Thursday, 14 May 2015
Old Belmont Primary School was acquired in 2013 by The National Trust.
When it was established, in 1862, Belmont Presbyterian Church, at Sydenham Avenue, opened a school for the congregation.
This school was attached to the church.
In 1889, however, the need was felt for a larger building, so a new school was built at 220, Belmont Road, Belfast, at the corner of Belmont Church Road.
The principal benefactor of the new school was Robert Ferguson, of Sydenham House, Strandtown, a prosperous merchant and businessman who co-owned Robertson, Ledlie, Ferguson and Company.
Mr Ferguson commissioned the Belmont Presbyterian Church Committee to build and furnish a school and enclose the ground as a memorial to his late wife and to be named as such.
The Ferguson Memorial School was duly built to the designs of the architect Vincent Craig, brother of Sir James (later 1st Viscount Craigavon), 1st Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
The building is of two storeys, in the Gothic Revival style, with Scrabo sandstone, rubble stone walling and Scottish sandstone strings and details.
It was extended to the rear in 1910.
The most notable feature and a prominent landmark for the area is the square, campanile tower containing the main entrance, at ground floor level.
A Gothic-style stained glass window is a prominent feature of the stairwell; and the upper floor displays a fine series of roof trusses.
By 1994, the condition of the building had deteriorated to a point where Belfast City Council did not consider refurbishment to be economically viable, and the building was declared redundant in May, 1999.
Staff and pupils moved to a brand new school that was built in the grounds.
Nevertheless, local residents, many of whom were also parents of children at the school, were concerned for the future of the school building and established the Old Belmont School Preservation Trust in May, 2001.
The Trust subsequently purchased the building.
Work began to restore the fabric and introduce 21st century facilities, for various community uses such as a pre-school play group, coffee shop, function and meeting rooms.
Belmont Tower was officially opened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in September, 2004.
BELMONT TOWER, Belmont Road, Belfast, is today used for small conferences, seminars, "away days", staff assessment centres, training, exhibitions, product launches, breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, business networking, board and committee meetings, and receptions.
There is a café upstairs.
This was my primary school in the 1960s: Miss McMinnis was the headmistress; and Miss Cartright - aka Cartyballs - zealously banged children's heads together when she felt so inclined.
Little bottles of milk (1⁄3 of a pint, I think) were delivered in a metal crate for us every day.
First published in April, 2013.