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16 October 2014
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Belfast Charitable Institution

Clifton House has been in the news following its complete refurbishment. It is of great credit to all concerned

ML 1030

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Belfast Charitable Institution

Clifton House, Belfast
Clifton House, Belfast
Clifton House has been in the news following its complete refurbishment. It is of great credit to all concerned that while the very necessary modernisation has been carried out the original facade and design of the building has been beautifully preserved.

It was on the 1st August 1771 that the then Sovereign of Belfast laid the foundation stone of what was intended as a Poorhouse and Infirmary for the poor and sick of the town of Belfast.

It really was a Charitable Institution as the funds to build it came from the voluntary contributions of those who could afford it and by the running of a lottery. Yes a lottery in those far off days. The wealthy of the town gave annual balls for the benefit of the charity.

A steward, housekeeper and porter were appointed. Their salaries are recorded as being £10, £6 and £5 respectively per annum.

I seem to recall reading that the first ever piped water in Belfast was at this building and was in wooden pipes.

Can anyone confirm this point?

Lone Walker
I've heard this too about the wooden pipes to this building. I'm pretty sure it's correct. I think that wooden pipes were commonly used in the early delivery of water to Belfast and surrounding area.

Bill Reid, ex- Fireman Belfast Brigade
I suggest that you contact the Belfast City Fire Service. They have the whole history regarding Belfast's early water supply. From memory the early supply was a grid of wooden pipes, which progressively rotted from the inside. The result was that later, when more efficient pumps came on the scene, these wooden mains would collapse under the greater demand of the pumps. Hope this is of use.

Neil sent an e-mail saying:-
"The Belfast Charitable Society provided the town's {city in 1888} water supply from the late 18th century {Dublin had an engineered supply from the late 13th century} from springs, ponds and streams by wooden water pipes, until by Act of Parliament metal pipes were introduced. By this time Belfast was growing apace and in 1840 another Act was passed to set up the Water Commissioners who paid the Belfast Charitable Society £800 pa and £5000 to settle water engineering debts.You can see that wooden pipes would have long ago been replaced. They also were to provide free water for ever and we can assume they laid pipes to Clifton House."

Malcolm sent in the following photographs after a trip to the Silent Valley Visitors Centre in the Mournes.

Wooden water pipe

The above photograph shows a section of a wooden water pipe which is on display at the Centre.

Cross-section of a wooden water pipe
Cross-section of wooden water pipe
If you look closely you'll notice the iron ring

The notice in front of the piece of piping reads as follows:-


This wooden water pipe was recovered from the junction of High Street and Church Lane, Belfast, during the excavation for "Hi-Park" multi storey car park in June 1986.
Wooden water pipes date back to the 18th century and were gradually replaced by cast iron pipe.
The wrought iron ring at the end was driven on to prevent the wood splitting while the channel was formed.

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Read about another Belfast building - the Carnegie Library.

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