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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Original section of public house

Date of Construction:
1700 - 1719

Address :
McHughs Bar 31-33 Queens Square Belfast Co. Antrim BT1 3FG

Town Parks

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
08/10/1997 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:
Public House

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J3426 7450

Owner Category


Exterior Description And Setting

An attached three-storey with attic over basement early eighteenth-century terraced house with three-bay three-storey frontage and original gable contained within a modern public house extension. Rectangular plan facing north onto Queen’s Square, formerly the Town Dock. Roof is pitched natural slate with cast-iron rainwater goods over stepped corbelled eaves. Walling is painted lime render to external elevation; original gable (now contained within a modern bar extension) is of bricknogging with handmade bricks. S-profile tie-bar ends to upper floors of external elevation. All original timbers are sawn pine. Windows are replacement exposed box 6/6 timber sashes with modern ‘crown effect’ glazing set in plain reveals with projecting stone cills. Modern traditional-style pubfront to ground floor. Principal elevation faces north and is three windows wide to upper floors; pubfront with timber pilasters, handpainted fascia, framing multi-paned timber windows over rendered stallrisers; timber doors to centre (half-glazed) and right side. East gable is abutted by an adjoining modern building. Rear elevation is contained within the modern public house, and is rendered, with modern feature window inserted. West gable is contained within the triple-height extension of the modern public house, retained as a feature wall. It is rendered to ground floor, and consists of a longitudinal frame, slightly curved in profile, infilled with handmade brick to beam at original eaves level. Embedded into the wall above is a butt-jointed king post truss with struts and tied with iron cramps, above which the wall rises to present roof level with former gable opening at left infilled with brick. Setting The original building is partially contained within a modern public house extension to side (west) and to rear, from which the original gable can be viewed from a series of galleries. The building is street fronted on reclaimed land, now Queens Square, formerly Hanover Quay. Opposite (to north) is the Custom House (HB26/50/062), and to rear is Oxford Street Bus Centre. Roof: Slate Walling: Brick nogging/rendered Windows: timber RWG: Cast iron


