The Water Office

The Water Office was designed and built by WH Lynn in 1869

Designed by Charles Lanyon’s pupil and partner WH Lynn and built in 1869 as a warehouse for Richardson Sons and Owdens linen merchants, this impressive building was purchased by the Belfast Water Commissioners before the second world war. Still known as ‘the water office’ this mercantile structure borrows from the Venetian palazzo style promoted by Ruskin, like many of its contemporary buildings in the centre of Belfast.

The building’s ‘frowning grandeur’ was enhanced by a chateau style high roof with tall chimneys and spikey dormer windows, which were not replaced after wartime air raid damage. In 1884, Oscar Wilde reportedly called it Belfast’s ‘one beautiful building … beautiful in colour, and very beautiful in design.’ A sensitive restoration of the exterior by current occupiers Marks and Spencer was overseen by architects Scott Tallon and Walker and was completed in 1985.

Further reading:
Buildings of Belfast 1700-1914 (1985) by CEB Brett.