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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Building, walling, railings, piers & steps

Date of Construction:
1860 - 1879

Address :
Former Water Office 1 Donegall Square Belfast Co Antrim BT1 5AA

Town Parks

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
02/06/1988 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J3389 7413

Owner Category

Exterior Description And Setting

Attached symmetrical multi-bay four-storey over raised basement red sandstone Italian Gothic palazzo-style former warehouse, built c.1870, to the designs of William H. Lynn. Square on plan facing south and located on the north side of Donegall Square with a multi-bay elevation fronting onto Donegall Place. Internally reconstructed c.1935 for the District Water Commissions Office, extensively damaged during the Second World War (c.1941) and internally rebuilt in 1984 for use as a department store. Replacement pie-ended natural slate roof with rolled lead ridges and iron cresting. Roof set behind red sandstone blocking course and deep crown cornice. Coursed and squared smooth red sandstone ashlar walling with continuous moulded impost and sill courses and a moulded trim to projecting red sandstone ashlar plinth course. Varying pointed-headed, round-headed and square-headed window openings formed in flush voussoired sandstone having bowtel moulded heads and replacement single-pane timber sash windows. Symmetrical multi-bay four-storey over raised basement south front elevation with clustered fenestration to the centre. Deep moulded crown cornice supported on angled brackets rising from a continuous bull-nose moulding and framing quatrefoil panels. Slender colonettes set within chamfers to the corners with stiff-leaf capitals below the first floor and the third floors. Carved roundels between window openings to the first and second floors. Diminutive pointed-headed window openings to the third floor, arranged in groups of three to the centre, paired to the remainder with squat columns and stiff-leaf capitals. Square-headed window openings to the second floor with stop-chamfered reveals set deep within round-headed openings having decorative carved overpanels. The clustered six window openings to the centre are flanked by pale stone columns with stiff-leaf capitals supporting the arches. Round-headed window openings to the first floor with stop-chamfered reveals, pointed-arched hood mouldings rising from a continuous stiff-leaf impost moulding and resting on a further stiff-leaf sill course. The central two windows open onto a balcony with an arcaded balustrade and stiff-leaf cornice supported on paired angled brackets forming the hood to the principal front entrance. Square-headed window openings to the ground floor with bowtel moulded reveals and carved overpanels set deep within round-headed openings with stop-chamfered reveals and hood mouldings rising from continuous cavetto impost course. Each ground floor window has a carved roundel below with rampant lion motifs and monograms; 'J', ‘R’, ‘S' '&’, ‘O’. Square-headed former window openings to the raised basement set within the plinth course having stop-chamfered reveals, bowtel moulded heads, splayed sills and decorative wrought-iron grilles with tooled red sandstone behind, inserted c.1981. Central round-headed door opening forming a shallow breakfront with hood moulding, bowtel moulded archivolt springing from impost mouldings supported by polished granite columns having sandstone banding and stiff-leaf capitals rising from projecting pedestals. Double-leaf varnished panelled doors set deep within the doorcase open onto replacement nosed sandstone steps and enclosed by low sandstone walls with bull-nosed coping and terminating in squat sandstone piers with weathered capstones and quatrefoil roundels. Multi-bay four-storey over raised basement west side elevation having a central tourelle with conical slate roof and lead finial. Windows detailed as per front elevation. Deep moulded corbelled base to tourelle and stepped pointed-headed window openings with colonettes and curved leaded windows. An additional storey to the tourelle rises above the crown cornice having an arcade of pointed-headed diminutive windows joined by squat colonettes. Rear elevation abutted by adjoining mid-twentieth-century building. Multi-bay four-storey over raised basement east side elevation with window and facade detailing as per front elevation. To the centre the windows are staggered to accommodate a former staircase with a round-headed door opening at ground floor level having double-leaf panelled timber doors with shouldered lintel, bowtel moulded reveals, carved overpanel and opening onto two nosed steps to the pavement. To the north end is a larger round-headed door opening with compound bowtel moulded surround, double-leaf varnished timber doors with stop-chamfered flat panels and overpanels opening directly onto the pavement. Setting Front elevation enclosed to the street by a low red sandstone wall and squat piers with weathered capstones and quatrefoil panels supporting replacement iron railing with replacement paved basement area. Located on the north side of Donegall Square to the northeast of the square with a multi-bay elevation fronting onto Donegall Place and overlooking Belfast City Hall (HB26/50/001A). Roof Natural slate RWG None Walling sandstone ashlar Windows timber


Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon (not attributed)

