Friday, 22 February 2019

City Hall Visit

I was in two minds as to my choice of attire yesterday.

Was it to be the herringbone tweed jacket and suede shoes, or the worsted grey chalk-stripe suit?

Eventually I settled on a compromise: the suit, with woollen tie and chukka boots.

I usually wear a suit or overcoat in town at any rate.

If you have been following the Belmont narrative, you will know that I attended the old school dinner several weeks ago in the Ulster Reform Club, where I sat beside Jeff Dudgeon, MBE, who happens to be a Belfast city councillor.

Jeff asked me if I'd been on one of his City Hall tours.

I had not.

So after breakfast yesterday morning I dressed in the glad rags, jumped into the jalopy, and made a bee-line for the City Hall.

This magnificent civic edifice is located at Donegall Square, so I motored into the inner courtyard and found a space.

Without elaborating too much, the City Hall is a grand, ornate, quadrilateral pile made of Portland stone, about 300 feet wide and 174 feet high, with a splendid copper dome.

It is one of the most impressive civic buildings in the British Isles, took ten years to construct, and was completed in 1906.

The interior has abundant Greek and Italian marble, a fine banqueting hall, and a large mural symbolizing Belfast's industrial heritage.

Most of the ground floor has become an exhibition space now.

A civic lamp-posts is displayed.

A pair of ornate lampposts used to be erected outside Lord Mayors' homes, whether they happened to be on the Shankill Road or Malone Park!

Even the Lord Mayor's ceremonial robe is on display in a glass cabinet.

Jeff and I ascended the grand staircase (he pointed out a section of the plasterwork requiring a bit of attention), past many historical items on the walls, and portraits of former Lord Mayors.

The cherub is not amused.

The Lord Mayor has a particularly distinctive robe, made of black silk satin and emblematic gold lace, with white lace cuffs and jabot, white gloves, tricorn hat, and of course the golden chain-of-office.

Most Lord Mayors are far too bolshy to wear it today, even for ceremonial occasions.

We spent some time in the opulent Council Chamber on the first floor, which has the Lord Mayor's chair at one end and the royal dais at the other.

The Royal Dais

Plentiful wood panelling, stained glass, plush carpet and exquisite plasterwork adorn this room.

The stain-glass windows include the armorial bearings of the Marquess of Londonderry, the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, and the City of Belfast.

Alderman Tommy Patton OBE, Lord Mayor, 1982-3

Jeff showed me the Robing Room, something similar in size to a large billiards-room, with a large table and wooden lockers for the councillors' robes.

Sir Edward Coey DL, Mayor, 1861-2

The city's silver mace and the Lord Mayor's robe (or one of them) are displayed here.

Before I departed, Jeff took me into his offices, where we had delicious chunks of fruit (pineapple, melon, grape) on wooden sticks.

I'll revisit the permanent exhibition, perhaps this summer.


Anonymous said...

Did you get cheddar cheese and pineapple on a stick? Reminds me of Harry Enfield's William Ulsterman sketch - :)

Timothy Belmont said...

Ha ha! Comedy gold.