City Hall designed by Alfred Brumwell Thomas. 1896-1906. Donegall Square, Belfast, Ulster, Northern Ireland. Text and photograph by Philip V. Allingham 2006. This image may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose.

When Belfast achieved city status in 1888, the Town Hall was not considered imposing enough and this magnificent Edwardian wedding cake of City Hall was built instead. The Dome is 53 metres (173 feet) high. Figures above the door are Hibernia encouraging and promoting the Commerce and Arts of the City. The cost of the new city hall exceeded 360,000, much of it spent on ornamentation and sculpture: the marble alone, according the C. E. B. Brett, cost the City Corporation 21,681, the carving 9,817, the plasterwork 7,164, and the stained glass 1,556. Revenues from the City-owned gasworks subsidized the bill. An unfortunate later expense was the complete restoration of the Banqueting-Hall, which was utterly destroyed in the Blitz. (See Brett, pp. 55-56)

The booming industries of Belfast enabled the area to escape the worst effects of the Hungry Forties: depression and depopulation. Granted a city charter by Queen Victoria in acknowledgement of its economic importance as it had surpassed Dublin in population, Belfast required a newer, far grander City Hall, to be built on the central site of the White Linen Hall, Donegall Square. Following an intense competition, a young London architect, Brumwell Thomas, won the design contract. In 1898, following the demolition of White Linen Hall, local contractors H. & J. Martin began work on the new edifice in 1898. The Belfast City Hall was officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Aberdeen, on 1 August 1906. Here under the great dome in 1912 the Home Rule movement was stymied with the signing, after a plebiscite on the issue, of the Ulster Covenant. (See F. Heatley, p. 48)

Other Views


Brett, C. E. B. Buildings of Belfast, 1700-1914. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967.

Heatley, Fred, and Gillian Boyd (il.). Belfast: Paintings and Stories from the City. Donaghadee, N. Ireland: Cottage Publications, 1998.

Last modified 12 September 2006