Ulster Hall Belfast

William Joseph Barre (1830 – 1867) was a prolific Irish architect who was responsible for many well known buildings in Belfast.* By the time he was thirty he had beaten numerous rivals to win the task of designing the Ulster Hall in Bedford Street, Belfast. It is a two-story painted stone building with a stucco front. It was opened in 1862 and at that time was one of the largest music halls in the British Isles, seating a maximum audience of 2000 people and facilitating as many as 250 performers.

It contains many items of historical interest, including the famous Mulholland Organ, the Ulster Hall’s centerpiece feature, which was presented to the people of Belfast by Andrew Mulholland, a wealthy industrialist and former Lord Mayor of Belfast in the 1860s.

The building was sold to the Belfast Corporation (now Belfast City Council) in 1902 for £13,500. By way of celebration Belfast Corporation commissioned a series of 13 oil paintings from J W Carey, in 1902.

During World War II, the hall was used extensively as a dance hall, providing entertainment for the US troops based in the province.

The Ulster Hall has played host to a wide variety of famous figures over the years; they range from Jenny Lind and Caruso to Charles Dickens and John McCormack, from Henry Irving, Randolph Churchill, Lord Carson and the Dalai Lama. In more recent years the names included: Billy Connolly, the Rolling Stones, Christy Moore and Led Zeppelin & Barry McGuigan.

Photographing the photographer

Photographing the photographer

The main hall is designed with wonderful acoustics in mind, giving the perfect platform to deliver keynote speeches or that special acoustic performance.

Finally after two years of renovation work the doors opened once more to Joe Public a week ago. The work involved cost a total of £7.43 million. The restoration included:

  • new roof and floors
  • internal redecoration
  • new removable downstairs seating
  • installation of new high-specification sound, heating, lighting and air-conditioning systems
  • refurbished artist dressing rooms which will double up as education suites for schools and community groups
  • up-graded toilet facilities.

The 13 large scale canvases by JW Carey, dealing with the history and mythology of the Belfast region are on display in new dedicated gallery space within the refurbished hall.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to tour the building with the Belfast Flickr Group.

The Gallery

The Gallery

Special thanks must go to Andy for organising the day and to Adam for his patience in taking us to every nook and cranny and answering all our questions.

In the main hall a sound and lighting rehearsal was in progress on stage for the event of the evening. Withlights flashing and dry ice rising at all angles, my attempts to capture some images were a FAIL! The Mulholland Organ was well hidden by a large screen. The boys with the big guns cameras no doubt did better than I did. Phil from iced coffee was there a few days ago and seemed to have the place all to himself. He has some lovely photos on his blog.

Stacked Chairs

Stacked Chairs

It was good to meet friends old and new, mull over the events of the day with a pint (for the non drivers) and a meal as we planned our next outing.


Albert Memorial Clock

University Road Methodist Church

Bryson House

Shaftesbury Square Ophthalmic Hospital

Provincial Bank of Ireland

remodel of Roxborough Castle in County Tyrone

Clanwilliam House, now called Danesfort, in Belfast

Ceiling renovation of St. George’s Church, Belfast

16 thoughts on “Ulster Hall Belfast

  1. Nick

    I’m glad the Ulster Hall has been renovated. Haven’t had a chance to look at the inside yet. The gallery looks spectacular. Danesfort House is just round the corner from me but I’ve never seen it because being the US consulate security is tight and you can’t get anywhere near unless you’re an approved visitor.

  2. Magpie11

    You seem to have enjoyed yourself! Seeing the gallery and then the sound d esk,,,looks like a Studiocraft IIRC….makes me wonder about the acoustic in the hall…..probably great for the organ but a bit dodgy for bands. (yes I have done work as a sound technician)

    Who actually manufactured the organ?

    Thanks for a great post.

  3. Tim

    I visited it this morning! I’m really looking forward to attending the first concert there, the next time I visit it.

  4. Grannymar Post author

    @Nick – Try to visit during the week when the Hall is not in use to look round and get a good feel of the place.

    @WWW – In the past I have enjoyed many a concert there with the Ulster Orchestra and the Belfast Philharmonic Choir. I look forward to my next visit.

    @Andy – I really enjoyed my visit and look forward to the next outing.

    @Magpie – You taught me something! I didn’t know that William Hill manufactured the Mulholland Organ.

    @Tim – Hello and welcome. I hope you blog about your next visit.

  5. Darlene

    It’s wonderful to see pictures of a place I would love to visit, but cannot do so now. Thank you. Sorry some of your pics were ruined by too much light and dry ice flying; I know how disappointing that can be.

  6. Grannymar Post author

    Darlene – The guys with the big cameras managed to take some shots of the flashing lights & dry ice. I stayed with subjects I felt comfortable with.

  7. Magpie11

    Well, my “Dear” old dad took better pictures with his Brownie Box cameras than I ever do with my all singing all dancing collection of cameras. I hate to admit it tho’….

  8. Grannymar Post author

    @Magpie – Like most families…. we had a camera when I was young and I have no idea what it was called. Alas, it spent most of its life in the top drawer of the sideboard with a half used roll of film in it waiting for an ‘occasion’ to finish off the roll of film.

    @Judy – Belfast is really coming to life again with refurbishments, new buildings and hotels. I heard on Saturday that planning permission has been requested for 10 more hotels!

  9. paul

    i glad to see the Ulster hall brought back to it full glory. its just a pity after spending £7.43 million the got the flag the wrong colour

  10. Grannymar Post author

    Hi Paul & welcome.

    Which flag and where do you mean? I don’t recollect a flag in the building.

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