Main Hall

In 1860, against a field of forty-one other architectural firms, the young architect W. J. Barre won the competition to design the Ulster Hall which was described, in 1967, thus:

“The hall itself is vast, airy and dignified, though it lacks the sparkle Barre envisaged. Corners and ceiling are alike coved (the latter also coffered), and painted blue with cream beams and red spots. There is a fine alderman-bellied balcony on pineapple-pie pillars. At the keys of the round-headed windows are twenty whiskered worthies; there are arches and scenes from Belfast history (and mythology) painted by W. J. Carey in 1903”.

This main hall has hosted many cultural events of local and international significance; Charles Dickens gave readings here from A Christmas Carol in 1867 and 1869; and during World War II it was used as a dance hall to entertain American troops stationed in Northern Ireland.