Now known as Clifton House, the original Poor House was built between 1771 and 1774 by the Belfast Charitable Society, Belfast’s oldest charity. The Society was founded in 1752 to raise funds to build a Poor House and Infirmary for Belfast which at that time had a population of around 8000. Lord Donegall was persuaded to donate the land on the outskirts of Belfast.
The Society was incorporated by Act of Parliament (in Dublin) in 1774 which gave considerable power over the welfare of then town’s citizens. Subsequent Acts conferred further power on the Society in the areas of water supply, town planning, policing and fire-fighting. The Poor House took in children, educated them, and then in order to give them a trade, imported equipment from England and taught carding and spinning of cotton. These machines were the first of their kind in Ireland.
The Society opened the New Burying Ground (Clifton Street Cemetery) as a fundraising venture, but also to bury their own dead. The cemetery is of great historic interest to Belfast as it contains a fascinating social mix of linen and shipyard barons, victims of cholera epidemics and the great famine as well as many notable United Irishmen.
In the twentieth century the Society focused on looking after the elderly within Belfast. Clifton House continued to operate as a nursing home. However, in recent years it became apparent that it needed a major refurbishment. Belfast Charitable Society built a new 100 bed nursing home at Carlisle Circus and leased Clifton House to a Housing Association which funded the restoration work. Clifton House today houses a residential nursing home, sheltered accommodation as well as a conference and heritage centre. We are currently working to further develop the heritage area of the centre using our rich and valuable archive.
Contact: Lucy Fraser on firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 9089 7534.