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The History Of Tourism In Belfast Tourism Essay

Belfast became a city in 1888 after a rapid increase in it’s population from around 20,000 in 1800 to 349,000 in 1901 and in 1939 438,000 people lived in the city. Living conditions were poor due to the lack of infrastructure and overcrowding which lead to a lower that average life expectancy.

In 1773 around 17million yards of linen was exported from Belfast, this industry had rapidly increased and drew more people to the city from the surrounding countryside for employment.

Shipbuilding began in 1791 and the famous Hardland and Wolff opened in 1862 employing 30,000 people in it’s prime.

In 1904 Belfast Tram lines opened allowing public transport to reach the radius roads of the city.

In 1941 Belfast suffered a major attack from the Germans known as the Belfast Blitz during World War II. Some 900 people were killed [i] and 3,200 homes were destroyed as Belfast was considered a threat due to its ship building industry. The Blitz had a large effect on the architecture of the city, many buildings were destroyed, some of which were not rebuilt. See Figure of High Street with arrows pointing to buildings destroyed. Images http://multitext.ucc.ie/

Tim Lambert A Timeline of Belfast http://www.localhistories.org/belfasttime.html

Notable architects Charles Lanyon 1813-1889 was an engineer who moved from England to Dublin in 1830 and later moved to Belfast. He engineered the Ormeau and Queens Bridges in the city providing important links to the west of the city. Lanyon was also an architect responsible for some of the most recognisable buildings in the city, Queens University Lanyon Building, The Palm House in the Botanic Gardens was an early example of Curvilinear Iron and Glass Structure with its dome added in 1852.

http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/parksandopenspaces/palmhouse.asp

Belfast Castle, Linenhall Library, Customs House 1857 Italian Renaissance style, Crumlin Road Gaol and Courthouse both of which are at the centre of major redevelopment plans are all further examples of recognisable buildings which Lanyon designed that play a significant role in the history and tourism of the city.

http://www.ulsterhistory.co.uk/charleslanyon.htm

William J Barre, Newry 1830-1867 trained under the influential architect Thomas Duff.

Barre is renowned for the The Albert Memorial Clock 1865 on Victoria Street Belfast which has undergone resent restoration work in 2000-2002.

Ulster hall opened 1862 and seated some 2000 audience members, it was at the time, one of the largest music venues in the British Isles

The Methodist Church, University Road, 1864 which is currently on the buildings at risk register and is for sale as a potential redevelopment but has been neglected for many years.

The Provincial Bank 1864, Castle Place, Belfast, now a Tesco stores retailer. Which is a brilliant example of sustainable restoration works of a historical building. It’s prime location off Royal Avenue leads to the constant flow of customers, and the beautiful domed roof and ornate features are highly unexpected in such a large retailers.

JAMES STEVENS CURL. "Barre, William Joseph." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape    Architecture. 2000. Encyclopedia.com.(January 3, 2011). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O1-BarreWilliamJoseph.html

Thomas Duff of Newry 1792-1848 st Patricks school Belfast gothic revival, first national school in Belfast recently underwent restoration work by BBPT. The museum college sq north.

History is the foundations of our national culture, our buildings act like bookmarks to events of time gone by, reminding us of those gone before us, the hard work and endeavours they went to, to build the city that stands today. The history of the city has its lows, but also small triumphs between the hardships. There is richness to the old historical buildings, the Edwardian and Victorian styles, a reminder of wealth and skills that existed. Without these buildings, the city streets would be bland of decor and character.

“It is the blood sweat and tears of our ancestors who have left magnificent buildings and landscapes for ourselves and future generations. It is who we are. It is our identity” Gary Hornby http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-history-matters.pdf page 7

“These buildings do not belong to us...they have belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not...our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us.” William Morris in the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings Manifesto of 1877 from the book (Bridgewood and Lennie 2009)

Morris was a founding member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, their manifesto even though published in 1877 some 134 years ago still stands true, even if ignored by many developers and government bodies it is true that our historical buildings are here for us to preserve so that generations from now, people can have the same enjoyment from them as our predecessors had.

