Yearly Archives: 2020


An usual New Years Eve meeting in 1834


On New Years Eve 1834 Belfast Charitable Society met, as they did on a weekly basis, to discuss the ongoing running of the Poor House. However, at this meeting they agreed to a request from Dr Drummond, a visiting physician to the Poor House and teacher of Anatomy at the Belfast Academical Institution, to have a single grave in the Strangers Ground. What was so usual about this request? Well, this was no 'ordinary' grave. It was specifically for the burial of dissected remains from Inst which were used for research by the aspiring doctors at the school.  

An usual New Years Eve meeting in 18342021-01-14T11:22:03+00:00

138-Year-Old Christmas Tradition continues at Clifton House


George Benn (1801-1882) (National Museums Northern Ireland) Today (16th December 2020) Clifton House hosted the Benn Dinner, a Christmas Tradition which started 138 years ago and has continued through two world wars, a Spanish Flu Epidemic and throughout the Troubles. And this year it prevailed again, despite Covid-19. The tradition started in 1882 when George Benn, a generous philanthropist, historian and benefactor of Belfast Charitable Society, died and left in his Will the sum of £1,000 to enable the residents of Clifton House, the original Poor House and Infirmary, to have a dinner in his memory. Since then the [...]

138-Year-Old Christmas Tradition continues at Clifton House2020-12-18T15:00:25+00:00

David Olusoga to launch the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation


On the evening of 20 January 2021, Belfast Charitable Society will launch a new Foundation to raise awareness of the life and legacy of one of our city’s most important, yet least recognised, abolitionists, philanthropists and social reformers – MARY ANN MCCRACKEN. It is more than fitting that the Society has managed to secure, as the key note, Professor David Olusoga – straight from his ‘Talk with President Obama’. In what promises to be an excellent event Professor Olusoga will talk about the ‘Legacies of Slavery’ – a subject he has extensively researched, written and broadcasted on for many years. His [...]

David Olusoga to launch the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation2020-12-07T09:29:14+00:00

Maintenance Week 2020


The 20th-27th November 2020 marks Maintenance Week and we thought we should share with you some of the ongoing maintenance work we are undertaking at Clifton House to preserve the building for future generations. Water ingress from the lead lining on the pediment at Clifton House had caused damp to come through the plasterwork in the Boardroom – the historic heart of the building. Work was undertaken via a cherry picker to repair the lead on the pediment, and the plasterwork had to be taken off the wall to allow the brick to dry out. We have had specialists in to test [...]

Maintenance Week 20202020-11-27T11:48:22+00:00

Were women written out of History?


Were women written out of history books, and if so, why? That was the subject discussed at a special panel event on Monday 16th November, organised by the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, a charitable arm of the Belfast Charitable Society, based in Clifton House, North Belfast. The panel included contributions from Dr Margaret Ward and the Archive and Heritage Development Officer of Clifton House, Aaron McIntyre. Based on their own research and experiences, they highlighted particular aspects of women’s role in Irish history, and the attitude of biographers in recording their contribution to historical events. Dr Margaret Ward, Honorary Senior Lecturer [...]

Were women written out of History?2020-11-23T09:38:20+00:00

Mary Ann McCracken (1770-1866) and the visit of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)


Frederick Douglass (c.1879) Belfast City Council have unanimously agreed to move forward with a statute of Frederick Douglass who addressed crowds of onlookers in Rosemary Street in 1845. But who was this man? Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and after a failed attempt to escape bondage he successfully fled north to freedom in 1838. Frederick married and became involved in the abolitionist movement in the United States. However, there were some elements who doubted his story. Frederick went on to publish his autobiography in 1845 as a means to tell his full story. This [...]

Mary Ann McCracken (1770-1866) and the visit of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)2020-11-06T22:50:37+00:00

Black History Month: Belfast and the Slave Trade


As part of Black History Month we have previously explored the story of Equiano, the freed slave and abolitionist, and William John Brown , an enslaved man who found freedom in Belfast. This article explores the abolitionist and pro-slavery elements within the town of Belfast in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Belfast had many wealthy merchants who owned land, estates and businesses in the West Indies in the 18th and 19th Centuries. As was the practice at the time, these estates and businesses would have exploited slave labour to harvest crops such as sugar and tobacco. Waddell Cunningham, a member [...]

Black History Month: Belfast and the Slave Trade2020-10-23T15:07:51+00:00

Black History Month: William John Brown and his escape from slavery


In August 1830 William John Brown appeared before the magistrate at the Belfast Police Court. Mr Brown, a black American slave, entered the courtroom accompanied by members of the Society of Friends. Newspaper reports describe him as looking crestfallen and physically frail- the fifty-year-old slowly took the stand and was said to have recounted his story in a feeble voice. William was enslaved as a young man in Virginia, but had worked his way out of bondage and received his papers of freedom. Now a free man he got married and had five children and settled in Baltimore, Maryland. However, in 1826 [...]

Black History Month: William John Brown and his escape from slavery2020-10-12T11:29:04+00:00

Black History Month: Samuel Neilson, Equiano and Belfast Charitable Society


In the first of this series of articles for Black History Month we are looking at Samuel Neilson and Olaudah Equiano, one of the first black abolitionists to visit Ireland. Equiano himself had been born in Africa and kidnapped into slavery at the age of ten or eleven and was forced to become a sailor. It was said that an Irish man encouraged him to learn to read and write and ultimately he managed to save enough money to purchase his freedom. As a first generation enslaved person, Equiano knew of traditional customs in his homeland and could speak to the [...]

Black History Month: Samuel Neilson, Equiano and Belfast Charitable Society2020-10-23T08:19:45+00:00

Clifton House Virtual Lunchtime Talks available to book now!


In light of Covid restrictions, Belfast Charitable Society have been unable to reopen the doors of Clifton House for our regular tours. However, we have developed a unique set of virtual talks which are delivered every Friday at 1pm, allowing people to tune in from the comfort of their homes, or over their lunch break, to learn about the the different strands of our history. From October 2020 we will starting the series again, with new thematic talks including the 'darker side' of Clifton Street Cemetery for Halloween, Belfast and the Slave Trade and Christmas in the Poor House. There really [...]

Clifton House Virtual Lunchtime Talks available to book now!2020-10-12T10:31:27+00:00
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