History of the Linen Quarter

Central Business District Timeline

1750s
The first post chaise to operate between Belfast and Dublin begins service. It leaves Dublin every Monday and Belfast every Thursday, taking three days in winter and two in summer to complete the journey. The route passes through the old Dublin Road and Sandy Row.

1779
The first cotton mill in Ireland opens just outside Belfast.

1809
The new Dublin Road is opened. Great Victoria Street opens 14 years later.

1820s
The Belfast Gasworks is established by the Lagan river. It will help fuel the remarkable growth that puts Belfast at the centre of the Victorian industrial revolution.

1830
The Mulholland family rebuild their cotton mill in York Street as a linen mill. It heralds the dawn of Belfast’s world leading mechanised linen industry. Other entrepreneurs take note of their increasing success.

1835
Plans for the Ulster Railway are announced.

1839
A section of railway from Belfast to Lisburn opens for passenger traffic. The Ulster Railway Tavern opens in Great Victoria Street around this time. Under another name it is now Belfast’s most famous pub.

1844
One of the most beautiful churches in Belfast, St Malachys, is opened in Alfred Street.

1848
The Belfast Railway Terminus is opened in Great Victoria Street.

1850s
The linen boom is well underway. By 1856 the York Street Mill is claimed to be the biggest mill of its kind in the world. The major linen companies are establishing offices and warehouses in the area now known as the Linen Quarter.

1862
The Ulster Hall is opened as a grand ballroom in Bedford Street. It is one of the largest music halls in the British Isles. Its magnificent organ is donated by the Mulholland family.

1869
Charles Dickens reads ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and ‘David Copperfield’ at two separate readings at the Ulster Hall.

1885
Michael Flanagan and son renovate the Ulster Railway Tavern with the help of skilled Italian craftsmen. They name it the Crown Liquor Saloon.

1887
The Ormeau Baths opens. A public baths, it serves a population for whom plumbing is a distant dream. Today this beautiful building hosts the Tech Hub, which is helping drive Belfast’s nascent high tech industry.

1888
John Dunlop invents the pneumatic tyre in his workshop at 38-42 May Street, on the fringes of the Linen Quarter. Cycling becomes more enjoyable and more popular. His invention will have major benefits for motor travel too.

1888
Belfast, now the world’s greatest linen producer, is awarded city status by Queen Victoria. Its pre-eminence in linen manufacture is one reason for the award.

1895
The Grand Opera House, designed by Frank Matcham, opens in Great Victoria Street. Like the Ulster Hall it will host many of the great names of entertainment, including Laurel and Hardy and Luciano Pavarotti, who makes his UK debut here.

1924
The BBC opens its first studio in Linenhall Street. The great actor manager Tyrone Guthrie makes the first broadcast here on September 15th.

1926
Belfast Corporation (Belfast City Council) introduces buses, initially to supplement the tram service, but gradually replacing them.

1954
The last tram service in Belfast is closed.

1968
Belfast’s famous trolleybuses come to an end.

1971
Led Zeppelin debuts one of the most famous songs in rock history, ‘Stairway to Heaven’, at the Ulster Hall.

1973
Translink takes over the running of public transport in Belfast.

1995The second Great Victoria Street Station opens, just yards from the site of its predecessor.

2018
The £50 million Grand Central Hotel, Belfast’s biggest ever hotel, is opened on Bedford Street by Hastings Hotels.

2022
The £100 million Belfast Transport Hub is scheduled to open. It will have eight platforms, twice as many as Great Victoria Street. The Enterprise Belfast to Dublin service will terminate here.