“History is a continuum. It is affected by many closely inter-related factors, philosophical, physical and spiritual. It offers a palimpsest (a manuscript which is written and then written over) which needs to be understood, maintained, conserved and protected.” (Bridgewood and Lennie 2009)Page 15.

What is conservation

What is restoration

What is sustainability “the capacity to endure” [1] 

“able to be maintained at a certain rate or level” [2] 

Identity

Belfast Building Preservation Trust – meeting Shane Quinn 21/12/2010

Their current offices is a Gate Lodge which they have a 50year lease from the Diocese of Down and Connor. Last family to live in the Gate Lodge had 11 people in it, 7 children, parents and grandparents. When the family moved out, the gate lodge fell into disrepair, and was vandalised and used as a drinking den for antisocial behaviour. As the BBPT had links with the Diocese through the regeneration of St Patricks School, the Diocese approached the trust about the gate lodge with the intention of demolishing it as it was in such a state, but the trust expressed a huge interest in developing it as their offices. The Diocese thought it was far too small and in such a state that nothing could be done, but when the trust acquired the lease, the restored it to what was believed to be its original state, with the discovery of three gothic windows on the ground floor which had been bricked up. The main unavoidable change was that the bathroom had to be moved downstairs to allow the building to comply with disability access. The building is a beautiful representation of the dedicated work the Trust does. The restoration work was welcomed by the local community as not only does the building look aesthetically pleasant, but it also has improved the social aspect of the area removing the antisocial element from the immediate area and it is no longer a vandalised eyesore.

The Belfast Building Preservation Trust has a sensible approach to regeneration, they don’t believe in restoration, for restorations sake, but for the good of the wider social community. A building should provide a vehicle for driving the local community and economy and have a positive response to its surroundings. Options analysis with regards to any potential redevelopments use is important as it requires the trust to research what both the local community want in their area, and what potential benefits different uses could have. A successful outcome of engaging local polarised communities on a restoration project on an interface site was Christ Church building on College Square North, part of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. Although the negotiation stages with both sides of the community were time consuming due to having to hold separate meetings to avoid conflict, the outcome of the school’s library with public resource areas has been widely commended in its success at integrating both sides of the community as it is used by all and is also popular with West Belfast Féile for events. It is the social success of a restoration project that is the true measure of success. It is vital that a building is self sustainable with the ability to meet its outgoings by income from various sectors. With few funds and trusts available to fund the initial capital to successfully carry out the building works of restoration projects it is even more crucial that the long term funding plan of the building has been properly calculated to ensure that in years to come, there is the required means to maintain the building properly to ensure it does not become neglected once again. As the trust has a revolving fund, it means that it can only take on new projects when there is sufficient income from the sale or lease of previous projects. A new potential project on the horizon for the trust is the 1930’s Floral Hall situated in the grounds of Belfast Zoo owned by the city council. Floral Hall is architecturally significant as it is one of few Art Deco styled building in Belfast. But it also has a huge nostalgic significance to the older generations of Belfast as it was the social hub on the north outskirts of the city where people used to get the tram to for dances, 130,000 people used the hall in one single year. Floral hall has a huge tourist potential and with an increased number of visitors coming to the zoo over the past 3 years, the building could provide additional educational facilities, shops and cafes that can bring in revenue along with the aspect of private functions such as wedding and conferences linking back to the idea of the dance hall and large gatherings, this can also provide income for the sustainability of the building.

Another building in the project pipeline for the BBPT is CARLISLE MEMORIAL METHODIST CHURCH situated in a deprived area of North Belfast in an interface site. The building is currently on the World Monuments Fund 2010 watch list which recognises the importance of this building.

