The history of 36, Cliftonville Road and its inhabitants illustrates the development of North Belfast more generally. ‘Cliftonville’, as the row of terraced and semi-detached villas, was known in its formative years represented the first suburban development of the area.
The architect behind this building was Thomas Jackson, originally from a Quaker family in Waterford. Jackson was described as being the foremost Belfast architect of his day and was also the architect for another of our Cluster members: the original Quaker Meeting House on Frederick Street (1840). In addition to our buildings, Jackson also designed many Belfast landmarks including St. Malachy’s Church, the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, the old Town Hall, and the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (later the Queen’s Street RUC Station).
Jackson had trained in the Clifton area of Bristol and was inspired by his time there to name the estate ‘Cliftonville’. Numbers 34-36 were were among the earliest to be built in the 1830s and the only survivors of a development of approximately six structures. As hard as it may be to believe today, when it was built, 36, Cliftonville Road would have been located on very much the outskirts of Belfast in a predominantly rural landscape.
The Townland Valuation of 1837 lists the occupier of number 36 as William Herdman of Langtry and Herdman, shipowners and general merchants who brought the first steam ship into Belfast. By 1858, the Cave Hill tramway had made the area more accessible from the centre of Belfast and a total of six structures are shown in the row, which is now captioned ‘Cliftonville’. At the time of the 1901 census, the occupier was Thomas Watts, a corn merchant who lived with his mother, sister and niece. The family kept a general domestic servant and a nursemaid as well as a boarder. The house had eleven rooms and was designated first class.
By 1911, the house was home to Archibald Chapman Husband from Renfrewshire. Husband was the manager of a linen thread mill and the father of ten children, seven of whom were still at home. His profession reflects the increasingly industrial nature of north Belfast. Unusually, for a professional man of his standing, no live-in servants were employed at the house. From 1941 until the end of the war it was used as an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) post. ARP posts were set up throughout the city, some purpose built but others, as in the present case, occupying houses or shops.
The house was inhabited until at least the late 1980s and became the headquarters for Dunlewey Addiction Services from 1993. Unfortunately, the building suffered severe fire damage in 2003 and currently remains derelict. Amazingly, the original sign for Dunlewey’s Headquarters on Cliftonville Road was saved from the fire and is highly symbolic as all of the building’s interiors were lost. The sign represents a symbolic reminder of the journey and progress made by both the building and the individuals who approach Dunlewey for help.