Saturday, 11 August 2018

1 High Street, Belfast


BELFAST'S old Market House stood at 1 High Street, at the corner of Cornmarket.

In his admirable Central Belfast: A Historical Gazetteer, Marcus Patton OBE states that
The 17th century Market House was built in 1639 of "small red bricks" with sandstone dressings, and extended to provide a proper courthouse on the first floor after 1663. This was the first public hall in the town. It had an arcaded ground floor and three-stage tower with ogival-roofed turret and weathercock, and a hanging clock.
An observer, John Smyth, once recalled that
the front of the Market House was seldom without a skeleton in chains; the corner of it never without a ghastly head rotting in the open air.
The tower had a peal of bells which were probably rung at the beginning and end of market days; and for the funerals of prominent citizens.

The Market House, a building of considerable importance to the civic and political development of Belfast between the 17th and 19th centuries, was leased by Adam McClean in 1802.

The late historian Sir Charles Brett remarked that McClean, a local landowner who possessed many plots and leases in the centre of Belfast, accumulated his holdings from the Donegall family in the 1820s; and "it appears he was one of those who sought to benefit from the second Marquess’s financial difficulty by acquiring good, long leases at low rents which he then built up".

McClean demolished the Market House in 1812 and constructed two houses in its place.


The site was acquired in the 1860s by the tea merchant, Mr Forster Green, of Derryvolgie House, Malone Road, Belfast, who built a new emporium (above left) with granite plinth, arcaded ground floor and stucco upper floors.

Robust chimneys and urns adorned the balustraded parapet.

This block was demolished in 1929-30, to be replaced by a purpose-built store for F W Woolworth & Co, which operated from the building 1915-2003.

The building was sold for £17.9m and subsequently underwent significant internal refurbishment.

The retail chain Dunnes Stores have occupied the building since late 2003.

First published in July, 2014.

1 comment :

J. McClean said...

The lease of the Market House site was granted in 1802 by Lord Donegall to Adam McClean, a woollen draper whose shop stood opposite in High Street. The terms were favourable due to the expense to be incurred by the leasee in the removal of the great stones of which the building was composed. Mr McClean built shops and houses of no great size on the site that stood for many years. See Benn "History of Belfast" Vol 2. p118.