Discover the inspirational story of the Belfast Poor House and its vast impact
on the growing city of Belfast.

July 1770

Architectural plans drawn up

Circa 1770 – The Society went to considerable lengths to get a suitable design for the Poor House. Several architects put forward architectural plans and proposals were submitted by the Scottish-born architect Robert Mylne, Francis Johnston, who would go on to design the General Post Office in Dublin and distinguished London architects. After the designs […]

March 1768

Society began gathering building materials

1768 – From October this year the Society began gathering building materials. John Kennedy of Cultra was thanked publically in the Belfast News Letter for ‘cheerfully granting them free liberty to quarry stones and lift sand on his Estate’. More sand came from the bank of the Lagan and lime was bought for 11d per […]

August 1763

First fundraising lottery is illegal

1763 – Raising funds was difficult for the Society, especially as the authorities in Ireland had declared the first fundraising lottery as illegal. Getting a suitable site for the Poor House was another problem. In 1763, the members wrote to Lord Donegall requesting that he grant them land for the project however this took three […]

August 1752

A lottery was launched as a fundraising campaign

1752 – Since the Chichester family or the Corporation had evaded their duty to care for the poor of Belfast, it was left to public-spirited citizens to do what they could.

It all began on a Friday afternoon in August 1752 at a tavern called The George Inn on the corner of North Street and John […]

February 1726

In Ulster many starve during the scarcities

1726 – 1741 – In Ulster many starved during the scarcities and at the end of 1739, a sharp frost set in and lasted for seven weeks destroying potatoes, cattle and disabling water-powered corn mills. Shortage of seeds and further bad weather led to a terrible famine, at its most severe in Ulster in 1741. […]

July 1683

Belfast still a town of modest size

1683 – By comparison with Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, Belfast was still a town of modest size. During the Restoration of the Monarchy, there were only five streets – High Street, Bridge Street, Waring Street, North Street and Skipper Street. At the time, Belfast seems to have only had two prominent buildings Belfast Castle, […]

September 1675

Poores Money

1675 – Starting with a £40 donation in 1631 by Edward Holmes to the “poor decayed inhabitants of Belfast”, by 1675, the ‘Poores Money’ had only reached £325. It might have been expected that the Chichester family, that governed Belfast town, or the town’s corporation would have taken the lead in organising provision for the […]

September 1660

Charles I returns to London and takes the throne

1660 – Following Oliver Cromwell’s death, the son of the beheaded Charles I returned to London and took the throne. The calm brought about by the Restoration of the Monarchy, under King Charles II, gave Belfast the opportunity to prosper. Much of Ulster’s surplus agricultural produce was brought there to be shipped across the Irish […]

August 1613

Belfast becomes a town

1613 – To understand the Society’s vast impact on the city, it is important to start with the history of Belfast. Belfast became a town when King James I granted Belfast’s charter of incorporation. For much of the seventeenth century Ireland was turbulent and periodically shaken by rebellion, revengeful massacres and rampaging armies contesting the […]