26-30 Cliftonville Road, Belfast

Clifton in 1982
Clifton in 2012

The Cliftonville Road derives its name from a group of classical villas designed and built by a young architect called Thomas Jackson (1807-1890), of which these are the most imposing survivors. Jackson had received his early training in Bristol, and the inspiration of his houses was its Clifton area, which he hoped to emulate when he bought a sizeable stretch of land on this road, which was then largely undeveloped. He built his own house, a detached villa, at no. 24 (burnt down in 1982), and a semi-detached pair survives at nos. 34-36. The Regency Greek style of the exterior, with broad eaves decorated with guttae, laurel wreaths on the facade, and Doric porches to each house, is continued in the rich decoration of the interior.

Occupied for many years by well-to-do merchants, the buildings were acquired in 1901 by the Home for the Blind which had outgrown its original premises in Hope Street. The three houses were combined and extended to provide accommodation for 30 females and 20 males. Extensive fire escapes were added and two large wings extended to the rear, as well as a bay window on the front of no. 30. With the onset of the Troubles the Home wished to move to a more stable area but had difficulty finding a buyer, and the terrace faced demolition. Hearth was fortunately able to acquire the property in 1983, and put a caretaker in until restoration could start.

Hearth originally proposed to restore the property to its original three houses (a central one at no. 28 flanked by houses with side porches), but these were still very large, and each house has been subdivided, retaining the original staircases within flats. Within each of the new flats, plasterwork, panel doors and ornamental doorcases have been retained and restored. The later wings and bay window were demolished, together with unsightly fire escapes on the gables. Extensive dry rot had to be treated, resulting in considerable renewal of plasterwork, and a new fire escape was added to the rear of the building. Although the area is now much more stable than in the 1970s, several of the original tenants of the restored flats came to us having been made homeless by rioting in nearby Manor Street, and Hearth was delighted that the restoration of this elegant building provided also such badly needed housing.

In 2010-11 Hearth carried out extensive re-improvement work at the flats, improving thermal and acoustic insulation, adding secondary glazing to improve heating and reduce noise. The rear fire escape was to be removed following improvements to the fire alarm system, but tenants asked for it to be kept to accommodate plants and it has only been reduced in height.

Hearth Housing Association
Architect: Hearth
Quantity Surveyor: David Gould (2010: R Davis & Co)
Strctural Engineer: Tayor & Boyd
M&E Engineer: Brian Caldwell Partnership (2010: AH Design)
Main Contractor: Deramore Developments (2010: Martin & Hamilton, Ballymena
Restored: 1986; reimproved 2010-11

Funded by Housing Association Grant
Accommodation: Four three-bedroom flats and two one-bedroom flats

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