With the creation of the Belfast Union Workhouse, Charles Lanyon (1813-1889) was commissioned by the Belfast Charitable Society in 1841 to explore the possible uses of the land surrounding the Poorhouse.
Charles Lanyon was born in Suffolk, England, in 1813 and made a career for himself as a renowned architect, engineer and surveyor. After living in Dublin for several years in the early 1830s, Lanyon moved to Belfast, in 1836, when he was appointed the County Surveyor of Antrim- a post he held until 1860. Charles Lanyon firmly made his mark on Victorian Belfast’s urban landscape and many of his works still survive today. Some of his notable works include Queen’s College (1846-49; now known as Queen’s University), Crumlin Road Gaol (1843-45) and the County Courthouse (1848-50).
The Irish Poor Law Act of 1838 brought about the establishment of workhouses throughout Ireland as a means to provide poor relief to those who were destitute. However, this piece of legislation threatened the very existence of the Society as it was feared that the entire organisation, including its funds and lands, would be taken over by the Poor Law Commissioners. However, this never occurred as the Society was a voluntary organisation which did not rely on the support of government funding.
From 1840, the Society had to rethink its purpose as it was no longer needed to provide for Belfast’s deprived working-class inhabitants. It instead became a residential home for people who were impoverished due to unforeseeable circumstance and could not be admitted by the workhouse due to their social standing. However, the Society still needed funds to support the organisation and the small number of inhabitants who lived within the Poorhouse. By commissioning Lanyon to create a survey, they were possibly looking to raise income either through the selling of sites or through the ground rent that they could have received. Lanyon’s map shows the final proposal for possible building sites and new streets. The map highlights the full expanse of the Society’s land in the vicinity of North Queen Street and Clifton Street. Although a number of features on the map never came to fruition, the building plots which would be home Carlisle Memorial Church and the Belfast Orange Hall.