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From schools to churches, shopping malls to hospitals, Belfast boasts a number of derelict sites that are "abandoned in plain sight." Several of such locations are detailed below, each of which is visible from main roads or public walkways.
Lennoxvale, Malone Road
Built as a private residence in 1924 to the designs of Scottish architect Thomas Callender, Lennoxvale was later purchased by the Queens University and once housed the "School of Psychology." However, despite its prestigious Malone Road address and being situated in an area designated as a "historic demesne of significant interest" by the local Environment Agency, the Italianate style building has lain vacant for some time.
Although plans were approved for the building to be demolished and replaced with bedsits in 1988, the project never reached fruition. In October 2015, plans were rejected by Belfast City Council to extend the building into five student apartments and at present, the future of the building remains uncertain.
North Street Arcade, North Street/Donegal Street
Located on the site of a former linen warehouse, the arcades' walkway bent at a 90 degrees angle and linked North Street to Donegal Street. Constructed in 1936 by Cowser & Smyth, the arcade boasted an impressive central dome and whilst the North Street entrance was Victorian in style, the remainder of the arcade was "art deco" in design.
Once housing an eclectic mix of outlets, the arcade was a regular victim of the troubles in Belfast—seeing two bomb attacks in 1971 and another explosion in 1976, which claimed the lives of several shoppers. Despite this, the arcade traded until 2004 when a fire—thought by many to have been arson—ravaged the building, which has lain derelict and lost many of its original features, ever since.
As for the future of the arcade, a recent approval for the development of the surrounding area into a new office, retail and leisure area could mean either refurbishment or demolition of the building. Preferably the former—as plans include the reintegration of several listed buildings in the locality.
St. Comgall's Primary School, Divis Street
The site of St. Comgall's has long been shrouded in mystery. Before the building of the current structure in 1932, the location housed the Belfast Model school, which was burnt to the ground with no reasonable explanation in 1922. Strange occurrences or paranormal activity have been recorded in many of the structures which have occupied the site over the years, seemingly all since the destruction of an ancient well some 600 years ago, the waters of which were thought to have healing powers.
As for St. Comgall's, the school was vacated in the late 1990s and has apparently seen a wealth of ghostly activity since. Be it the many sightings or sounds of children in the halls, or appearances of the spectral figure of Jimmy Drain—the once revered caretaker of the school and its grounds—the school is now a popular location with paranormal investigators. This may be set to change, however, as the funding of £7million was obtained in recent years to reintegrate the school to community use.
Forster Green Hospital, Saintfield Road
Originally "Fort Breda House," the main Forster Green hospital building and the 40 acres surrounding it was bought and endowed to the people of Belfast for use as a tuberculosis hospital in 1897. The benefactor was the well known local Quaker "Forster Green," who lost several of his children to TB. A famous local philanthropist, Forster Green is better known as the businessman responsible for the establishment of "Forster Green & Co. Tea and Coffee Merchants," famous throughout Belfast at the time.
Currently, the building which was once known as "The Belfast Hospital for Consumption" lies vacant without plans for refurbishment, as does the asbestos-riddled extension to the hospital (which was built in the late 20th century) and the "Belfast City Mortuary" which shares the same grounds.
Chapel of the Resurrection, Innisfayle Park
Constructed in 1869 in the "Gothic-Revival" style for the 3rd Marquess of Donegall, this mortuary style chapel was a memorial to the Marquess' son who had died prematurely at 25 whilst travelling in Europe. Later used predominantly as a private chapel by the inhabitants of Belfast Castle, in 1938 it was given to the Church of Ireland by Lord Shaftsbury and the chapel (despite briefly closing during the Blitz) continued to be used for services until 1965.
Sadly, due to a dwindling congregation numbers, the chapel held its last service in August 1972. Since then, due to consistent vandalism, the internal furnishings have been removed and the church was deconsecrated in the 1980s after the underground tombs were ransacked. Sold to a private developer, there are some signs that the external structure has undergone repairs of late, and it is thought the grounds will soon be redeveloped as part of an impressive private housing project for 25 homes around the listed building.
Shaftsbury Square Hospital, Great Victoria Street
Constructed in 1867 and one of the final designs of Irish architect William Joseph Barre, who died of Tuberculosis that same year, the former Shaftsbury Square hospital occupies a prime location in the city centre. Built with £3,000 donated by one Lady Johnson and in memory of her father, Thomas Hughes, the building operated as the "Belfast Ophthalmic Institution" until the late 1940s, when the services were relocated to Great Victoria Hospital.
The building was used as a medical centre until 2010 when it officially closed its doors and has since continued to fall into disrepair due to vandalism and forced entry. Currently for sale at an undisclosed price, it is hoped that the listed property will soon be restored to its former glory— much of the Victorian detail and internal fabrics remain inside the building and also within the two, three-story dwellings being sold along with the former hospital.
Knockbreda High School, Upper Knockbreda Road
Our final and most recently abandoned property is that of Knockbreda High School, which was closed in 2015 when it and local secondary school Newtownbreda High were amalgamated to form Breda Academy. Upon its closure, it was one of 65 schools closed in Northern Ireland between the years of 2011 and 2015 and whilst it is currently in good repair and very well secured, there appear to be no plans for its future.
Please see my article Five More Derelict Buildings of Belfast on Vocal for more examples of derelict properties in Belfast!