Sunday, 29 December 2019

Upper Crescent's Revival

University Square from Botanic Avenue, December, 2019

Dear readers, I have just returned from an inspiring walk at Belfast's University Quarter and, in particular, Upper Crescent, Botanic Avenue, Rugby Road, Botanic Gardens, and University Square.

I have to confess that Sir P G Wodehouse's fantastic and wonderful characters, Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves, sometimes spring to mind; so be mindful of a twinkle in the eye as I tap away at the keyboard.

For those of you who have not been zealously following the Belmont narrative since its inception in 2007, I have always had a fondness, bordering on nostalgia, for the Botanic and Stranmillis areas of Belfast.

Much of it is still recognizable, though the Arts Theatre has been closed for decades.

When I was a schoolboy in short trousers we used to queue on Botanic Avenue for matinées and pantomimes there.

I invariably admire University Square, still one of Belfast's finest terraces.

Many pre-eminent physicians and surgeons had consulting-rooms here fifty years ago.

My mother took me to one of them for a sinus ailment in the 1960s.

Rugby Road is an interesting street which runs from University Avenue to Agincourt Avenue.

It comprises mainly terraced townhouses, though there are about half a dozen detached houses at one end, closely beside one another.

Interestingly I could see no basements, though they are quite lofty residences with three or four storeys.

Rugby Road terminates at Agincourt Avenue, though a small terrace known as 'Botanic Court' is tucked in at a side entrance to the park.

Botanic Primary School occupies almost an entire side of the terrace.

Map of ca 1850-60

MY fondness for Upper Crescent should not be underestimated.

I wrote a bit about it five years ago.

Numbers Eleven and Twelve are about to be restored as apartments, thank goodness.

As far as I am aware they have lain derelict and neglected for ages.

Incidentally, if you fancy a period pied-à-terre in town, look no further.

11-14 Upper Crescent, Belfast, December, 2019

Numbers Eleven and Twelve, Upper Crescent are being restored as apartments.

 87-91, Botanic Avenue, also be be restored as flats, was the Botanic Lodge guest house for many years.

87-91, Botanic Avenue, December, 2019

The handsome Victorian (Neo-Regency?) townhouses of Upper Crescent formed part of a three-storey residential terrace built in 1846 by Robert Corry.

Number Eleven was occupied by James Greene (First Clerk, Custom House), followed by Mrs Herdman; and, by 1860, William McNeill.

By the late 1870s, James Festu resided there and, in 1899, the house was home to William Yates; then, pre-1920, the Rev William Beatty; and then T Bell, who remained there from the mid 1920s to the 1960s.

By 1970 the property had been converted into office accommodation.

Number Twelve was originally occupied by Robert Boag (Mayor of Belfast, 1876-7), of Albion Clothing Company, possibly the same person, though likely a father and son.

By 1920 it had become the Crescent Private Nursing Home, though reverted to an conventional dwelling again by 1930, with Miss Mabel Simms in residence.

Miss Simms remained there until at least 1960, but by 1970 the building had been converted into office accommodation.

Numbers Fourteen to Sixteen, Upper Crescent, are also to be restored, by the way.

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