Saturday, 28 March 2020

White's Tavern

WHITE'S TAVERN, Winecellar Entry, Belfast, is a three-storey rendered public house of ca 1790 facing onto the courtyard of Winecellar Entry.

The style is urban vernacular, though the fenestration is fairly regular.

The roof is covered with Bangor Blue slates, with the ridge parallel to Lombard Street; eaves with ogee gutter.

the front elevation is rendered and painted with slight texture; shallow frames surround most windows, and projecting cills.

Windows are contemporary, typically two-over-two, quite regularly spaced in six bays.

the ground floor is more irregular, with four windows close together, one much smaller window and three doors.

Modern ornamental iron grilles protect the windows at ground and first floor levels

Quoin-stones are at each end of the terrace.

The building is landlocked, being built against on three sides.

THE STUMP of a bollard of some antiquity survives in Winecellar Entry, at the corner of the courtyard near White's Tavern. Marcus Patton suggests that it might be what remains of an old cannon.
White's claims to be Belfast's oldest tavern.

The first building on the current site is believed to have been established as early as 1630, according to popular tradition.

It is thought that the original structure on the site was erected in 1630 by Thomas Kane.

There is, however, no documentary evidence that accurately supports this build date.

The 1685 map of Belfast records that Winecellar Entry did not even exist in the mid-17th century.
The map shows that the area between High Street, Bridge Street and Waring Street was utilised as yard and garden space, whilst there were no standalone buildings depicted within the area which later became Winecellar Entry.
Another theory suggests that the Bateson family established a wine and spirit store in the vicinity during the late-1600s.

The current building does not date from the mid-17th century, but actually dates from the late-18th century, when the previous structure was demolished and reconstructed by Valentine Jones.

Mr Jones, a wine merchant, constructed "two good and substantial messuages or tenements of brick and lime, three stories high".

Marcus Patton OBE states that Winecellar Entry was known in 1715 as 'Bigart's Alley'.

I wonder if this entry was more likely to have been named after James Bigger, a prominent merchant in Belfast at the time.

The alley was renamed Winecellar Entry by the early-19th century due to the number of winecellars that had been established along the alley.

During the early-19th century the wine and spirit store changed hands with great frequency.

In 1803, the property came into the possession of James Napier, and was later controlled by William Park & Co.

John Kane was the sole wine merchant recorded in 1824; however, by the 1830s the premises were occupied by Messrs John Murphy & Co.

Winecellar Entry ca 1845

By 1852, the property was occupied by Hugh White and his trading partner, James Neil.

In that year the site was recorded as "Neil & White - Wholesale Wine and Spirit Merchants".

Neil and White continued to work in partnership until at least the early-1860s.

James Neil left the partnership between 1861-68, when Hugh White took over the wine and spirit stores, giving the building its current name, although the establishment was then known as Hugh White & Co.

Mr White died in 1882; however, the licensed stores continued to operate under his full name for a century until the 1960s.

Since the early-19th century, the building on Winecellar Entry was not referred to as a public house but operated as a licensed wholesale store.

A section of the building operated as The Temperance Hotel in the 1870s.
It is not known precisely when Hugh White's wine and spirit store was converted into a public house; however, in 1900 the building included a public house which was open for six days of the week, but was required to close early.
Mr White continued to sell wine and spirits wholesale.

The premises were renamed White's Tavern in 1962, when the building was renovated.

White's Tavern underwent a major restoration and heavy redecoration in the 1980s, when
"...the style of both the exterior and the interior [was] designed to reflect the rich heritage of one of Belfast's oldest drinks emporiums."
Sir Charles Brett, writing in 1985, criticised the renovation, noting that
until quite recently it combined the picturesque and the practical to perfection with its heavy timbered bays, barred windows and roof hoist. Unfortunately it has recently been disastrously restored in "Ye Olde" style; the outside boasts a poker-work inn-sign, the interior is replete with arty brass and electric bulbs in bogus lanterns.
The Tavern was acquired by the owners of The Merchant Hotel ca 2013.

In 2019 the bar was acquired by the Clover Group.

The exterior of the building affords little of great interest today, architecturally or aesthetically.

First published in February, 2015.

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