The History Of The Belfast Poor House

The Belfast Charitable Society was founded on a Friday afternoon in August 1752 in a tavern called The George Inn on the corner of North Street and John Street, Belfast. The newly formed Society was made up of a group of leading Belfast citizens who played a key role in the development of Belfast and were at the forefront of providing welfare for its people.

At the time, the care for the poor of Belfast was left to public-spirited citizens to do what they could and the Society was the driving force behind the Belfast Poor House.

The Poor House, which became known as Clifton House in 1948, was formed with the aim of providing a refuge for the poor of Belfast.

The members of the Society amazingly sold lottery tickets to raise the money for the development of the Poor House and after twenty years fundraising the £7,000 required to complete the construction was eventually generated.

The Poor House opened in 1774 and provision was made at first for about 50 inmates, as they were know, but the numbers grew so rapidly that by 1820, there were 330 in the House, many of whom were destitute or deserted children. The deserving poor who could not be taken in were given licence to beg and identification badges to commend them to the charity of the citizens of Belfast.

The Poor House operated until the late 1880s after which it became known as the Belfast Charitable Institution and was a nursing home and hospital for older people.  It became known as Clifton House after the Second World War.  The Society built a new nursing home in 2000 and all our residents moved to this new facility.  Clifton House today is home to a Residential Care Home, Sheltered Accommodation and a Heritage & Conference Centre.

Clifton House is one of the finest surviving pieces of Georgian Belfast.

Book a tour

The Belfast Poor House. Book a Tour

Step back in time and discover the rich history of the Belfast Poor House by taking a tour. Explore a building that was built when Belfast consisted of five streets, learn about the founding members of the Belfast Charitable Society who all played pivotal roles in the history of the city and discover the stories behind the unfortunate lowly inhabitants of Belfast who sought sanctuary in the Poor House.

  • Weekly tours: A tour of Clifton House is held each Friday at 3.00pm. Tours of Clifton House will be each Monday – Friday during July and August with a tour of Clifton Street Cemetery included each Friday. The tour costs start at £6.50. You can call, email or fill in the form below to reserve your place, or simply turn up on the day. Check out our Facebook Page or Twitter Feedfor details.
  • Groups tours: Groups can book a guided tour of the Clifton House by phoning to arrange a time and date in advance by calling 028 9099 7022 or emailing Group rates for tours of 10 or more are available

Visitor Reviews: We Love Our Visitors, And They Love Us.

We’ve no doubt your visit to the Belfast Poor House will be fascinating as you delve back in time to discover its rich history and the important role it played in the welfare of Belfast’s citizens. Just don’t take our word for it, read what some of our visitors have to say.

Have you visited the Belfast Poor House? Send your review to


‘Really interesting snapshot of Belfast’s history’
European Heritage Open Day visitor from Lisburn
‘Many thanks for your hospitality for our group today and I hope that we will be back to visit your historic premises again soon’
Group Tour 2015
I had the opportunity to visit The Belfast Poor House last week. The guides were knowledgable, friendly and able to answer my questions. I would recommend it to anyone to visit.
John Wallace
“On behalf of the Carryduff Historical Society I would like to thank you once again for giving us such an excellent and informative tour on Monday night. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and we all came away with a completely new outlook on such an iconic building and cemetery.”
Gordon Hunt, Carryduff Historical Society
“On behalf of First Lisburn Presbyterian Women, I would like to very warmly thank you and all the staff for the tour we had on Wednesday last. You especially inspired the ladies with your wonderful knowledge of the history of Clifton House. In just over three years in the chair of the group, I have never had so many phones calls, text messages and letters how much the ladies enjoyed the day, so very many thanks to you.”
Maureen Staniland, First Lisburn Presbyterian Women's Group
“Excellent, very informative guide. Thoroughly enjoyed our visit.”
Linda Swindle, Lisnaskea Historical Society
“Great Tour – Thank you!”
Adrian Powter, Cambridge