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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Arcade & shops

Date of Construction:
1920 - 1939

Address :
North Street Arcade 35 North Street , Units 1-34, 33 & 37 North Street and 26 - 30 Donegall Street Belfast County Antrim BT1 1NA

Town Parks

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
05/11/1990 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:
130/13 NE

IG Ref:
J3385 7457

Owner Category

Exterior Description And Setting

An arcade running between North Street and Donegall Street with a 3 storey building facing Donegall St. and a three storey building, with attic, facing North Street. The Donegall street building is in Art Deco style, designed by Cowser and Smyth and built in 1936; the North Street building is Victorian. The arcade was severely damaged by fire in 2004. Donegall Street Donegall Street northeast facade has a flat roof unseen behind parapet. Rainwater goods are concealed. Walls are ashlar reconstructed stone with projecting string courses to parapet and to second floor level under which are roundel motifs; the ground floor is faced with grey marble. The windows to the second floor have flat lintels and fluted uprights to slightly recessed openings; the ground and first floor windows have flat lintels, the small north window is framed top and bottom by a floral motif. Windows are metal framed. The northeast elevation is generally symmetrical around a two storey canopied entrance way. The diminished second floor has 5 square, single paned windows either side of 3 blank windows, the central being rectangular. The first floor generally has horizontal windows flanking the central entranceway of large panes with small top hung lights; to the left (south) the horizontal band is extended with 3 further windows divided by piers; to the north is a small window obscured by a geometric metal grille and a grille mesh. The central entrance way has grey marble extending up the sides to the underside of the flat, copper faced canopy which has straight brackets and a geometric motif (damaged) to the soffit; a figuratively sculpted relief stone panel (taken from Brookfield Linen Co. warehouse, originally on this site) sits in slate panels over the open entrance which is now blocked by metal frame and blockwork. The main ground floor windows are flanked by doors all of which are boarded up and unseen; over the doors are single pane square windows obscured by geometric metal grille. Vertical plastic signs project either side of the entrance way below the canopy. The south elevation is abutted by HB26/50/287. The west elevation is the arcade. The north elevation is abutted by a modern building. North Street North Street building had a hipped slate roof now derelict with a damaged timber framed window flanked by pedimented dormers; chimneys are located on each gable. The walls are brick Flemish bond with dressings of red sandstone: dormer pediments, occuli, pilasters and flanking volutes; moulded and dentilled cornice and frieze at eaves level and bands within second floor brickwork. Below second floor cill level the walls have been rendered. The windows are all flat lintelled. The only window to the second floor which is not boarded up is a 2 pane 1/1 timber sash; the first floor windows are much damaged timber casements with timber coffered splayed reveals. The central two storey entranceway has infill boarding with a fire damaged plastic domed canopy, all ground floor windows and doors are shuttered. The south elevation is 6 windows wide, the side sections of 2 windows under the dormers project slightly at second floor level. The west elevation is blank, rendered to cornice level and brick above, evidence of previous pitch roofed building abutting. The north elevation is the arcade. The east elevation is abutted by a three storey building above which is brickwork. Setting The north entrance of North Street arcade sits on the west side of Donegall Street adjacent to HB26/50/287. Across the road are many small passageways and lanes, and listed buildings HB26/50/059 and HB26/50/220; slightly further north is St. Ann’s Cathedral HB26/50/027. Roof: unseen Walls: reconstructed stone Windows: metal RWGs: unseen.


