The Titanic Quarter includes the following:

  • Titanic Memorial
  • St George's Market
  • Waterfront Hall
  • Belfast Law Courts
  • Albert Memorial Clock
  • Custom's House
  • Harbour Office
  • Sinclair Seamen's Presbyterian Church
  • Clarendon Dock
  • The Odyssey Arena
  • St George's Church
  • River Lagan

There will soon be a Titanic Visitor's Centre to be seen with an investment of over £100 million and I for one am looking forwards to that. It will be built in the grounds where the famous Titanic ship was built and will cover some 75 hectares of land. The Titanic was a magnificent ship despite its sad demise, and at its launch was an innovative and superbly built ship of immense proportions. It bore testament to Belfast as a world class city for ship building in the early 1900s. This was as well as being renown for rope making, tobacco and the linen industries that saw the city grow economically and commercially. There was a great energy in Belfast at that time and some commentators have even said an arrogance about its right to become a world leading port.

Titanic Memorial Belfast City Hall.

There is a Titanic memorial to the East of Belfast City Hall, (that is to the left side as you look at its entrance) and it is here the newly designated Titanic Quarter begins. This shows two weeping sea nymphs holding on to the feet of a rather scantily clad woman and in their arms, the Titanic's unknown soldier. This memorial has scribed upon it the names of those who were known as the "Guarantee Group", a bunch of men responsible for checking the performance targets of the ship's maiden voyage. If you look over to your left you will see all that is left of the once Methodist Church, a lonely Corinthian facade.

May Street Belfast

Leaving there you can go to May Street and view the classically designed Presbyterian Church. May Street took its name from the "May Family" and they married an illegitimate daughter of the second Marquis of Donegall. They became sovereigns of Belfast City, but the Marquis kept the marriage a closely guarded secret. If you are around May Street in late December, the May Street choir still perform in period costume and is certainly worth a listen. The Presbyterian Church is also worth a visit and can hold 1700 people. There are impressive twin staircases, boxed pews, a mahogany gallery and an excellent timber coffered ceiling. Almost directly opposite Charles Dickens could have lost his life quite easily. The Victoria Hall in which he had been giving a reading, had a cornice fall off and onto the ground below, narrowly missing the famous author. If you are into architecture then seek out Joy Street on the right hand side. Look for numbers 14-26 and you will see the only surviving Georgian town houses. These were once red brick merchant's homes and were at one time handed over to be used as theatrical lodgings. The street became known as the street of the Three "Ps" which stood for, Pride, Poverty and Pianos.

John Boyd Dunlop

Across the road you will see Ross's Auctions which used to be the Presbyterian General Assembly around 1875. If you look closely, there is a plaque commemorating John Boyd Dunlop, the man who invented the first pneumatic tyre. He also ran a hospital for sick horses where Telephone House now stands. If you keep walking then on the right hand side you will come to a market.

St George's Market

Just pass the Ronnie Drew Bar you will see the brick and the iron gates of the market. It was restored at a cost of £4 million and is now a thriving market. The entire surrounding area has always been associated with markets of one kind or another and the area is generally known locally as "The Markets". This newly restored market opened in 1999 and has got bigger every year and has now extended its opening days. I normally go there for an hour on a Friday morning to have a look around the variety market and there is always much to see. Always on offer is fruit, vegetables, fresh fish and shell fish, clothes, books, chocolates, pastries and a ton of other merchandise. There is a City Food and Garden Market on a Saturday and Sunday with tons of Irish produce and some fantastic cheeses. It also hosts some concerts especially around the Christmas festive period and many a good party it has witnessed in true Belfast style.

Waterfront Hall

Keep walking towards the River Lagan and you will come to Lanyon Place, with the BT Tower, Hilton Hotel and some other office buildings. To the left is the Waterfront Hall. It has a huge bronze dome which does help it stand out and outside it is a row of black sheep, symbolising once again the market theme. The cattle markets used to be held here in the 1900s. The Waterfront draws many great acts and hosts operas, plays, drama ballet and musicals.

If you turn around from the Waterfront you will see both the old Courts of Justice and the New Courts. When finished in the Waterfront, come out the door and turn right and you should see the River Lagan on your right. Keep walking until you come to Queen's Bridge which was designed by Charles Lanyon and named after Queen Victoria. It is made of Newry granite and replaced what was called The Long Bridge. At the beginning of the bridge you will see the "Harmony of Belfast" a tall modern depiction of a lady in stainless steel, designed by Andy Scott, offering hope to the people of Belfast City. With your back to this look down and you will see a leaning clock.

Albert Memorial Clock

Set in the new Queen's Square and beside the Laganside Bus Centre sits the Albert Clock, a famous Belfast landmark. It is 113 feet high and was named after Queen Victoria's consort, Albert. It was built by Barre, though many believe it to be a Lanyon design. On the left is one of my favourite bars known now as McHughs, but has a rather "cheeky" past. It was once more famous as a "bordello" as captured by Madame Du Barry. Just beyond this is Custom House Square and here used to be known as "Speaker's Square". There is a bronze statue there of the speaker and close by is one of Britain's oldest drinking fountains for horses, the Calder Fountain.

If you go back now towards the River Lagan, you will see a big blue fish ceramic sculpture (the salmon of knowledge) which is a celebration of the return of fish to the River Lagan. Look closely at this clever design by local artist John Kindness and you will see it is covered with mosaics with different texts and messages covering the history of Belfast. If you want a Titanic Tour by boat, this is the exact place to find it. You will get to see the Titanic cry dock and the drawings of its original design.

The Harbour Office

Keep walking along and you will pass the Seagate Terminal and find the Harbour Office. It is an Itlianate building designed by Lanyon's partner W.H.Lynn. In the boardroom you will see the captain's table and chairs that were made for the Titanic, but were not completed on time. There is a good selection of paintings inside. To the left of this is the Sinclair Seaman's Mission Church. There is a pitch pine pulpit in the shape of a ship's prow and the font is a ship's binnacle. The actual bell of HMS Hood calls worshippers to prayer and collection boxes come in the shape of lifeboats. Yes it is different! At the door you will find some text which reads:

" A Merry Heart Doeth Good Like A Medicine "


It is still the traditional duty of the minister to visit every ship that docks in Belfast Harbour. From there walk along the newly paved Clarendon Dock. Look for Barrow Square which was famous for music events until resident's complaints got the better of them. Pat's Bar is where to go if you want traditional Irish Music and the Rotterdam, if you feel in the need for some Blue's Music. Many a person used to leave the Rotterdam to make their final journey to Van Diemen's Land (prisoners sent to Tasmania)

Look over now and you will see the giant yellow cranes known as Samson and Goliath. Locals often refer to them as Samson and Delilah. You will then see the Concert Hall known as The Odyssey, Belfast's own millennium project. This hall can hold 10,000 seats and is a very popular venue in Belfast for big attraction acts. There are many restaurants, pubs, a cinema and it is home to the ice hockey team, The Belfast Giants.

Come back along High Street and you will see St George's Church. Keep walking along and you will come to Belfast's only triangular shaped bar known as "Bittles." They do an excellent pint of Guinness by the way. Back along Chichester Street and you will go past the Garrick Bar. You will have by now earned some food and refreshments and have seen all of the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.

Enda McLarnon [http://www.belfastblog.net]

I am an avid reader of anything to do with the history of Ireland and Northern Ireland in particular. This includes the Northern Ireland Troubles. If you like what you have read and want to find out more then please visit my site at Belfast Blog [http://belfastblog.net]

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Belfast Titanic Quarter