On Saturday morning I visited a number of buildings in Belfast that were participating in the programme of European Heritage Open Days.
The Linen Hall Library tour somewhat disappointingly turned into a prolonged talk about the library’s history rather than an exploration of the deeper recesses of the library building and its collections. Not that the history wasn’t interesting and librarian John Killen was certainly worth listening to. I imagine that coming up to the library’s 225th anniversary in 2013 we’ll hear a lot more about its historic narrative and plans for the future.
If I ever retire and decide to devote myself to self-education through the medium of Radio 3 and Radio 4, I’ll consider membership of the Linen Hall Library (pension-permitting) as a bonus pastime!
While Littl’un sat downstairs enjoying the monthly Children’s Storytime, I followed the crowd upstairs to the Grosvenor’s Room.
Some of the library’s most treasured artefacts are stored in a large wooden chest, including the earliest known surviving edition of the Belfast Newsletter - itself the oldest English language daily newspaper still in publication in the world (which first went to print in 1737).
Freemasons’ Hall in
Cornmarket Arthur Square was open.
Members of Masonic lodges welcomed members of the public in to view the building.
Every room and broom cupboard in the building was on display.
Heraldry and icons were everywhere, from the patterns of the carpet, to the cut-outs in the banisters and the designs on the wooden chairs.
To me it felt oppressive and claustrophobic. A tall room was dominated by multiple sets of thick curtains hanging from the ceiling and guiding visitors’ eyes to the front stage.
There were two highlights – both on the third floor. A cup of tea/coffee and a chocolate biscuit for £1 was probably the best bargain in Belfast on Saturday morning. Even better, children got their orange juice and biscuit for free. Freemasonary generosity and charity in action.
But even better was the view out of the window. Looking south west, there was a fascinating view across the city centre roof tops. Different levels and different styles formed a collage of materials and shapes. And by standing on your chair (ahem) it was possible to get a birds eye view of the Squiggle.
Sitting on Rosemary Street, First Presbyterian Church is the oldest church in Belfast.
It is now home to a Non-Subscribing Presbyterian congregation.
It lacks the normal straight lines of most old church buildings.
Instead it is unusually elliptical in shape with tall box pews downstairs - though a wider angle lens would do it more justice! (Update - Steve Barnes got the shot!)
Tucked in behind the pulpit I unexpectedly noticed a plaque remembering one of their previous organists – R.A. McGraw – my music teacher in first form at school.
The organ pipes were fascinating!
Calling in to show Littl'un the budgies and stumbling across the Hare Krishna parade (marking Jagannath Rathayatra) completed our mini-tour!
You can see other photos from the morning over on Flickr.