Not Known

Historical Information

Nos 29-31 Queens’ Square, now occupied by McHugh’s Bar and Restaurant, is believed to be the oldest surviving building to remain in Belfast, with origins dating back to the early-18th century, although its antiquity has only recently been recognised; it is certain that nos 29-31 had stood on the current site since at least the late-18th century, the debate having now shifted to determining how early in the century. MacLanachan’s 1715 map of Belfast depicts the early-18th century development of the Hanover Quay area and is believed to depict nos 29-31 Queen’s Square at the corner of George’s Quay and Prince’s Street; this map shows little detail, however the three-storey terrace can clearly be recognised on an engraving of Chichester Quay and High Street by T. M. Baynes, dated 1831. This engraving shows the three-bay structure much as it appears today, having been depicted prior to the application of a Victorian rendering which contributed to the concealment of its true age. The group appears on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey map for Belfast (1832-33) and the contemporary Townland Valuations note that the terraced No. 31 Queens Square (then known as nos 31-33) was valued at £8 2s. 9d. and occupied by a Mr. Samuel Clotworthy whilst the adjoining corner building (No. 29), now converted into a modern bar and then valued at £4 2s. 8d., was occupied by a Mr. Henry Byrne . Griffith’s Valuation notes that by 1860 nos 31-33 Queens’ Square had risen in value to £22, however there was no explanation for this increase; it is likely that a mid-19th century alteration, including the application of a mid-Victorian rendering to the interior and exterior brickwork, occurred during this period and contributed to the increase. At that time the dwelling was leased by a Mr. Thomas Chornside to Anne Quinn, a local spirit dealer; the Quinn family would occupy the site until the end of the Annual Revisions in 1930. The corner building (No. 29) was then a private dwelling, valued at £17 and let by a Mr. William Crawford to Charles Kirkpatrick, a grocer, who vacated the site by 1862. Both occupants had resided at the site since 1852 as they were both recorded in the Belfast Street Directory in that year. The valuation records simply recorded Ann Quinn’s property as a private dwelling; however the 1861 Directory notes that Quinn operated a spirit and coffee house from her premises. By 1862 No. 29 Queen’s Square was occupied by a Mr. Hugh Swan who resided at the site for a further three decades; there was little subsequent change to the terrace until the end of the 19th century when the property passed from Anne Quinn to her daughters Teresa and Mary Quinn who also took over possession of the adjoining No. 29 Queen’s Square. The valuer noted that the pair came into possession of the site by 1894 and then ‘expended about £100 [on] flooring and windows’ to No. 29. Nos 31-33 Queen’s Square was first recorded as a public house after the change in occupancy, whilst Mary and Teresa Quinn converted No. 29 Queen’s Square into a Tobacconists shop (1901 Belfast Street Directory); the pair continued to work in partnership until Mary’s death in 1898 (PRONI Wills). The 1901 Census records that Teresa (54, Roman Catholic) continued to operate the public house after her sister’s death; she resided in No. 33 alone but employed a number of domestic servants and bar maids. The census building return described her three-storey building as a 1st class public house, consisting of six rooms; the adjoining No. 29 was described as a shop and was not utilised as a private dwelling. With Teresa Quinn’s own death in 1908, the property passed to her married sister, Eliza Galvin, who took over possession of both sites. The Annual Revisions note that by the time Eliza Galvin took over the site, the Public House had increased in value from £22 to £65, presumably due to unknown improvements carried out by Teresa and Mary Quinn. In 1911 Galvin appealed against the high value of the site and had the rate reduced to £35; in the same year the value of the adjoining No. 29 was reduced to £24 (it had risen to £26 under the Quinn’s). Eliza Galvin continued to operate the public house and tobacconist under her sibling’s names (1918 Belfast Street Directory) and continued to reside at nos 31-33 Queen’s Square until the end of the Annual Revisions in 1930. By the First General Revaluation of property in Northern Ireland in 1935, ownership of nos 31-33 Queen’s Square had passed to a Mr. W. J. Hendron (who also later became the proprietor of a public house at No. 44 Church lane, now the Roost Bar); the value of the site had been split between the public house, £40, and the private dwelling which was situated on its upper floors and was valued at £21. The adjoining No. 29 was leased by a Mr. E. Tiernan to Madeline McGarry who still operated a shop from the premises; the corner property’s value had risen to £40 since the end of the Annual Revisions. Tiernan and Hendron retained ownership of the terrace by the Second Revaluation of property (1956-1972); by the end of the revaluation in 1972 the value of the public house had increased to £180 (the upper dwelling remained at £20), whilst No. 29 Queen’s Square had increased to £76. The early origin of McHugh’s Bar was not recognised until very recently when Tom McErlean of University of Ulster discovered the historic significance of the building in 1994. Prior to this date Nos 29-31 Queens Square was overlooked in most major architectural surveys of the city, notably Larmour’s’ 1987 Illustrated Guide and Brett’s survey of Belfast’s Buildings between 1700 and 1914. In 1993 Marcus Patton hinted at an 18th century origin when he wrote: ‘much altered and in poor condition, but the second floor windows of nos 31-33 are small pane sashes in exposed sashboxes, indicating some antiquity. In 1791, this block contained the King’s Stores and these buildings may date from that time’ (Patton, p. 271). A recent archaeological survey of McHugh’s Bar by FW Hamond, undertaken prior to the buildings listing in 1997, found the site to be ‘by far the oldest building to have survived in Belfast ... Built between 1710 and 1715.’ Nos 29-31/33 Queen’s Square were constructed at this time as part of the Hanover Quay development undertaken by Isaac MacCartney between 1710 and 1720 and given that ‘not even one standing wall of pre-1769 date was previously known to have survived anywhere in Belfast, it is particularly fortunate to find that this building is not only essentially intact, but also represents such an important part of the early town’ (NIEA HB File – HB26/50/274). Law states that the Hanover Quay area was renamed Queen’s Square in 1849, in honour of Queen Victoria who visited Belfast in that year; at that time No. 31/33 was operating as a public house under the management of Ann Quinn. In addition to the public house, Quinn also operated the Queen’s Square Coffee House, which notably was the starting point for the Belfast, Newtonards and Portaferry mail car. Law states that the Hendron family, who came into possession of nos 31-33 Queen’s Square c. 1935, owned a number of other public houses in Belfast and only occupied Quinn’s former property after being forced to sell the Savoy Bar on Ann Street at the start of the Great Depression in 1930; McHugh’s was then known as Hendron’s Bar and was managed for 25 years by the father of Dr. Joe Hendron, a former West Belfast M.P. (Law, p. 59; Patton, p. 271) Pat McHugh, the publican who gave the bar its current name, came into possession of the property c. 1970 and operated the site until 1996 when, in a poor state of repair, it was sold to James Mooney of Botanic Inns Ltd. On recognition of McHugh’s historical significance the public house was closed for a year while work commenced on a £1 million renovation project that re-established the facade and restored the original early-18th century character of the dockside inn whilst salvaging as many original interior features as possible, including a staircase. The majority of the restoration work was applied to the former nos 31-33 Queen’s Square (now simply No. 31) due to the higher preservation of its exterior and interior; the adjoining No. 29, having been greatly altered during its history, was converted into a modern bar. Upon reopening in 1998 James Mooney stated that the aim was to turn the building into ‘a pub museum devoted to the history of the area, offering live entertainment and food and drink in three floors’ (Law, p. 60). References Primary Sources 1. MacLanachan’s map of Belfast 1715 2. T.M.Bayne Engraving of Chichester Quay and High Street 1831 3. PRONI OS/6/1/61/1 – First Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1832-33 4. PRONI OS/6/1/61/2 – Second Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1858 5. PRONI OS/6/1/61/3 – Third Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1901-02 6. PRONI OS/6/1/61/4 – Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1931 7. PRONI OS/6/1/61/5 – Fifth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1938 8. PRONI VAL/1/B/71A-B – Townland Valuation c. 1830 9. PRONI VAL/2/B/7/2A – Griffith’s Valuation 1860 10. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/B/1 – Annual Revisions 1862-1881 11. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/B/6 – Annual Revisions 1882-1896 12. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/C/19 – Annual Revisions 1897-1905 13. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/C/32-35 – Annual Revisions 1906-1914 14. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/C/37 – Annual Revisions 1913-1925 15. PRONI VAL/12/B/43/C/42 – Annual Revisions 1924-1930 16. PRONI VAL/3/B/3/13 – First General Revaluation of Northern Ireland 1935 17. PRONI VAL/4/B/7/4 – Second General Revaluation of Northern Ireland 1956-1972 18. PRONI Wills Catalogue (31 Mar 1898; 12 Mar 1908) 19. Belfast Street Directory (1852, 1877, 1880, 1901, 1910, 1918) 20. Census of Ireland (1901 / 1911) 21. Ordnance Survey Map – 130-13SE (1959) 22. First Survey Record – HB26/50/274 (1997) Secondary Sources 1. NIEA HB File – HB26/50/274 2. Brett, C. E. B., ‘Buildings of Belfast: 1700-1914’ Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1985. 3. Larmour, P., ‘Belfast: An illustrated architectural guide’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1987. 4. Law, G., ‘Historic pubs of Belfast’ Belfast: Appletree Press, 2002. 5. Patton, M., ‘Central Belfast: An historical gazetteer’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1993.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

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

Historic Interest

X. Local Interest


McHugh’s Bar is of historic and architectural significance as the earliest known building in Belfast, likely to have been built c.1715 as part of a housing development on reclaimed land fronting the eighteenth century Hanover Quay. The original gable exhibits several early construction techniques that are rare in the context of Northern Ireland, including brick nogging walling and early handmade brick; timbers are also of an early date and offer valuable evidence of early construction techniques. Evidence of historic changes in the Victorian era is also of note. Although the building has been much compromised by refurbishment and extension for use as a modern public house, significant original features survive and it is a record of the development in this part of Belfast from its earliest beginnings as a modern city.

General Comments

Date of Survey

08 August 2012