Cowser and Smyth

Historical Information

North Street Arcade, an Art Deco shopping arcade that links Donegall Street to North Street, was originally constructed in 1936 to designs by Cowser & Smyth. A Belfast-based architectural partnership between Benjamin Cowser (1897-1981) and Valentine Smyth (active 1930s-60s), Cowser & Smyth was formed in 1935, making the North Street Arcade one of the partnership’s first major contracts. The firm continued to operate until the outbreak of the Second World War, however in the aftermath of the conflict the pair re-established their partnership in 1951 under the name Smyth & Cowser. The builder contracted to carry out the design of the arcade was F. B. McKee & Co. (Irish Builder, pp 1039-1068; Dictionary of Irish Architects). North Street Arcade consists of a four-storey redbrick and red sandstone building at North Street (nos 35-37) and a corresponding three-storey entrance façade at nos 26-30 Donegall Street, constructed of granite and reconstructed stone. Between the entrances the arcade itself incorporated a central dome located to the north-west of the building; to facilitate this feature the arcade bends at a 90 degrees angle. The third and fourth editions of the Ordnance Survey maps for Belfast (1901-02; 1931) record that, prior to the erection of the North Street Arcade in 1936, the area between Donegall Street and North Street was occupied by a number of small properties of which the premises of the Brookfield Linen Company was the most significant. The Brookfield Linen Co. Ltd were flax spinners and powerloom linen manufacturers and merchants who operated from their Donegall Street property from 1869; their original warehouse was demolished to make way for the construction of the arcade in 1936. One remnant of the Brookfield Linen warehouse has survived at the site; a relief plaque, depicting eight workers spinning flax, was rescued from the demolished building and was installed at the Donegall Street entrance in 1938 (Irish Builder, pp 113-134). Having been constructed in 1936, the North Street Arcade was not included in the First General Revaluation of property in Northern Ireland (1935). The Arcade was first valued in 1956 under the second general revaluation; the valuer noted that the three-storey entrance building at Donegall Street and the four-storey entrance at North Street were jointly valued at £996. The arcade itself consisted of at least 20 shops and one café during the revaluation and by the end of the project in 1972 the total value of the numerous shops, stores, and offices, including the café, stood at £4,325 10s., making the total value of the Arcade and its entrances £5,321 10s. in 1972. Patton states that in the mid-19th century North Street mainly consisted of ‘small businesses, shoemakers and publicans, grocers and haberdashers, leather and iron merchants;’ the linen trade was also prominent in the area, especially on Donegall Street (which was known as Linnenhall Street in the 18th century). In 1869 W. H. Lynn designed the warehouse for the Brookfield Linen Co., which Patton described as ‘an imposing Italianate five-storey seven-bay building with pedimented and rusticated doorcases groined out of the heavily tooled basement plinth, swags over first floor windows, and giant order Corinthian pilasters supporting a heavy cornice and piers between attic windows’ (Larmour, p. 92; Patton, p. 131). The Brookfield Linen Co. warehouse was demolished in 1936 to make way for the North Street Arcade which was described by Larmour as ‘a thirties shopping arcade, not too jazzy in appearance but moderne all the same’ (Larmour). Prior to its destruction in 2004, the North Street Arcade consisted of approximately two dozen retail units; Patton states that the arcade was ‘floored in granolithic and has unified shopfronts with bronze trims and green marble plinths and piers.’ In 1971 the arcade was the victim of two bomb attacks which were carried out during the Northern Ireland Troubles; throughout the Troubles, the arcade was frequently targeted by vandals and paramilitaries and in 1976 yet another bomb exploded at the arcade causing significant damage to the interior retail units and killing a number of shoppers (PRONI; CAIN website). North Street Arcade was listed in 1990; however in August 2004 an arson attack resulted in the destruction of the building’s interior by fire. The Guardian reported that the premises of more than 20 businesses and arts organisations were damaged in the attack whilst the original glass roof (which ran the length of the arcade and included the dome at centre) was also destroyed. The attack resulted in significant damage to the entrance building on North Street; in 1993 the entrance (which has lost its glazing and has suffered major interior damage) was described by Patton as a ‘four-storey building in redbrick with red sandstone detailing … with domed plastic porch over entrance replacing a former balcony and doorcase; but above that a dignified façade with outer bays set forward, terminating in pediments with flanking volutes.’ Due to its sturdy construction in granite and reconstructed stone, the Donegall Street entrance only received minor structural damage; the stone relief plaque depicting the workers of the Brookfield Linen Company was not damaged in the attack and continues to adorn the Donegall Street façade of the arcade (Patton, p. 131; p. 246). North Street Arcade was included in the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s Buildings at Risk in 2005; the report recorded that before the fire the arcade housed ‘an eclectic mix of specialist and unusual shops’ and that the future of the site remained uncertain at that time (UAHS, p. 38). North Street Arcade continues to lie vacant and has fallen into an advanced state of disrepair with no holding repair work having been carried out to the site in the intervening decade since the fire. In September 2012 plans for a £360 million development of the area between Royal Avenue and the Cathedral Quarter were approved by the Department of the Environment; the proposed redevelopment includes the renovation of the former Assembly Buildings on Bridge Street and, according to an artist’s impression, the redevelopment will also involve the restoration of the North Street Arcade, however at the time of writing the project has not proceeded past the initial planning stage (BBC Website). References Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/1/61/3 – Third Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1901-02 2. PRONI OS/6/1/61/4 – Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1931 3. PRONI OS/6/1/61/5 – Fifth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1938 4. PRONI VAL/4/B/7/39-41 – Second General Revaluation of Northern Ireland 1956-72 5. PRONI INF/7/A/7/31 – Bomb attack at North Street Arcade (1971) 6. Irish Builder, Vol. 78 (30 May, 17 Oct, 28 Nov 1936); Vol. 80 (19 Feb 1938) 7. Belfast Street Directories (1877-1918) 8. First Survey Image – HB26/50/199 (1990) 9. Ordnance Survey map 130-13SE (1959) 10. The Guardian (15 Aug 2004) Secondary Sources 1. ‘Buildings at Risk: Vol. 7’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 2005 2. Larmour, P., ‘Belfast: An illustrated architectural guide’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1987. 3. Patton, M., ‘Central Belfast: An historical gazetteer’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1993. Online Resources 1. Dictionary of Irish Architects - 2. CAIN Chronology of the Troubles website - 3. BBC News Website (5 Sept 2012) -

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form

Historic Interest

X. Local Interest V. Authorship


An arcade running between North Street and Donegall Street with a three storey building facing Donegall Street and a three storey building, with attic, facing North Street. The Donegall street building is in Art Deco style, designed by Cowser and Smyth and built in 1936; the North Street building is Victorian. The arcade is an interesting example of a modern interpretation of the Belfast heritage of alleyways and arcades; its Art Deco style being quite rare within the architectural context of Belfast.

General Comments

Date of Survey

13 January 2013