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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Former Bank

Date of Construction:
1860 - 1879

Address :
Tesco 2 Royal Avenue Belfast Co Antrim BT1 1DA

Town Parks

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
13/12/1977 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J3376 7435

Owner Category

Exterior Description And Setting

Attached symmetrical multi-bay two-storey High Victorian sandstone former bank, built c.1869, to the designs of W.J. Barre with a central pedimented breakfront. Extensively renovated and extended to the rear for use as a supermarket by Chapman Taylor Architects c.2005. Rectangular on plan fronting onto Royal Avenue at the junction with Castle Place having a central domed interior. Pitched natural slate roof with roll-moulded black clay ridge tiles laid out on a quadrangular plan with replacement steel rainwater goods and profiled sandstone ashlar chimneystacks. Bitumen covered flat roof to the central section having replacement Perspex domed lanterns to the west and a central red brick drum with a shallow lead-lined conical roof surmounted by a Perspex dome. Gauged brick round-headed window openings to the drum having replacement fixed-pane timber windows and a continuous concrete sill. The lower south range has three lead-lined wall-head dormers with replacement uPVC windows. The roof to the principal front block is set behind a parapet with interlacing stone balustrade punctuated by squat piers having gableted capstones, all resting on a lead-lined crown cornice. Moulded cast-iron guttering to the side elevations with decorative hoppers and square-profile downpipes having trefoil brackets. Cookstown sandstone ashlar walling with roll-moulded plinth course, continuous sill courses to both floors and a continuous string course below the crown cornice. Round-headed window openings to the ground floor, square-headed to the first floor (unless otherwise stated) with single-pane timber sash windows having ogee horns. Symmetrical east front elevation is seven windows wide with a central pedimented breakfront. Lead-lined pediment has a plain tympanum with dentilled stiff-leaf trim and raking cornice with modillions. A continuous cable moulding and double convex string course form a plain frieze over the first floor windows with a series of concave brackets with nail-head embellishments framing a dentilled course in turn supporting the modillioned crown cornice. Arcaded openings to the first floor with compound arches springing from columns with stiff-leaf capitals (paired to either end) resting on a continuous lead-lined sill course and housing deeply set square-headed window openings framed by clustered colonettes and surmounted by decoratively carved overpanels adorned with carved heads depicting seven Irish kings. Decorative carvings embellish the spandrels with apron panels below the recessed sills. Deeply set stepped round-headed window openings to the ground floor with roll-moulded arches rising from a continuous stiff-leaf impost course and framed by clasping colonettes. Decorative roundels to the spandrels are filled with blind cartouches with hood mouldings. Three deeply set round-headed door openings to the central breakfront having double-leaf timber doors with raised-and-fielded panels, plain overlights and surmounted by decoratively carved overpanels with carvings of heads. Compound moulded arches rise from clustered colonettes having a continuous stiff-leaf impost course and roundels, as per above, with the central opening flanked by a pair of columns. Doors open onto raised platform with replacement stone paving to front forecourt. The principal front block returns to both side elevations, detailed as per front elevation. The south side elevation to the principal block is three windows wide with a blind window to the centre on the first floor while the windows to the ground floor are also blind with a door opening to the left having an original timber door with six raised-and-fielded panels framed by colonettes and opening onto three nosed steps to a railed area. Replacement steel railing spans the entire south side elevation. The south side elevation extends as a lower two-storey wing, six windows wide, topped by an eaves cornice and plain frieze. Stepped segmental-headed window openings to the first floor, square-headed to the ground floor with continuous moulded sills and single-pane timber sash windows. Rear elevation abutted by two-storey red brick extension, built c.2005, fronting onto Bank Street. The north side elevation to the principal block is four windows wide, all blind and detailed as per front elevation. The ground floor is abutted by a single-storey recessed side entrance block, also abutting adjoining building (HB26/50/107). The entrance block is surmounted by a stiff-leaf impost moulding having a square-headed door opening set within a segmental-headed recess framed by colonettes and having a timber door with six raised-and-fielded panels, opening onto a stone-paved universal access ramp. Setting Located at the junction of Royal Avenue, Castle Place and Donegall Place on a highly prominent site and dwarfed by the Bank Buildings to the south (HB26/50/153). Roof: Natural slate RWG: steel Walling: Sandstone ashlar Windows: timber


