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16 October 2014
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Waring Street Bank

After years as a stunning home to the Ulster Bank, the Waring Street premises lay dormant, but now it is to be given new life.

The glass dome inside  the Ulster Bank buidling, Waring St.

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The Ulster Bank building in Waring Street has long been admired for its distinct architectural style. The formidable Giffnock sandstone structure which lay vacant for many years has now been sold and plans for a luxury hotel are mooted as a possible guise for its next life.


Ulster Bank, Waring Street


Built for £30,000 in 1860 by the Scottish Architect James Hamilton (who also designed the Ewart building in Bedford Street, Belfast ) the bank has won many admirers over the years :

"it is very commendable, earnest, massive, rich and suitable.."

Description in the 'London' magazine after the designs of the Ulster Bank were shown at the 1858 Architectural Exhibition.


the building offered "...every inducement to linger and ponder on wealth and its advantages.."

C.E.B.Brett writing more than a century later


If Donegall Place was the Park Lane of Belfast, then Waring Street was the Threadneedle Street, with trade and finance at its heart. The street derived its name from William Waring, a merchant and tanner in the 18th century. Nearby Sugarhouse Entry, points to the existence of sugar refineries which used to populate the surrounding streets.

Click here to view a map of the area

Glancing at the outside of the building today It's hard to imagine that this was a fully functional modern bank up until a few years ago. The modern financial buildings mainly stick to bright plastic or steel facades. The photograph below shows the bank ready for business the year it opened in 1860.

The Ulster Bank, Waring Street 1860


The imposing exterior is more than matched by the stunning ceiling and detailed plaster work inside. Last year YPAM were allowed into the vacant bank to photograph it, amid rumours that the building was at risk of being demolished.

As you walk through the main entrance and into the banking hall your eyes are immediately drawn upwards to the amazing glazed domed roof and surrounding intricate ceiling and adorned pillars.


Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939

Decorative ceiling of the bank
Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939

more detail of the plaster work

Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939

One of the infants on the ornate pillars
Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939

The letters U and B on a plaster crest

click here for a selection of full size photographs


A new 4 star luxury hotel is planned within the existing infrastructure. Restaurants and retail boutiques will also be built to replace the once busy bank vaults and network of internal offices behind the main banking hall.

The whole area around Waring Street is gradually regenerating itself as the Cathedral Quarter, a reference to St. Anne's Cathedral nearby. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs are replacing tired old buildings in an imaginative way. The Northern Whig building for example has been sympathetically restored as a popular drinking establishment.

The YPAM team have no memories of the Ulster Bank building in its former life as a regular branch, but perhaps you do ? If so please share your memories with us on the site. Use the form at the bottom of the page, or start a discussion on our message board.



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