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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Cathedral, lamp standards & railings

Date of Construction:
1900 - 1919

Address :
The Cathedral Church of St. Anne Donegall Street Belfast County Antrim BT1 2HB

Town Parks

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
27/11/1975 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:
130/13 NE

IG Ref:
J3387 7468

Owner Category

Church - C of I

Exterior Description And Setting

Free-standing triple-height gable-fronted limestone Hiberno-Romanesque Church of Ireland church, erected 1904, to the designs of Thomas Drew and William Henry Lynn, replacing an earlier church erected c.1775. Cruciform on plan with West front added c.1927 to the designs of Charles Nicholson, Baptistery added to the south aisle c.1923 to the designs of W.H.Lynn, Chapel of the Holy Spirit added to the north aisle c.1932 to the designs of Charles Nicholson, Central crossing added c.1925 to the designs of Peter McGregor Charmers. The eastern apse and ambulatory were added c.1958 while the south transept was added in c.1974 and the north transept added c.1981, all to the designs of John MacGeagh. In 2007 a 40 metre steel spire was installed at the crossing to the designs of Robert Jamison and Colin Conn. Facing west onto Donegall Street and Writers Square located on an island site bound to the north by Academy Street, to the east by Exchange Street and to the south by Talbot Street. Steeply pitched natural slate roofs with leaded ridges and lead finials. Natural slate clad cubic structure to the crossing housing a suspended stainless steel tapered spire. Single-span natural slate roofs to north and south aisles with corbelled eaves and lead rainwater goods. Roof set behind limestone ashlar parapet wall having corbelled courses and decorative box hoppers and downpipes breaking through. Limestone ashlar walling throughout with stepped and moulded plinth course and shallow buttresses flanking all nave windows. Round-headed window openings set within shallow round-headed panels having flush splayed sills, hood mouldings with label blocks and leaded stained glass windows with weather glazing (unless otherwise stated). West front comprises a triple-height central gable framed by octagonal towers with lower screen walls fronting the north and south aisles also terminated by octagonal towers. The entire west front is abutted by a triple portal entrance. The octagonal towers have slender openings to alternating sides and surmounted by diminutive arcaded drums with conical stone roofs. West gable comprises a central round-headed window opening with compound surround rising from a diminutive arcaded balustrade having a stiff-leaf course below spanning the entire gable and towers. The gable has decorative moulded coping and surmounted by a Celtic cross. Below the balustrade is a trio of round-headed window openings with clustered colonettes supporting stepped heads and carved figures to the spandrels. The outer lower towers terminate screen walls to the side aisles, each having a blind arcaded parapet with saddleback coping and an oculus below housing a sexfoil stained glass window. The portal entrance comprises a larger central projection flanked by lower side projections with an elaborate round-headed door opening to each. The portal appears to have flat roofs hidden behind parapet walls with off-set stone coping. Deep set principal entrance with five slender colonettes and foliate capitals clustered into the splayed surround supporting a continuous fluted frieze and impost moulding in turn supporting stepped and carved head. Bipartite square-headed door opening set deep within the doorcase having hardwood doors with decorative copper panels and hinges, framed by fluted Corinthian piers supporting a nail-head lintel inscribed; ‘He Shall Reign For Ever And