THE MORNING STAR, 17-19 Pottinger's Entry, Belfast, is a two-storey public house, reputedly dating from ca 1820.
It is one of the longest-operating licensed premises in the city.
The building occupies the corner site of Pottinger's Entry and Pottinger's Court, an alley which was first mentioned in a map of 1715.
The Bar comprises two storeys, with a pilastered front, moulded base panels, and etched glass windows.
The current building had certainly been erected by at least 1850, when maps depicted the building along its current layout.
Griffith's Valuation recorded that it was occupied by John and William Riddel in 1860 (the Riddels were iron and metal merchants who utilized the premises on Pottinger's Entry as a store and workshop).
The premises were valued at £25 in 1860; however, by 1863, the site had been converted into a licensed "spirit shop and stores" operated by Mr J Steenman.
Mr Steenman was recorded as the occupant of the site between 1863-81, although the Belfast Street Directories state that the "wine stores" were administered by the Malcolmson Brothers in 1868, George McChesney in 1877, and William Nixon in 1880, presumably the publicans.In 1892, the property was acquired by James McEntee and Henry McKenna, two publicans who also owned pubs in the area around Castle Street.
The property was recorded as a "Licensed House" and had been increased in value to £65.
McEntee and McKenna's partnership had been dissolved by 1900, when Henry McKenna was the sole occupier of the site.
In that year the valuer increased the rateable value of the premises to £95 and noted that McKenna paid annual rent of £60 to William Riddel.
Henry McKenna's public house also included a bottling store which was located off Pottinger's Entry, in Pottinger's Court.Mr McKenna continued to operate the public house until 1926.
In 1913, the site was first referred to as The Morning Star Bar in street directories.
The Irish Builder records that in 1924 renovation work was carried out to the bar which repaired damage incurred during an arson assault. The Morning Star was burnt out in a sectarian attack, part of the sectarian violence common in the post-partition years of 1921-23. Renovation work was carried out by Messrs F & J McCardle.In 1935, the bar was administered by the Madden Brothers, having passed from Henry McKenna in 1924.
There was no further valuation of the pub carried out for the next two decades due to the disruption of the 2nd World War.
The Morning Star narrowly survived the Belfast Blitz of 1941 whilst many neighbouring building on High Street and Bridge Street were levelled.
The Morning Star is, without doubt, the earliest building currently standing on Pottinger's Entry; however, the exact construction date of the two-storey building is difficult to determine.
The Morning Star maintains a historic tradition stretching back as early as 1810, when the Belfast Newsletter supposedly made reference to the building as "one of the terminals for the Belfast to Dublin mail coach".
However, the building was probably not utilised as a public house or tavern at this time, and it was not until 1863 that the building was first referred to as a licensed premises.
The Morning Star was refaced in 1892, when Messrs McEntee and McKenna took possession of the site and added its Victorian features.
Much of the current bar dates from the 1924 renovation of the building following a sectarian arson attack.
Law states that the renovation was carried out shortly after the Madden Bros. acquired the Morning Star Bar from McKenna in 1924.
The Maddens also owned the Ivy Bar in Church Lane; Dufferin House in Whitla Street; the Sportsman's Arms in York Street; and spirit stores in Duncairn Gardens.The current horseshoe bar and the exterior sign are amongst the features installed as a result of the Madden Bros. 1924 reconstruction.
Having undergone a further extensive renovation in the 1960s, The Morning Star was listed in 1986.
Marcus Patton OBE, writing in 1993, described the public house as a
two-storey stucco building of considerable character, tall pilastered front with etched glass windows and boldly moulded base panels; projecting sign in brass and glass with bronze urn on top; a winged lion stands guard over the corner entrance.
The features described, including the exterior sign, continue to adorn the façade of the public house.
Although it is not possible to identify the precise origins of The Morning Star, the building is significant as the sole surviving remnant of the former street-scape of Pottinger's Entry, one of Belfast's original entries dating from at least the early-18th century.