A Street Through Time: St Enoch’s Church

   The once impressive St Enoch’s Church was built in the 1872 to serve Rev Hugh Hanna’s Presbyterian congregation who had outgrown their Church on Berry Street. The new Church was designed by Anthony Thomas Jackson, arguably the foremost architect of 19th Century Belfast. Examples of his important and distinctive works include St Malachy’s church in Alfred Street.[1] Jackson intentionally designed the church in a theatre style (including a two-tiered gallery) to project the booming voice of cleric Hugh Hanna.[2] Hanna had developed a fearsome reputation in Belfast as ‘Roaring Hanna’ because of his unequivocal and powerful anti-Catholic sentiments. Hanna became irrevocably associated with the local area, symptomatic of this is a statue dedicated to him at Carlisle Circus in 1894. The statue occupied prime real estate in the area, at the busy meeting point of Clifton Street and the Antrim Road, Hanna looked commandingly towards central Belfast. In 1970 it was damaged by a republican bomb and the statue was subsequently removed.[3]

Clifton Street

   On the 7th May 1982, the Church was irrevocably damaged by an accidental fire, set ablaze by children.[4] By this point the building had been in disuse for a number of years, owing to a declining congregation, and a small group of children accidentally set it ablaze whilst playing in the empty building. The Belfast Telegraph reported that the boys charged with the fire were on drugs at the time; ‘This is a most serious offence brought about by glue sniffing’ described judge, Lord Justice O’Donnell.[5] Whilst reports of the offenders age vary, some suggest as young as 12.[6] . The building had to be completely demolished owing to the extent of damages. At the time of the fire, the building was in use as the meeting point for the Ireland Opera Trust so several thousand pounds worth of costume and props were also destroyed in the blaze.[7] On the site of the church today is the unassuming Hopelink community centre, a contemporary building that, aside from a sizeable brick spire, bares little resemblance to the former grandeur of St Enoch’s Church.

St Enoch’s to the left, facing Carlisle Memorial Church on the right in 1905
Site of the church today

[1] ‘Anthony Thomas Jackson’ in Dictionary of Irish architects 1720-1940, https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/2762/JACKSON-ANTHONYTHOMAS.

[2] Holmes, J., ‘Hugh Hanna’ in Dictionary of Irish Biography, https://www.dib.ie/biography/hanna-hugh-a3787, October 2009.

[3] Ibid.

[4] ‘Vandals wreck church hall in £200,000 blaze’ in Belfast Telegraph, https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0002318/19820507/010/0001?browse=False, 7th May 1982.

[5] ‘Fire charge boy sniffed glue’ in Belfast Telegraph, https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0002318/19820518/012/0001?browse=False, 18th May 1982.

[6] Belfast Telegraph, https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0002318/19820515/003/0001?browse=False, 15th May 1982.

[7] Vandals wreck church hall in £200,000 blaze’ in Belfast Telegraph.

Members Involved