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The Case of Mary West- an abandoned child


Children were admitted for a variety of reasons to the Poor House, but we have records of a number that were abandoned by their families. Two years prior to Mary West’s admission to the Poor House a volcanic eruption had caused what was known as the ‘Year of No Summer’, which decimated crops and led to the spread of disease. Even in 1818 the effects of famine, fever and poverty were still rife in Belfast. The Poor House was under pressure to cope with demand, and the conditions in the town drove many people to desperate actions in order to survive. [...]

The Case of Mary West- an abandoned child2022-10-25T22:21:13+00:00

Thomas McCabe: Philanthropist, Abolitionist & United Irishman


Thomas McCabe was an active member of Belfast Charitable Society and a United Irishman. Thomas was a goldsmith and a watch maker by trade, based in North Street. His house, ‘The Vicinage’ stood on the site of St Malachy’s College on the Antrim Road. Aspects of the Ulster movement of the United Irishmen Rebellion were said to have been planned in his home. Along with Robert Joy he bought cotton looms for the ‘inmates’ of the Poor House to train on. Yet it was the welfare of slaves, thousands of miles away which sparked dissension on the Board. Waddell Cunningham wanted [...]

Thomas McCabe: Philanthropist, Abolitionist & United Irishman2022-01-21T13:57:24+00:00

Black History Month 2021: 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, an enslaved man from America, 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, [...]

Black History Month 2021: William John Brown and his escape from slavery2021-10-08T14:17:13+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

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
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