WMF statement : “Through partnerships with local communities, funders, and governments, we inspire an enduring commitment to safeguard this vital legacy for future generations.” (source http://www.wmf.org/content/about-us accessed on 23/12/2010)

Although the building was previously a Methodist Church and situated in a polarised community, through talks with both sides of the community, hugely positive feedback came through that the communities felt that the building must be saved and that it could be used by all. The huge problem with Carlisle is that it is estimated that restoration work would cost approximately £13million, the city council and government are not willing to invest this and private developers do not see the potential return on the building. Now with the backing of the World Monuments Fund, it is hopeful that this iconic building which stands tall in the city skyline will get the public recognition and backing needed to stimulate the backing needed for this project to happen.

As the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust is a revolving fund, and can only rely on funds which it has made from its previous projects and small donations from funds such as the Lottery Heritage fund, there must be other initiatives which through a wider collaboration of organisations could allow for projects such as Floral Hall and Carlisle Memorial Church to be restored and provide a boost to its surrounding economy. Public Private Partnerships have been used to allow the government a method in improving the services it provides to the public. This method has been successful in funding schools and health care in cases where the government did not have the immediate funds required to provide much needed services, therefore by collaborating with a private investor, who could make the project happen, and meet the public’s needs, made the project financially viable. Private Finance Initiative PFI is one of the governments most used forms of PPP. In this instance, in most cases, the private firm finances the build and running costs for a set period of time, usually anywhere up to thirty years depending on the scale of the project and the government or local authority over this period has contractual repayment with interest to the firm. In most instances, it is more expensive in the long term with regards to the repayment schedule with any loan, but it allows the immediate provision of services.

For the case of Floral Hall, it’s ownership and funding could be a collaborative venture from several financers. Belfast city council who manages the zoo where it is located could take responsibility of a portion of the building which they could in turn use as a cafe, shop and educational rooms, this in turn can fund itself in the long term from people visiting the zoo providing revenue. A private developer interested in the functions aspect of the dance hall would be able to hire it out for weddings, events and conferences could provide a portion of the restoration works cost alongside investment from the tourist board for the boost in amenities at the zoo, leading to increased tourist potential to the city.

Carlisle Memorial Church also has potential as an iconic historical building to provide a tourist draw to the city along with a crucial demand in its location for community development and initiatives to further the inspiration, education and job skills of those in the neighbouring communities. This building has the scale, location, and potential to act as a social hub for the surrounding communities and a catalyst for further development in the district. Increased education can lead to greater skills in the community, a higher level of employable skills, increased employment increases the income to the area, increased income increases the quality of life of the community and increases the spending potential in the area further expanding its economy. This area of Belfast, Carlisle circus, is located 0.3 miles from the lower Shankill road, and a further 0.7 miles from that is the Falls road and 0.4 miles from the New Lodge. Each of these wards in the Northern Irelands Statistics and Research Agency’s Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010 [3] ranked in the top 25 most deprived places in Northern Ireland out of 890 places, and with each having extremely high access to local amenities due to the nature of their location in the capital city improving their overall average, this shows the deprivation in areas such as crime, living conditions, employment, education and health that these areas suffer from.

This location would benefit greatly from a community hub which would act as a catalyst for further development in these areas. When people see investment in their locality, it can boost morale and sense of pride for where them come from. An initial investment from one source can further encourage investment from other sectors and private investors. An example of successful redevelopment leading to a wider urban regeneration is the Market area surrounding St. George’s Market.

“heritage-led regeneration reinforces the sense of community pride, makes an important contribution to the local economy and acts as a catalyst for improvements to the wider area.’ [4] 

This extract from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Website case study of their work on St. George’s Market highlights the success of the project and it’s affect on the surrounding areas.

