Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Shaftesbury Square

Shaftesbury Square ca 1900

Shaftesbury Square, Belfast, was first recorded in 1887.

It runs from Fulton Street to Dublin Road.

The square was named after the Earl of Shaftesbury.

There was a drinking fountain at the centre of the Square, designed by W J Barre.

Number 1-11 was a three-storey terrace with dormers, known as Shaftesbury Buildings.

Shaftesbury Buildings were built between 1884-87, though they suffered a devastating fire in 1968.

This curved terrace was replaced about 1973 by Carlton House, an office block which housed social security offices and a post office on the ground floor.

Number 12-13, at the corner of Botanic Avenue and Bradbury Place, used to be Oxford Buildings.

A new three-storey, neo-Georgian block was built ca 1961, which opened as the Northern Bank.

14-15, Shaftesbury Square, is located at the beginning of Donegall Road.

This building is now called Shaftesbury House, built about 1845, though re-faced in 1935.

It is of three storeys and has elevations at  1-7 Donegall Road.

The black marble cladding masks the original houses which remain behind it.

In 1974, Number 14 was B S Loughheed, menswear and dress hire.

Number 16-24 is a three-storey Georgian terrace of 1822-35, though the fa├žade now protrudes with shop-fronts.

In 1900, this terrace had small gardens with railings fronting on to the Square.

The original terrace is now barely recognizable, though a few traces remain.

In 1974, occupants included a hairdresser, a bar, a laundry, an off-licence, and a ladies fashion retailer.

We now have a bookmaker's, a restaurant, a football supporters' club; Paul Rankin's Roscoff restaurant was at the end of the terrace.

Lesley House, built in 1986, is located at 25-31 Shaftesbury Square.

This used to be a continuation of numbers 16-24 and in the 20th century was occupied by various businesses, including the Belfast School of Motoring, Christie's Wallpapers, Kayley's carpets, a chiropodist, and another hairdresser.

Number 32-34, built in 1863, was a pair of three-storey stucco houses with tulip-pot chimneys.

Number 34, swept away in 1993, was a manse, presumably for the minister of Great Victoria Street Presbyterian Church.

Shaftesbury Square also had underground municipal toilets, built ca 1935.

I gather that these former conveniences were closed many years ago and could have potential use as a bar or restaurant.

The Ulster Bank premises, technically at 136-142 Great Victoria Street, were built in 1960.

This used to be the Magdalene School House, built in 1853 by Sir Charles Lanyon.

It was formerly a Sunday school and church hall for St Mary Magdelene parish church in Donegall Pass, prior to demolition in 1930.

Magdalene School House (1853-1930)

The old schoolhouse had a square pinnacled tower, a gable looking on to the Square, and a taller tower behind it.

In 1888, it was decided not to carry on with the day school because of the danger to children owing to heavy traffic in the growing area.

The schoolhouse became used solely as a parochial hall.

During 1916-17, it was decided to sell the old schoolhouse and parochial hall.

It was considered unsuitable because of the distance from the church and the increasing volume of traffic.

It was finally sold at the end of 1919 for £5,000 (about £220,000 today), demolished, and replaced by a block of shops.

First published in February, 2014.  See Central Belfast: A Historical Gazetteer, by M Patton OBE, p298.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely fascinating! Pity they didn't leave it alone..

Handelian said...

How strange to think Shaftesbury Square was once an elegant and gracious space. It has been a shabby dump as long as I can remember. A sorry relic of the years of conflict, weak planners and the triumph of the car and commercial interests over ordinary residents.