Thursday, 26 January 2017

Floral Hall, Belfast


The Floral Hall is located at Belfast Zoo, Antrim Road, Belfast.

It is a substantial, two storey, modernist style concert-dance hall and café built 1935-36 for Belfast Corporation, with a capacity of up to 1,000.

The building consists of a circular, shallow, domed hall with a flat-roofed foyer, stage or service blocks, and a semi-circular portico.

The Hall, owned by Belfast City Council, last served as a concert venue in 1972.

It is currently disused and in poor repair.

The Floral Hall is situated within the grounds of Belfast Zoo, on high ground to the west of Antrim Road.


The entire façade  is finished in plain-painted render.

The Hall has a relatively shallow domed roof which is covered in bituminous felt.

Projecting from the ground floor of the taller section is a semicircular flat-roofed entrance portico with plain columns with a curving taper supporting a tall plain rendered frieze.

Within the portico (and following the semi-circular plan form) there are a series of doors (currently boarded over).


Stone semi-circular steps fan out from the base of the portico.

In the centre of the second floor there is a small, painted moulding of the Belfast coat-of-arms.
The moulding and the large window to the first floor are both set within a broad, but shallow, bay which rises to a typically Art Deco stepped parapet, upon which is set the words "floral hall" in large lettering set on a projecting frame.
These letters are in a sans-serif lower-case typeface.

Behind these letters (and directly above the coat-of-arms) is a tall, angular, Art Deco pediment moulding with reducing edges.

The Floral Hall is the only example of this type of building in the Art Deco style in Northern Ireland and one of a very few remaining Art Deco structures of any type.

Originally Belfast Corporation decided to build a playground and pleasure gardens (Bellevue Gardens) to encourage customers and provide a recreational area.

During the 1920s and 30s Bellevue was a popular destination for day excursions, and in 1933 it was decided to have a "representative zoological collection" on the site.

In 1934, twelve acres on either side of the "Grand Floral Staircase" was laid out as Bellevue Zoo, with the Hall following two years later, just to the south of the zoo itself.

The building boasted a spacious stage, seating for up to 1,000 people, with a striking interior colour scheme comprising mainly blue, gold and tangerine

It was built and fitted out by Messrs J & R Taggart at the cost of £14,520 (£900,000 today).

The Hall continued in regular use as a ballroom and concert venue during the 2nd World War, with "blackouts" fitted to the windows so that dances could continue.

It retained its popularity in the austere post-war years, attracting up to 130,000 people in 1947.

In the 1950s and 1960s it became a regular venue for show bands and, occasionally, more ground-breaking acts - the original Pink Floyd line up played there in April, 1967.

Roller-skating was introduced to the Hall in 1965.

With the outbreak of "The Troubles" in 1969 audiences declined, and the hall was closed in April, 1972.

Despite being used as a counting-centre for the Northern Ireland Border Poll in 1973, and occasional dances in the mid 1970s, the building has largely remained closed to the general public.

In recent years it has been used occasionally as a store by the zoo, which has expanded to occupy the land surrounding the hall itself.

Photo credit: Spatial Pan - http://www.flickr.com/photos/spatial_pan/4330505942/

The Belfast Buildings Trust (BBT) has been in negotiations with Belfast City Council about the possibility of restoring the Floral Hall to its former glory.

Plans have progressed and the Council is keen to see the building restored.

Discussions are now centred on the possibility of providing a wedding and conference facility in conjunction with an education facility for the zoo that would help with regeneration in north Belfast.

In advance of this, BBT is launching an oral history project to gather and document the memories associated with Floral Hall and to capture the public’s affection for the building. 

First published in January, 2015.

1 comment :

statelyhomes said...

Does anyone know if Bellevue House was an original family estate house, or built later as part of the Bellevue Gardens public facilities? The house photo in the link is apparently from 1934 -

http://www.belfastforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=39272.4275