Archive from 1752

Our archive material dates back to 1752 and contains a vast quantity of information on the development of the Belfast Charitable Society and Belfast from town to city.  We have a unique collection which will be of interest to a wide variety of people, including family history and academic researchers.  Below are a list of the categories within our archive.



Clifton House also houses a large number of documents, letters and correspondence belonging to the Belfast Charitable Society. Published material related to the history of Belfast Charitable Society from 1905 to 1970 can be found in this category. Dr Strain’s copper printing plates used for his 1960 publication Belfast and its Charitable Society: A Story of Urban Development are included in the archive.


Clifton House

Correspondence, architectural plans and papers relating to the building, refurbishment, health & safety, and contents of Clifton House. Architectural plans comprise the bulk of this category including additions to the Poor House in the 1820s and the development of Belfast Charitable Society land including the Benn Hospitals and sites on Glenravel Street. It also features a map of the Charity’s land by Charles Lanyon.


Education and Employment

Details of the education and employment documents and correspondence of the Belfast Charitable Society. The archive contains lists of apprentices from the Poor House (1770s-1880s), employee contracts and duties, as well as documents related to the nurses training programme which operated in Clifton House during the 1940s, giving a glimpse into the lives of those who worked here.



Records and correspondence connected with the Belfast Charitable Society’s investments, stocks and shares, evidence of how the society financed their philanthropic work. The archive contains original certificates for the purchase of stocks from the Belfast & County Down Railway Company and investment registers detailing stocks, shares and interests of the charity including the Belfast Ropeworks, War Bonds and the York Street Flax Works.



Belfast Charitable Society has always relied on voluntary donations to support its work and this section of the archive relates to correspondence around donations and bequests given to the charity throughout its history. Notable pieces include the will of George Benn who donated money to give the residents a Christmas Dinner, a tradition that is still going strong, as well as the transfer of Forster Green Charity.



Over the decades Belfast Charitable Society was left large areas of land, and with them the ability to collect ground rent on certain properties through bequests. Details of estates, rent, leases, ground rent, conveyancing and farm fee grants are held from 1768 through to today. Notable documents include those related to Glenravel Street, as well as the development of Clifton Street and Carlisle Circle.



Belfast Charitable Society was responsible for the development of water infrastructure in Belfast from the 1790s to the 1840s. The archive holds important documents related to the history of water, the setting up of the Spring Water Commissioners and the running of the water supply for Belfast. A map pf the Belfast water course and the Spring Water Commissioners Cash Book are particular highlights.


Board Matters

Correspondence and reports for the attention of or regarding the Board of the Belfast Charitable Society. These include the Gatekeepers book, annual reports from 1827- present, copies of the Acts of Parliament governing the Charitable Society and correspondence relate to the vacation of the military in 1800 and war damage payments in the 1940s.



Admissions Books record those who entered the Poor House from c.1805 to 1882, in some cases detailing particulars of next of kin, religion, previous residences and their discharge from the Poor House. Later books from 1882- 1972 detail admissions to the Old Peoples Home. The archive also holds details of those seeking admission.



Within this section of the Archive there are statutory note books detailing the deaths of residents in Clifton House from 1880-1987. The collection also includes letters from solicitors referencing the estates of individuals who died in Clifton House. There is also a series of official publications by HMSO about the recording of deaths and organising funerals.



The account manuscripts relate to the running of Clifton House and Belfast Charitable Society. Employees wage books, pension income from residents and general income and expenditure ledgers related to both the Poor House and Old Peoples Home give a detailed insight into the economy of Clifton House past and present.



Clifton Street Cemetery, originally called the New Burying Ground, was opened by Belfast Charitable Society in 1797. The archive holds important documents related to the sale of plots from 1797 and burial registers for those interred from 1831 onwards. The archive also contains letters in relation to the transfer of burial plots, receipts for the opening of graves and mausoleum keys.