A Street Through Time: Belfast Orange Hall
Belfast Orange Hall on map

One of the few buildings of historic Clifton Street that closely resembles its original structure is the Belfast Orange Hall. The Hall was opened in January 1885 as a central meeting point for the increasingly politicised Unionist population of Belfast. Cultural and political meeting points such as Orange Hall’s were a response to the perceived threat of nationalist, Home Rule politics. The Hall served as Belfast city’s foremost Orange Hall, its ornate architecture and considerable size reflects this important position. At the time of opening, the three-story building boasted ten meeting rooms, a library and a large entertainment hall.[1] The Hall was one of a number of architect William Batt’s Orange Hall designs, others include the Hall in Ballynafeigh and in Glaslough, Co. Monaghan.[2] The building is, however, distinguishable from Batt’s other work with the equestrian statue on the top, the only one of King William astride a horse in Ireland. Other designs by the statue’s famous sculptor, Harry Hem, include the Lady Justice on the Old Bailey in London.[3] The statue was unveiled in the home of Richard Lilburn, an influential Orangeman and journalist who lived in a Clifton Street house, No. 11.[4]

Side elevation of Belfast Orange Hall

Tragedy struck inside the Hall on 14th February 1922 when caretaker William Waring was shot and killed.[5] The bullet was fired from outside the building, in a covert position on Lower Regent Street, in a suspected sectarian attack. The death was one of an increasing number in Belfast as sectarian tensions escalated, others include the North Belfast McMahon family killings little over a month later. Later, the building narrowly avoided destruction in August 1939 when a fire broke out in the Regalia room of the hall, the source of the fire was unknown but treated with suspicion.[6]

Belfast Orange Hall in 1887

During the Troubles, the charged political symbolism of the Hall and its subsequent history of attacks was reflected in new defensive architecture; the front glass windows were bricked up and others reinforced with steel. Nevertheless, the Hall continues to serve the function it was designed for and acts as a meeting point for the Unionist community. The Orange Hall narrowly avoided demolition in the development of the Westlink, where today the road narrowly skims its outlying wall . Its adjoining annex, which housed the Hall’s Caretaker, was not so lucky however, and was levelled to make way for the slip-road. At this busy junction between Clifton Street and the Westlink, the Belfast Orange Hall offers a glimpse of the former architectural grandeur of the Street.

King William Statue
Belfast Orange Hall today


[1] ‘Belfast new Orange Hall’ in Belfast News-Letter, https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000038/18831008/015/0006, 8th October 1883.

[2] ‘William Batt’ in Archiseek, https://www.archiseek.com/tag/william-batt/.

[3] ‘Orange Hall, Clifton St., Belfast’ in Archiseek, https://www.archiseek.com/2014/1885-orange-hall-clifton-st-belfast/.

[4] ‘200th Anniversary Supplement: 1737-1937’ in Belfast News-Letter, 1937.

[5] ‘Orangeman Murdered’ in Ballymena Observer, https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/saved?Folder=Orange%20Hall, 17th February 1922.

[6] ‘Orange hall fire. Clifton Street damage’ in Belfast Telegraph, https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0002318/19390815/240/0009?browse=False, 15th August 1939.

Members Involved

YEAR: 1887

Location: Clifton Street