Ever’. Elaborately carved stone tympanum representing the ‘Triumph and Peace and Righteousness’. The left entrance comprises a square-headed door opening with foliate carved surround having copper door and overpanel. The door is set within a round-headed opening with series of compound colonettes and capitals supporting stepped head framing a carved stone tympanum depicting the Crucifixion and inscribed below; ‘He That Loseth His Life Shall Save It’. The right entrance comprises a square-headed door opening with Arabesque carved surround inscribed; ‘O Grave Where Is Thy Victory’ and bronze gates. The door is set within a round-headed opening with series of compound colonettes and capitals supporting stepped head and framing a carved stone tympanum. All entrances open onto a stone paved platform and six steps with painted iron railings. Tapered octagonal stone lamp standards with elaborate bronze lanterns flank the stepped entrance. Curved stone wall and iron railings extend from either end of the front elevation to the street terminated by large octagonal stone piers surmounted by a conical finials. North side elevation abutted by double-height north aisle, chapel of the Holy Spirit to the west and full-height north transept with Celtic Cross to the east. The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is a symmetrical double-height accretion built in Portland limestone ashlar having a steeply hipped slate roof with lead finials set behind corbelled out parapet wall and cast-iron rainwater goods. Diminutive round-headed window openings with colonettes, billet mouldings and stained glass and latticed windows. The north transept houses the Regimental Chapel and has a large square window opening with stone transoms and mullions framing nine windows each glazed with nine panes of coloured glass. The cheeks of the transept advance forward to frame a giant stone Celtic cross fronting the transept with iron railings enclosing the base. The eastern apse and ambulatory were added in 1958 extending the body of the church as a five sided canted apse and single-height responding ambulatory. Two square-plan towers rise above the parapet framing the apse with hipped roof set behind corbelled parapet with off-set coping and series of loop-holes. Lean-to slate roof to ambulatory, as per above. Stepped buttresses frame all planes with round-headed window openings on continuous splayed sill courses having continuous hood mouldings and stained glass windows. South side elevation abutted by double-height south aisle, Baptistery to the west and full-height south transept to the east. The transept houses the Chapel of Unity and is built in pale Portland limestone ashlar having hipped slate roof behind parapet, as per above, with various carved mouldings, string courses and pilaster strips including a cross motif to the upper level. Round-headed window openings to the ground floor with splayed surrounds, hood mouldings and stained glass leaded windows. Diminutive semi-circular plan baptistery with conical stone roof and iron trim. Limestone ashlar walling and stepped moulded plinth course seamless with south aisle elevation having three round-headed window openings with roll-moulded surrounds, flush splayed sills and stained leaded glazing. Below eaves is a blind colonnade of squat colonettes having stiff-leaf and Romanesque capitals. Setting Facing west onto Donegall Street and Writers Square located on an island site bound to the north by Academy Street, to the east by Exchange Street and to the south by Talbot Street. Adjacent to the University of Ulster and at the north edge of the Cathedral Quarter with a public park to the north. Entire site enclosed by steel railings (c.1990) on stone walls and matching steel gates, laid out in granite setts to the south and east. Roof Natural slate RWG Lead Walling Limestone ashlar Windows Leaded stained glass