Historical Information

The former commercial linen warehouse was constructed 1867-69, to designs prepared by architect W.H. Lynn of the Belfast firm Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon. Prior to construction, Griffith’s Valuation (1859-60) indicates the site was occupied by a row of residences, including the offices, stores and yards of linen merchants. The completed warehouse of ‘J. Richardson, Sons, Owden & Co’, linen manufacturers and bleachers, was first listed in 1869 at £1,200 in the Annual Revisions (1862-82) and the building is first shown on a map of Belfast dating from 1879. Listed in the Belfast Revaluations of 1900 as ‘offices and warehouse’, leased by Edith McCanice; the cost of ‘actual’ construction was recorded at £37,500. The valuer (1900) noted that the building was “…handsomely built by (the) occupiers…” and in consideration of the rich sculptural and ornamental character of the building, a high valuation of £2,000 was listed. In subsequent valuations of the early 20th century the value of the building increased only marginally. The building was constructed by James Henry to the designs of the Belfast architect W.H Lynn, who was well known for his rich eclectic style (Larmour). The design was a combination of a Venetian-Gothic façade with a steep French chateau roof, which was punctuated with tall, elaborate chimneys stacks and dormers (Patton). Although the façade is not elaborately ornamented, the spandrels of windows are adorned with carvings of ‘rampant lions’, which are the Richardson trademark, and also the company initials ‘JNRS&O’ (Patton). Originally bounded with terraced houses and gardens to the west, this mercantile warehouse in the palazzo style is one of the most acclaimed buildings in Belfast and represents one of W.H Lynn’s most successful designs (Brett). During a lecture in Belfast in 1884, Oscar Wilde commented that the city had one beautiful building and he referred to the “...Edifice of the Messer’s Richardson, Sons and Owden, which was beautiful in colour, and very beautiful in design.” (Northern Whig 1888) The interior of the building was reconstructed and expanded for use as headquarters the Belfast City and District Water Commissions Office in the late 1930s (Street Directories 1938-40; DIA). However, soon after the roof and original High Victorian interior were completely destroyed in 1941, during the bombing raids of World War Two. A flat roof was installed in the mid 20th century, replaced by the current hipped roof in the early 1980s when the building underwent a complete restoration and refurbishment (Patton), since which the building has been occupied by large national retailer. References: Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/1/61/2- First Edition OS Map (1832-33) 2. PRONI OS/6/1/61/3- Second Edition OS Map (1858) 3. PRONI OS/6/1/61/4- Third Edition OS Map (1901-2) 4. PRONI OS/6/1/61/6- Fourth Edition OS Map (1931) 5. PRONI T1541/2 – Map of Belfast (1879) 6. PRONI VAL/2/B/7/4/B- Griffith’s Valuation (1859-60) 7. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/D/1- Annual Revisions (1862-82) 8. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/D/10- Annual Revisions (1880-96) 9. PRONI VAL/7/B/9/46 – Belfast Revaluations (1900-02) 10. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/C/34 - Annual Revisions (1906-15) 11. PRONI VAL/3/B/3/14- First General Revaluation (1935) 12. The Ulster Street Directories (1841-1995) Secondary Sources 1. The Northern Whig, (3 January 1888) “Article on Oscar Wilde and His Lecture in Belfast on ‘The House Beautiful’, 1st January 1884” in. (Brett, C.E.B “ The Buildings of Belfast 1700-1914” 1985 ed) 2. Brett, C.E.B “ The Buildings of Belfast 1700-1914” (1985 ed) 3. Larmour, P “Belfast, An Illustrated Architectural Guide” 1987 4. Patton, Marcus “Central Belfast- An Historical Gazetteer” UAHS, Belfast (1993) 5. - Dictionary of Irish Architects online

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H-. Alterations detracting from building J. Setting

Historic Interest

X. Local Interest V. Authorship


Attached symmetrical multi-bay four-storey over raised basement red sandstone Italian Gothic palazzo-style former warehouse, built c.1870, to the designs of William H. Lynn. Built as a warehouse, and later the headquarters of the Water Commissions, this exercise in Gothic Revival architecture borrows from French, Florentine and Venetian Gothic traditions resulting in an eclectic city centre palazzo in a loosely Ruskinian idiom. While compromised by the loss of the original interior and other details, its original character survives and it remains a good representative of the type and of the mid to late Victorian commercial buildings that line Donegall Square. The history of changing use is of much interest and it is also a significant example of the work of a noteworthy architectural practice.

General Comments

Date of Survey

19 August 2012