20, 22, 24, 32, 42, 31, 33 and 37 McMaster Street, Belfast

  Some houses had been blocked up for many years
37 in 2012
One of the houses improved in 2012

Just as thatched cottages were despised for many years for their association with poverty, so their urban equivalent, the "two-up, two-down" terrace house, has been considered for many years as an indicator of poor housing conditions, and the march of progress has swept many of these houses away. A visitor to Belfast as late as 1960 would have found the "wee palaces" of coloured brickwork, spruce and neatly kept, all over the city, and carried away that image of tight urban communities which they represented; now there are very few areas of such housing left. One street, McMaster Street in East Belfast, has been selected for preservation as an example of this once common type, and the street was recently listed and made into a conservation area.

Hearth acquired two houses in the street for restoration around 2000. Sadly, there were no original doors, windows or chimneys left in the street, and we know of no proper photographs of the houses before the Housing Executive's enveloping scheme carried out some fifteen years ago. To some extent, therefore, the restoration was conjectural, but we hoped it would provide a model for further restorations of the neighbouring houses.

In the course of the work sash windows and panel doors were put in, the ground floor rooms were again separated, the back bedroom was converted into a bathroom, the kitchen was extended, and some ornamental plasterwork was restored. When work was nearly complete an open day was held for local schools, who use McMaster Street as their local "historic building" for Victorian history projects. This led a former occupant of one of the houses to come forward with photographs and stories of her own upbringing in McMaster Street in the 1950s - not so very long ago, but things were very different back then.

During 2010-11 more houses were acquired and a second phase of works carried out in the street. This time one pair of houses was combined two-into-one to demontrate how a spacious house can be created from these small dwellings, and all the houses were improved to current standards of thermal insulation while retaining their distinctive character.
We would be extremely interested to hear of any further memories of the street, and in particular would be very keen to borrow and copy any early photographs of the houses.

Hearth Housing Association
Architect: Hearth

Quantity Surveyor: (2011: R Davis & Co)
Main Contractor: 2000: McNally Contractors (Randalstown) Ltd; (2011: QMAC Construction)
Restored: 2000-01; 2011-12

Assisted by loans and grants from: Housing Association Grant and own capital
Accommodation: One one-bedroom house, five two-bedroom houses and one three-bedroom house

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