Drew, Thomas

Historical Information

The Cathedral Church of St Anne in Belfast was begun in 1899 and work has continued to the present day with the erection of a stainless steel spire over the crossing in 2007. A number of notable architects have contributed to the building, from Sir Thomas Drew who designed the nave to Colin Conn and Robert Jamison, responsible for the brushed stainless steel flèche (known as 'Spire of Hope'). The cathedral is first shown on the fourth edition OS map of 1901-2. The first church on the site was built in 1774/6 as a replacement for the old Corporation Church on the site of St George’s which had become structurally dangerous. The church was gifted to the town by the landlord, Lord Donegall, who named it in honour of his wife Lady Anne and the site chosen was the former Brown Linen Hall in what was then called ‘Linenhall Street’. Traditionally, St Anne is the name given to the mother of the Virgin Mary (Weatherall). The early church was designed by Francis Hiorne of Warwick and Roger Mulholland was the supervising architect. However, the building was initially unstable. The weight of the tower caused structural problems in the west front which had to be rebuilt in the early 1830s. The upper portions of the tower were finished in timber to reduce the weight, which meant that a bell could not be mounted (Weatherall; Brett). The first proposal to build a cathedral for Belfast came in 1862 but this scheme had to be abandoned because of the meteoric growth of the town which meant that all available funds were needed to build new churches. In 1895 the proposal was revived, the Lord Bishop expressing the opinion that a centre of diocesan unity was needed in Belfast, notwithstanding cathedrals in other towns. The congregation had on occasion had recourse to the Ulster Hall having no other building large enough to meet in. The proposal met with considerable resistance, however, on the grounds that new churches were needed in poor districts rather than ‘an elaborate cathedral where operatic music would be performed from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day and where the ladies and elite of the city would assemble to hear the music’(Belfast Newsletter). An open competition to select an architect was felt impracticable and Thomas Drew and William Henry Lynn were approached directly and agreed to work together on the project, although Lynn later agreed to leave the working designs in Drew’s hands. John Lanyon was also approached but declined due to pressure of work. The cathedral was to cost no more than £100,000 exclusive of foundations and was to be built in sections as funds allowed. The nave and aisles to accommodate 1500 people were the first parts to be built and divine service was to be facilitated on some part of the site during construction. In practice, this meant that the old St Anne’s church remained standing until the first phase of the new cathedral was near completion. Part of the sanctuary of the old church remained until 1922 when it was demolished to make way for piers to support the central crossing. (Belfast Newsletter; Weatherall; Patton) Thomas Drew produced a scheme in a gothic style in 1896, but the scheme was reworked in a Romanesque style in 1898. (; Brett) The foundation stone was laid by the Countess of Shaftesbury on 6th September 1899. The initial contract, with builders Henry Laverty & Sons, was for £19,384 and covered piling and erection of the shell of the nave. (Belfast Newsletter) The building was consecrated on 2nd June 1904 in the presence of an enormous congregation and was at first very plain, the floor, windows and carvings all being added later as gifts and memorials by individuals or organisations (Irish Times; Weatherall). Work continued piecemeal on the church, with Lynn taking over after Drew’s death in 1910. (Larmour) The organ, which has four manuals and seventy speaking stops, was built by Messrs Harrison and Harrison of Durham. Originally installed in 1907, it was moved to its present position in 1975. (Weatherall) The second major phase of work on the cathedral began in 1923 under the supervision of Richard Mills Close, who realized the designs of Peter McGregor Chalmers for the foundation, crypt, floor and pillars of the central crossing. A vestry and baptistery, dedicated in 1928, were added to designs originated by W H Lynn ( The baptistery floor, font and capitals were designed by Sir Charles Nicholson as was mosaic ceiling, representing Creation, and executed by Gertrude and Margaret Martin who created all the mosaics in St Anne’s over a period of 7 years in the 1920s. (Weatherall). Rosamond Praeger designed and carved the childrens’ heads at the ends of the string courses. ( Drew’s original scheme for the church had included a design for the west front, but this was not executed until 1925/7 when a modified version was built to designs by Sir Charles Nicholson as a memorial to the fallen of World War I. ( The bronze doors were also designed by Nicholson and made by the Tudor Art Company of London in 1929. The carving in the tympana of the west front was carried out by Esmond Burton in 1927. The north porch depicts the crucifixion, the south porch the resurrection and the Central West Door the enthroned Christ surrounded by saints. Below the arcade are four sculptures representing, from the left, toil, strife, love and avarice. (Weatherall) In 1930/2 the chapel of the Holy Spirit was built and consecrated to mark the 1500th anniversary of St Patrick’s arrival in Ireland. The chapel was built to designs by Sir Charles Nicholson and the mosaics were again completed