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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Take a moment before it's gone: Great Victoria Street Baptist Church

A modest little building on Great Victoria Street that many of us likely pass without taking much notice will soon vanish from the Belfast streetscape. Great Victoria Street Baptist Church has stood on the corner of Hope Street as significant redevelopment, demolition and roads projects took shape around it over the last number of decades. The Church even survived a planning approval to demolish two years ago as the economic downturn postponed redevelopment. But it seems that time is up as the latest planning application seeks to develop a temporary surface car park on the site of the 19th century church building.

Great Victoria Street Baptist Church.
Photo by Gary Potter.


Great Victoria Baptist Church was formed in the early 19th century and was constituted in 1847. The church met for some time in King Street and later in Academy Street until a building was constructed on the present site in 1866. The new church building was designed by William Hastings at a cost of less than £6,000 and seated 430 people. In 1944 the land to the rear of the church was purchased and in 1961 a church hall was developed. Over time, extensions and alterations have enabled a capacity of over 700 to attend but in February last year church services moved permanently from the 1866 church to the 1961 church hall. Since then the church building has been "deteriorating rapidly" according to Pastor Trevor Brock.

Great Victoria Street Baptist Church.
Photo by Gary Potter.

The church has intended to redevelop the site for a number of years. In 2010 they gained planning permission to develop a ten storey building with ground and first floor church facilities, offices on the upper floors and forty basement parking spaces. With partner developer, McAleer & Rushe and Todd Architects the church still intend to redevelop the site when funding can be acquired and market conditions are more favourable.

The redeveloped church and office building.
Credit: McAleer & Rush and Todd Architects.

In the meantime the church has decided that due to the "deteriorating state" of the church building and the need to provide parking spaces to serve the church hall they will demolish the existing church and construct a temporary surface car park. The church state that the vacant building is no longer fit for purpose due to the lack of disabled access, inadequate heating, lighting and toilets and issues of damp, rot and a leaking roof. The planning application has been recommended for approval by Planning NI with a time limit of one year. Associated with the application, the church will construct a new entrance porch onto the church hall and erect fencing around the old church site.

Great Victoria Street Baptist Church.
Photo by Gary Potter.

So the next time you walk past 66 Great Victoria Street, take a moment to pause, look up and admire William Hastings 19th century church as the next time you walk past, it just might not be there...

1 comment:

Karen O Rawe said...

I've always wanted to see inside this church. I think it's sad that it can't be redeveloped.