Visiting Church House, Belfast, Northern Ireland: Presbyterian Assembly Hall and Spires Centre
Gothic-style, towered structure dating from 1905
This building complex houses both the headquarters of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and a shopping centre known as The Spires.
Some history and features
Dating from 1905, the Gothic-style building, also described as Scottish baronial, reminds me of similar structures in Scotland and of pictures of buildings in the South Island of New Zealand, where the Presbyterian traditions have been marked. The crown at the top of the clock tower follows the style of a similar feature at St. Giles's church, Edinburgh.
Its clock tower is 40 metres tall and, because of its height, forms one of the major landmarks of Downtown Belfast. One feature of the tower is that it contains a peal of 12 bells.
In recent years, considerable efforts have been made to sanitize the stonework of this elegant building, with the result that its more recent condition must resemble somewhat its original appearance at the beginning of the 20th century.
Over more than a century, all sorts of events have occurred surrounding Church House. It was decided to open up the complex to commercial development, and The Spires centre was one of the results. The Reverend Ian Paisley, later Northern Ireland's First Minister, staged demonstrations at Church House (1). It was also decided that Presbyterians would vacate the property altogether, but other Presbyterians subsequently overruled the original resolution, with the result that Presbyterians still meet here after all.
Church House is situated at Fisherwick Place in Belfast, County Antrim.
(1) Dr. Paisley belongs to a different variety of Presbyterian church. As commented in various of my hubs on Scotland and The Netherlands, the history of Presbyterian and Reformed churches in these countries is extraordinarily complex, and this complexity extends to the history of Presbyterianism in Northern Ireland also. I will not attempt to shed any brand of clarity on the subject that my limited perceptions might presume to command.
Also worth seeing
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Belfast International Airport, at Aldergrove, where car rental is available. Please note that facilities mentioned may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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