Grand Opera House 'transformed' after biggest restoration in 40 years

Belfast's 'jewel in the crown' is sparkling once again after four months of work on its iconic exterior and shining statue of Mercury

The famous exterior of Belfast's Grand Opera House has had its 'most comprehensive restoration' in 40 years, after lifting the curtain on the results of extensive work over the past four months.

Opened on December 23 1895, the imposing façade, built of brick and cast stone, features an eclectic mix of ornamental elements including decorative columns and oriental style onion-domes and minarets, all of which have been expertly restored, cleaned and repainted.

The theatre’s statue of Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods, situated on the corner of the iconic building has also undergone a stunning transformation. The statue, which originally held aloft an electric lit torch, has been fully restored and once again shines bright above Great Victoria Street having been gold leafed, thanks to a private donation.

Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House, said: '122 years ago theatre architect Frank Matcham bestowed on Belfast one of his most imaginative and opulent creations. The Grand Opera House is one of Belfast’s most iconic buildings, the city’s foremost cultural asset, and the only remaining Victorian theatre in Northern Ireland.

Grand Opera House Mercury.

'The works are the most comprehensive restoration of the Theatre’s exterior in forty years and demonstrates the Grand Opera House Trust’s commitment to maintaining and protecting the fabric and heritage of this important listed building for future generations.'

He added: 'The contractors have given us a building to be very proud of and I would like to thank them all for putting the sparkle back into Belfast’s Jewel in the Crown.'

The restoration, cleaning and painting project, paid for by the Grand Opera House Trust, was managed by Patrick F O’Reilly Limited in conjunction with Consarc Design Group, and was delivered by a team of skilled specialists including Clarke Restoration, Oakridge Carpentry and Joinery Limited, McCrory Access and D Harkin and Co Roofing Limited.  

Together with the Grand Opera House Trust, Ian Wilson and his team are currently putting together the final plans for a significant restoration project for 2020 that will see the unique auditorium returned to its former glory, in time to celebrate the Grand Opera House’s 125th anniversary in December 2020.


The Opera House recently played host to Northern Ireland's very first Heritage Angel Awards, which recognised and celebrated individuals and projects responsible for preserving and restoring historic buildings across the country to their former glories and beyond. It was also named Northern Ireland's Most Welcoming Theatre at the prestigious UK Theatre Awards which took place in London last month.

Meanwhile, with 70,000 tickets already booked the theatre says Peter Pan is on course to be its most successful pantomime ever. Starring May McFettridge for the 28th consecutive year in the annual Christmas show, the cast also includes Coronation Street’s Claire King, double Olivier award-winning David Bedella as Captain Hook and local actor Mikey Jay-Heath in the title role.

Peter Pan opens this Saturday, December 2 and runs until Sunday, January 14. To book your tickets before they 'fly out the door' and stay up to date with other events at Grand Opera House visit