Barre, William J

Historical Information

No. 2 Royal Avenue, originally the Belfast branch of the Provincial Bank of Ireland but currently utilised as a supermarket, was constructed between 1864 and 1869 to designs by William Joseph Barre. Barre (c. 1826-1867), a Newry and Belfast-based architect, rose to prominence after winning the competition to design the Ulster Hall in 1859 and was one of the most prominent engineers of the mid-Victorian period, often coming into competition with his immediate contemporaries Charles Lanyon and William Lynn; included amongst Barre’s other Belfast works are the Albert Memorial Clock (HB26/50/055) and the Belfast Ophthalmic Hospital on Great Victoria Street (HB26/50/072). The Irish Builder records that the Provincial Bank of Ireland remained uncompleted by the time of Barre’s death by illness in 1867; the bank building was completed under the supervision of Turner & Williamson (an architectural partnership that was formed between Thomas Turner and Richard Williamson in c. 1860). When finally completed in 1869 Barre’s characteristic eclectic design was noted, the style of the church, ‘that peculiar adaptation of Venetian Gothic that [Barre] made his own’ was particularly praised. The Irish Builder noted that the Provincial Bank building was built by Henry Fulton, a local builder, whilst the interior and exterior stonecarving was by a Mr. Barnes (Irish Builder; Dictionary of Irish Architects). The Provincial Bank of Ireland does not appear on the Ordnance Survey maps until the third edition in 1901-02 at which time it was depicted as a rectangular-shaped building situated along the recently laid-out Royal Avenue; when originally constructed the bank did not possess its current rear return which is a modern extension added in c. 2005. The current building replaced an earlier bank building that had originally stood on the same site but was demolished in c. 1864; when completed, the Italianate Bank was valued at £700 in the Annual Revisions. The Bank Manager also resided at the site in a small house to the rear of the building; in both 1877 and 1880 the Bank Manager who resided at the building was a Mr. Findlater (Belfast Street Directories). There was no change to the site recorded in the Annual Revisions until the 1900 Revaluation of property in Belfast at which time the Bank was greatly increased in value to £1,800; the valuer noted that the bank contained two sets of rooms, four rooms for the managers house and two rooms for the porters house, both located at the rear of the building. The census recorded that in 1901 the bank Manager was a Mr. Samuel John McGowan (60, Church of Ireland), McGowan resided at the site with his wife Letitia (58) whilst the bank porter was a Mr. William Thomas Haslett (38, Church of Ireland); the census building return described the Provincial Bank as a 1st class building that consisted of seven inhabited rooms. By 1911 the census noted that the site consisted of even more rooms, 12 of which were occupied by the Bank manager whilst only two were inhabited by the porter. In 1915 alteration work was carried out on the Bank by Watt, Tulloch & Fitzsimons (a Belfast-based architects firm formed in August 1909); this alteration work resulted in the value of the bank being decreased to £1,780, however, after an appeal that this rating was too low, the value of the bank was increased to £2,047 in 1926 at which level it remained by the cancellation of the Annual Revisions in 1930. Under the First General Revaluation of property in Northern Ireland, which was carried out in 1935, the value of the Provincial Bank was raised to £2,915. The bank escaped the major damage inflicted upon Belfast’s urban centre and after the end of the Second World War was slightly decreased in value to £2,560 under the second revaluation (which ended in 1972). The former Provisional Bank of Ireland, described by Brett as an ‘extraordinarily exuberant building’ is significant as the only building to survive the Royal Avenue redevelopment of the 1880s. Prior to this date Donegall Place and Hercules Street (the precursor to Royal Avenue) were divided by a line of buildings that formerly stood along the east side of the current Street; these buildings were demolished by the Town Council in 1880-81 by the surveyor J. C. Bretland (who in the process rehoused over 4,000 people). The demolition and clearing of Hercules Place and Hercules Street created the long open boulevard which now extends from Donegall Square to York Street; however it caused the destruction of almost all the buildings on the street pre-dating the 1880s. No. 2 Royal Avenue continues to occupy the original line of Hercules Place (a narrow square that linked Donegall Place to Hercules Street) and as a result is set further back than the adjoining buildings (Brett, p. 40; Patton, p. 282). Barre’s design for the Provincial Bank clearly displays the influence that the architectural critic John Ruskin had on the Belfast architects of the Victorian period; through his career