“The improvement and re-opening of St. George’s Market has been pivotal to tourism and business in the local area. It has led to further regeneration, which has allowed Belfast city centre to expand to fill previously derelict areas and the market is no longer cut off by its poor surroundings. A business centre and a Hilton Hotel have been developed, and further construction is planned. As a direct result of the HLF grant, five vacant and derelict retail shop spaces have been renovated in the market and rented out. The market has also hosted events and exhibitions, including cultural events such as Chinese New Year, Indian Holi, Festival of Colour, Polish Fesitval, Festival of India and St. Patrick’s Day. The Council hopes to increase the use of the venue for external hire, as well as to host more events, exhibitions and market days and that visitor numbers will grow further as a result of these improvements.” [5] 

A major secondary advantage to the regeneration of a building is that it can act as a catalyst for more regeneration works in an area or create the stimulus for the preservation of historical buildings and the development of an area. This example of the successful restoration to St. George’s Market in Belfast built in the 1890’s and restored in 1999 with £2million funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Not only has the visitor numbers to the market increased by more than double to between 400,000 - 500,000 per year, the market now opens on Fridays and Saturdays, there is a increase in the number of full time- equivalent jobs from 3 to 6 and increased the number of trader jobs also. (Source, Heritage Lottery Fund). Not only has the market increase tourism to the city from other areas of Northern Ireland, increase trader numbers and employment, it also sparked a regeneration trend for the surrounding area including five retail units in the building which are now let out and include a MACE shop and Subway sandwich bar, this provides further income to the market and a nearby Hilton Hotel and further office developments have begun. The market has also had the opportunity to diversify its use to accommodate live concerts in the evenings and fashion shows, these events create lots of potential revenue for the building, showing how restoration can provide multiple opportunities for a building.

City tourism

Both St. George’s Market and At. Annes Cathedral along with the Cathedral Quarter have undergone extensive restorations and redevelopment, with City Hall and Stormont being recognised as architectural landmarks of Belfast. The Titanic quarter is currently undergoing a huge redevelopment scheme to include the restoration of the drawing rooms. The Ulster Museum recently underwent a huge redevelopment and situated nearby, Queen’s University’s Lanyon Building is iconic to the city of Belfast and it has a huge tourist draw. The Crumlin Road Gaol designed by Sir Charles Lanyon and build in the 1840’s is the last remaining Victorian style prison in Northern Ireland. It and the courthouse opposite have a huge historical significance to the city and with the correct restoration and redevelopment could act as a major resource to the tourist industry.

The 185 acre Titanic Quarter Redevelopment scheme, mentioned briefly above will be a huge boost to both the tourism industry of the north alongside the mixed use facilities including offices and education centres. The Harland and Wolff Drawing rooms and offices will be restored along with a huge new development. The building is a three story brick and sandstone building. The Harland and Wolff shipyard founded in 1861 is in fact older that the current Belfast city hall. It once employed 30,000 people in Belfast. It is clear that this will become a significant asset to not only Belfast’s tourism industry, but Northern Ireland as a whole. It is an example of how both old iconic historical buildings can be developed alongside new architecturally significant buildings like Todd’s Architects Titanic Signature Project. It is the success in marrying the juxtaposition between the old and the new that creates a successful redevelopment.

Victoria Square in Belfast is an example of a recently complete redevelopment in Belfast’s commercial city centre with the creation of a new covered shopping ‘street’ complex and residential apartments. The complex merges different architectural styles and also boasts the restored Jaffe Fountain to its original location as it had been relocated to botanic gardens years previous. In recent years, from political stability, the city has begun to flourish with increased investment from both public and private parties. Victoria Square and the Street’s Ahead urban regeneration scheme from the Department of Social and Regional Development

It is possible to achieve a sustainable income from the redevelopment of old historic buildings, The Merchant Hotel on Waring Street is a prime example of how a private developer has taken a listed building and transformed it from the previous headquarters of the Ulster Bank to a five star prestigious hotel. Designed by James Hamilton from Glasgow and built in 1857 the sandstone building is Grade A listed and underwent major restoration along with a £16.5 million modern extension. The Merchant provides tourism and hospitality to a high class standard with room rates starting at £95 per room per night for mid week upwards to £255 for suits. There was a niche in the market for a boutique hotel and the Merchant has hosted many events which has gained it further recognition as a successful historical regeneration project. This is an example of a restoration, not only for restorations sake, but with great foresight the owners saw this building’s potential to create a new market in the Belfast hotel and tourism sector. This hotel in the long term will be a sustainable investment with a huge initial investment which will reap the rewards long term form tourists, locals and event organisations.

