Visiting the Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland: major conference and concert facility by William J Barre
Where history has been made
Some history and features
As a concert and conference venue it had become established by the end of the 19th century as a leading facility. The architect was William J. Barre (1830-1867) (1).
Having been in private hands for the first few decades of its existence, in 1902 the Ulster Hall came under the control of the City of Belfast, which immediately commissioned artist Joseph Carey to paint local scenes at the Hall. These paintings have been undergoing recent restoration.
Almost from the building's inception, a pipe organ named the Mulholland Grand Organ has been an integral part of the facility. The Hall has a very strong musical tradition and is notable the home of the Ulster Orchestra.
Features of the building include a frontage with upper storey Classical pillars, a balustrade and a porch with ornate ironwork. The immediate built environment includes Victorian-style lampstands outside the building.
In recent years, the building underwent a large program of renovation which was completed in 2009.
As a prime conference centre, the Ulster Hall has seen its share of prominent speakers and guests. These include: Charles Dickens, who read from his works; Conservative leader Lord Randolph Churchill (2); Sir Edward Carson, another very prominent Unionist leader. Irish Nationalist leaders have also used the facility in more recent years; on one occasion in 2002, the Irish national anthem (3) was sung by an audience of 2000.
Thus, over the decades, a very wide variety of events has been held at the Ulster Hall, whether musical, political, or for entertainment; Christian groups have regularly hired the Hall at Easter; in short, for both public and private events, the Hall has long been at the centre of Northern Ireland's life.
The Ulster Hall is situated in Belfast's Bedford Street.
July 12, 2012
(1) Other works for which Architect Barre is known include Belfast's Albert Memorial Clock. He died young, but not before having made himself a considerable reputation as a local architect, particularly a designer of churches.
(2) Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895) was father to Sir Winston Churchill; in Ireland he was known for a strong Unionist stance, and is remembered for his phrase: 'The Orange card is the one to play'.
(3) The anthem is known as The Soldier's Song (Irish: Amhrán na bhFiann )
Also worth seeing
In Belfast itself , among other noted sights are: the Albert Memorial Clock Tower; Belfast City Hall; the ornate Belfast Technical College; the Harbour Commissioners' building; Queen's University Main Building; Belfast Castle; Church House, and many more.
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. You are advised to 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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