Ruskin commented on the eclectic quality of northern Italian architecture, how it mixed materials to produce a polychromatic effect and how it also mixed Gothic tradition with the classicism of Ancient Rome. Dixon notes that Barre ‘was principal among those who put Ruskin’s theory into practise … [his Provincial Bank] an outstanding illustration of what could be achieved. The basic classicism of the building readily identified by the symmetry and the central triangular pediment. Yet the decoration is medieval. The faces of hairy Lombard warriors look out from foliage beneath deep, rounded, Romanesque arches. Colonnettes flank the openings, and even the balustrade along the roofline is adapted from an interlacing Saxon arcade’ (Dixon, pp152-153). Larmour states that the completed building is significantly less ornate that Barre’s original design which employed greater use of sculpted figures, however due to rising expenses Barre was forced to amend his intended design prior to his death and so the pediment has remained bare of statues; the exterior façade is also much more polychromatic than Barre envisaged as, due to the decay of the white Cookstown sandstone employed, since the 1880s the façade has required painting repeatedly. The interior of the building was fully realised from Barre’s original design; Larmour notes that the stucco figures in the groin angles of the circular dome each represent Mechanism, Engineering, Art, War, Law, Navigation, Architecture and Industry (Larmour, p. 27). Throughout its history the Provincial Bank of Ireland has been a prominent landmark in Belfast city centre; prior to the completion of the City Hall in 1906 the bank, with its large open area in front, was utilised as a public venue and witnessed a number of important processions, for example in 1901 large crowds gathered outside the Provincial Bank to welcome home Boer War veterans (Pollock & Parkhill, p. 122). No. 2 Royal Avenue was listed category A in 1977. The Provincial Bank of Ireland continued to occupy the building for over a century until the late 1980s when the Allied Irish Bank took over possession of the site. However the building is no longer utilised as a bank and is currently occupied by Tescos Supermarket who sympathetically renovated the building and constructed the large extension to the rear of the building, undertaken by Chapman Architects in c. 2005. References Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/1/61/2 – Second Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1858 2. PRONI OS/6/1/61/3 – Third Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1901-02 3. PRONI OS/6/1/61/4 – Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1931 4. PRONI OS/6/1/61/5 – Fifth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1938 5. PRONI VAL/2/B/7/5B – Griffith’s Valuation 1860 6. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/E/1-24 – Annual Revisions 1862-1930 7. PRONI VAL/7/B/12/2 – Belfast Revaluation 1900 8. PRONI VAL/3/B/3/18 – First General Revaluation of Northern Ireland 1935 9. PRONI VAL/4/B/7/36 – Second General Revaluation of Northern Ireland 1956-72 10. Irish Builder (1 Jan 1869; 6 Nov 1915) 11. Census of Ireland (1901; 1911) 12. Belfast Street Directories (1861-1943) 13. First Survey Record – HB26/50/106 (1976) 14. First Survey Image – HB26/50/106 (1975) Secondary Sources 1. Brett, C. E. B., ‘Buildings of Belfast: 1700-1914’ Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1985. 2. Dixon, H., ‘An introduction to Ulster architecture’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1975. 3. Larmour, P., ‘Belfast: An illustrated architectural guide’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1987. 4. Patton, M., ‘Central Belfast: An historical gazetteer’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1993 5. Pollock, V; Parkhill, T., ‘Britain in old photographs: Belfast’ Glouchestershire: Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1997. Online Resources 1. Dictionary of Irish Architects -

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H-. Alterations detracting from building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting

Historic Interest

V. Authorship X. Local Interest W. Northern Ireland/International Interest


Symmetrical multi-bay two-storey sandstone former bank, built c.1869, to the designs of W.J. Barre with a central pedimented breakfront. Built as the Provincial Bank of Ireland, this elaborately detailed building combines Romanesque detailing with Neo-Palladian symmetry in a typically High Victorian manner, with much of the original detailing (both internally and externally) surviving the recent conversion for use as a supermarket. Occupying a highly prominent city centre site, it is the only survivor of the mid nineteenth-century on Royal Avenue. This former bank is a fine example of high Victorian style reflecting the aspirations of Belfast as a mercantile centre and represents one of W.J. Barre’s finest achievements in the City.

General Comments

Date of Survey

26 November 2012