A Virtual Walking Tour of the Ormeau Road
One of the oldest and most significant thoroughfares in the city
The Ormeau Road in south Belfast is one of the oldest and most significant thoroughfares in the city.
Starting at the city centre end of Ormeau Road, the first historic building you will arrive at is the Gasworks’ site. It was designed by Robert Watt, James Stelfox and John Lanyon in 1893. Belfast was one of the first towns in Ireland to utilise coal gas for lighting purposes. Nevertheless, it closed in 1988, and Belfast City Council and the Laganside Development Corporation turned the Gasworks into public gardens with commercial office space.
As you continue up the road, you will come to Cooke Street in the heart of the lower Ormeau. This is home to south Belfast’s only Irish medium bunscoil, Scoil An Droichead. It provides Irish medium primary education to children from all over the area. The school is multi-denominational and is active in promoting the appreciation of diversity in our city.
Larionad An Droichid, An Droichead’s cultural centre is situated behind Scoil An Droichead, and is visible from the main Ormeau Road. The £400,000, award-winning building houses a creche, nursery and pre-school group. A performing area accommodates plays, ceilis, dinners and other social events.
As you come out of Cooke Street and continue over the hill into the lower Ormeau area, the Hatfield Bar appears on the left hand side. Designed in 1873 by W Russell, it is probably one of the last representatives of a great flowering of pub design. The main entrance features glazed tiles in decorative panels, but the real treasure of the Hatfield is the ornate mahogany semicircular public bar with two rows of hand painted tiles.
Just over the bridge sits Ormeau Park. Established in 1871, it was the first public park in Belfast and remains one of the largest. It contains playgrounds, bowling greens and sports pitches, as well as seasonal bedding displays. Its ornate bandstand is now a listed building.
Further up the hill, on the right hand side, is the Ormeau Bakery. Opened by Robert Wilson in 1890, the bakery thrived on this site under three generations of the Wilson family, until Andrew Mills acquired it in 1980. The exterior of the building has changed little during this time. Sadly, the bakery will cease production in April 2004.
At the corner of Park Road lies Cooke Centenary Presbyterian Church. Designed by WI Fennell and built from Glebe stone in 1890, the church was established to mark the centenary of the birth of the Rev Dr Henry Cooke. The church contains beautiful stained glass windows, timbered ceilings and paupers’ pews.
Ballynafeigh Orange Hall, built in 1887, is situated just past Deramore Street. J McLeish supervised the construction of the hall, and his name is inscribed on a scroll buried in a container under the foundations.
Ballynafeigh Methodist Church stands further up the hill. Designed by an Australian architect, the building has nevertheless been described as an adaptation of American Romanesque.
Just across the road, on the corner of St Jude’s Avenue, you will find St Jude’s Parish Church. The foundation stone was laid in 1871, and the building opened for worship in August 1873. The tower and belfry were constructed by well known local builders, the Fitzpatrick family, incorporating both Scrabo sandstone and Bath stone.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary stands nearby. It was built in 1898 through the efforts of the Very Rev Robert Crickard, the first parish priest of Ballynafeigh.
Across the road sits the Good Shepherd Convent. The original complex included a convent, a home for single mothers, an orphanage, a home for battered wives, and a hostel for women in need of care. There is also a nuns’ graveyard in the centre of the car park.
Continuing up the Ormeau Road, you will find Rosetta Cottages. Built in 1800, their appearance has not changed much since. Originally known as ‘Saddlers’ Row’, these cottages were home to saddlers and their families who made their trade from stopping traffic halted at the tollhouse, now replaced by a roundabout. As levies were paid, queues would develop, and the horsemen would have their old harnesses repaired or purchase new ones from the local tradesmen.
The last stop on this walking trail is Newtownbreda (St John’s) Presbyterian Church. The church was designed by Vincent Craig in 1892 in early English Gothic style. Craig was the brother of Lord Craigavon, the first prime minister of Northern Ireland. Beside the pulpit, a Victoria Cross shield is mounted from the Battle of the Somme.
For more information about the Ormeau Road and surrounding area, please contact Caoire O’Neill, economic development officer for the South Belfast Partnership on +44(0) 28 9024 4070.
© Caoire O’Neill 2004