The Crown Bar built in 1826 was the first public house in the care of the National Trust when they purchased it in 1978, in 2003 Donald Insall Associates were commissioned to carry out research and begin the restoration work of the facade, and the internal bar and snugs. Since it’s purchase in 1978, the National Trust have spent around £900,000 on restorations.The bar being one of the oldest in the city has a huge tourist draw, and through its restoration work has returned it to its intended beauty. The pub, like the Merchant Hotel, gains it’s main income from tourism and events, this in turn pays for the upkeep of the building allowing the restoration cost to be absorbed by the profits.

Without buildings such as the Crown Bar which has such a historical and nostalgic feel for those who visit and the Titanic Quarter Drawing Rooms and St. George’s Market to name but a few, Belfast’s tourism and identity would be lacking a credible draw to international visitors. The fact that there are trusts and associations out there to raise awareness to save such beautiful, historically significant buildings is what saves Belfast’s identity. It’s iconic and recognisable elements, buildings, monuments, streetscapes and planning all tie the patchwork of the city together and make it what it is today.

“Old buildings are like our senior citizens. Lets treat them with the respect they deserve.” Griff Rhys Jones in Lose or Reuse.

Treating old buildings with the respect they deserve is one thing the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society see true. They campaign for the recognition of the importance of our built heritage and how it plays a key role in the city we live in, be it the instantly recognisable landmarks of City Hall and the Albert Clock, or the streetscapes that give Belfast it’s grain and character. Belfast’s redbrick terraces hold a historical reference to the industrial city which was once at the forefront of the global shipbuilding, linen and rope works industries. These houses, though small and often overcrowded provided security for thousands of people who moved from the countryside to make a living in the booming industries. When these industries died down, the population levels in the city declined but in recent years with the increase in higher education through the University of Ulster and Queens University, many of these houses have been bought by property developers and restored into student housing. The city may be evolving from an industrial to a more serviced based city, but buildings can always be adapted for new uses, for examply W.J. Barre’s Provincial Bank has been magnificently restored into a Tesco Supermarket, it may not seem like a regular choice, but the building carries such a high volume of people now, that it only has to be a tribute to Barre allowing so many people to see his works. Also the Ulster Bank headquarters, now the Merchant Hotel

The Albert Memorial Clock on Victoria Street in Belfast, erected in 1865 to commemorate Price Albert is an iconic monument in the city’s identity. Designed by Newry born Architect W.J. BarreThe clock has a slight tilt due to being built on reclaimed land, but recently underwent major restabilising and restoration works due to the decay of stone. The scrabo stone soft damaged salt air etc

The Northern Ireland Committee of the National Trust and The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society had a joint initiative to protect architecturally significant buildings through the establishment of Hearth Housing Association [6] . Hearth was set up in 1978 by a voluntary committee to act as a non-profit making association to provide social housing to meet the need for housing from the Department for Social Development and also has a revolving fund for the restoration of historic buildings for resale. Buildings which are restored are previously at risk of loss or dereliction.

MERGE OF NEW AND OLD LEADING INTO VICTORIA SQ, SHOW HOW COMMERCIAL AND DEVELOPERS, SUSTAINED FROM INCOME. ONWARDS TO MERCHANT HOTEL LINKED BACK INTO COMMERCAIL AND TOURISM ASPECT, UPPER CLASS.

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