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Lantern slides shed light on Belfast history

Responses to a request to help identify places in the RCB Library’s lantern slide collection have joined up two historic street scenes with their locations in Belfast.

One of the slides pictured an imposing row of three–storey terraced houses with a smiling boy and girl (also unidentified) sitting in the foreground.

Greg Harrison relayed that the street scene looked familiar to him as he lived on Wolseley Street, Belfast 7, back in the 1960s.  Greg forwarded a screenshot from Google Street View for comparison, which showed a terrace featuring the distinctive houses and their brickwork, near its junction of Ireton Street.  A view of the street is pictured below.

The area, which is a short walk away from Queen’s University and Botanic Gardens, would have been a popular residential area at the turn of the century.  Queen’s was chartered as a college in 1845 and became a university in its own right in 1908.  The area is now mainly populated by students from Queen’s, Ulster University, and the city’s teaching and further education colleges.

Another answer came from Paddy Wilson, who identified houses in a separate slide as being from the Cavehill Road area, in the north of the city.  He suggested that the houses were later absorbed into Henderson Avenue; the street became a mix of Victorian terraces and small kitchen style houses and kept on growing with 1930s semi–detached dwellings.

The Ordnance Survey maps on the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland’s historical maps viewer indicate that the area which became the Henderson Avenue neighbourhood was farmland in 1832 and also in 1846.  There are some breaks in the map series for that area but by 1905, the street was partially built with some fields still on either side.  However, the front streets were filled by new housing by 1919 and the area, as it appears today, had really taken shape by the 1950s.

The Cavehill Road, with the mount from which it takes its name in the background.
The Cavehill Road, with the mount from which it takes its name in the background.
Henderson Avenue today.
Henderson Avenue today.

Paddy also added that the Wolseley Street houses were likely to have been built around 1875.  The children appear to be sitting on grass across the road; slightly smaller terraces were later built where the children sat, probably in the 1890s and certainly before 1900, when they are marked in an Ordnance Survey map.

Leads which could help to verify caption information for the slides are always welcome.  Readers can browse an online selection at www.flickr.com/churchofireland/albums and are encouraged to get in touch with the Library at library@ireland.anglican.org

A range of digital resources are also available online on the Library section of the Church of Ireland website.

For further information please contact:

Church of Ireland Press Office 
Church of Ireland House 
61–67 Donegall Street 
Belfast, BT1 2QH 

Tel: (028) 9082 8880 (from NI)
Tel: (048) 9082 8880 (from RoI)
Email: Press Office 

Peter Cheney

+44 (0)7774 295369

Janet Maxwell

+353 (0)87 948 4412