by Gertrude and Margaret Martin (Weatherall). In the 1920s and 30s the carving in the interior of the church was carried out, largely by Morris Harding under the direction of Nicholson. (Larmour) The ten capitals, all different, depict Belfast industries and more abstract themes such as ‘music’ and ‘motherhood’ (‘Courage’ and ‘Agriculture’ were designed by Chalmers and ‘Justice’ was carved by Rosamond Praeger). (Larmour) The four responds represent the four cardinal virtues and over each of the capitals is a corbel showing a leading member of the Anglican communion including Jeremy Taylor, George Berkeley and the celebrated hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander. The four archangels, Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel, are carved into the four corners. (Larmour; Weatherall) Morris Harding also sculpted the statue of a soldier with bowed head surmounting the war memorial. (Perspective) Stained glass in the aisles and west window is by James Powell & Sons while the two rose west windows were added by Archibald Nicholson in 1927 (Larmour). The aisles and part of the nave was paved with Irish marble to the designs of Charles Nicholson in 1929. The only person to be buried in the cathedral is Lord Carson, interred in the south aisle in 1935 and commemorated by a plaque executed by Rosamund Praeger. The eastern apse and ambulatory was designed by Charles Nicholson, assisted by Thomas Johnson Rushton and completed in 1959. (Larmour) The triple window behind the altar was preserved from the old St Anne’s church and is late Victorian. The window was given to the church in memory of Sir William Johnston, who was mayor of Belfast at the time of Queen Victoria’s visit in 1849. (Weatherall) John McGeagh designed the south and north transepts, completed in 1974 and 1981 respectively. A 28 ft square memorial window in the north transept was designed by Dublin artist Patrick Pollin. (Specify) The clerestory windows are the work of Edward Marr of Belfast College of Art, who was inspired by the abstract designs pioneered by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens at Coventry Cathedral. (Perspective) The windows were given by Sir Robert Ernest Herdman in memory of his wife Lucy Herdman in 1976. (Weatherall) Designs for a spire for the cathedral were proposed by John McGeagh in the 1960s but is was not until 2007 that the present ‘Spire of Hope’ was erected, the creation of Belfast architects Colin Conn and Robert Jamison. Patton Construction were the contractors and the flèche was constructed in Zurich and delivered to Belfast in two sections which were welded together on site and leveled using Swiss microsurgical technology. The flèche is mounted in glass allowing an uninterrupted view from beneath, giving the impression that the structure is floating in space. The structure was funded by contributions from inter-denominational groups and was dedicated on 11th September 2007 in the presence of the Bishop of New York. (Weatherall; Northern Builder) References: Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/8/30/2/30 – Belfast Town Plan 1871-3 2. PRONI OS/6/1/61/4 – Fourth Edition OS Map 1901-2 3. PRONI OS/6/1/61/6 – Sixth Edition OS Map 1931 4. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/C/1-45 Annual Revisions (1863-1930) 5. Belfast Newsletter 9th October 1886 6. Belfast Newsletter 16th May 1895 7. Belfast Newsletter 7th June 1895 8. Belfast Newsletter 11th June 1895 9. Belfast Newsletter 27th September 1895 10. Belfast Newsletter 3rd October 1895 11. Belfast Newsletter 16th November 1895 12. Belfast Newsletter 10th April 1896 13. Belfast Newsletter 1st October 1896 14. Belfast Newsletter 4th February 1899 15. Belfast Newsletter 7th September 1899 16. Belfast Newsletter 11th October 1899 17. Belfast Newsletter 24th October 1899 18. Irish Times 3rd June 1904 19. Specify June/July 1981 20. Perspective Jan/Feb 1008 21. Perspective Jan/Feb 2009 22. Northern Builder Summer 2007 Secondary Sources 1. Brett, C.E.B. “Buildings of Belfast 1700-1914” Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, revised edition 1985 2. Larmour, P “Belfast, An Illustrated Architectural Guide” Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1987 3. Walker, S “Historic Ulster Churches” Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, 2000 4. Weatherall, N “A Guide to the Cathedral Church of St Anne, Belfast” 2012 5. – Dictionary of Irish Architects online

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H+. Alterations enhancing the building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting

Historic Interest

V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest Y. Social, Cultural or Economic Importance


Free-standing triple-height gable-fronted limestone Hiberno-Romanesque Church of Ireland church, erected 1904, to the designs of Thomas Drew and William Henry Lynn, replacing an earlier church erected c.1775. The earlier church was given to Belfast by Lord Donegall whose wife was called Anne the Countess of Donegall. Continuous changes and additions to this church have resulted in an inconsistent external appearance with a flamboyant West front added in 1928 contrasting with the austerity of the transepts. The interior reveals the purpose of these changes, with a lofty place of worship befitting the main cathedral of a major city. Much historic fabric and detailing of high quality survive, demonstrating crafts and technologies spanning the entire twentieth-century. The cathedral is a fine example of the type and of the work of many architects of note.

General Comments

Date of Survey

03 October 2012