Friday, February 17, 2017

Holy Rosary Church in Belfast to be re-developed into restaurant

Holy Rosary Church to be re-developed into restaurant  A LANDMARK church which served the growing Catholic population of south Belfast for more than 80 years is to finally be re-developed.

Holy Rosary Church on the Ormeau Road was opened in 1898 to cater for the increasing number of Catholic parishioners moving into the area.

But since its closure in 1980, the grade B1 listed building had lay empty. 

Deteriorating dramatically over the past 37 years, the narrow building has finally been sold.

While the exact details of the development are unclear, it is understood the 4,500 square foot building will be transformed into a restaurant.

The sale comes just over a month after the nearby site of Ballynafeigh police station was also sold.

The station, located a few hundred yards away from the church along the Ormeau Road, was sold to a private developer amid reports it may become a retail unit.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "On 21st December 2016, the sale of Ballynafeigh Police Station on the Ormeau Road in the Belfast area was completed. The building was sold to a private developer".

But the sale of Holy Rosary Church will spark much interest with the site known as a distinct landmark along the busy areterial route into Belfast city centre.

Built in 1896 in Scrabo sandstone and Dumfries dressing, Fr Robert Crickard was appointed the first parish priest in Holy Rosary parish.

The building was dedicated in October 1898 to serve the growing population in south Belfast, but it became too small for the expanding congregation of Holy Rosary parish and closed in 1980.

Archdeacon Robert Murphy took over the chapel of the Good Shepherd Convent, altering and adapting it for parish use and Bishop William Philbin dedicated Good Shepherd Church for parish use in October 1980.

Holy Rosary Church has lay empty ever since. A spokesman for Down and Connor diocese said it had not owned the building for a number of years and was unaware of the sale.

Historian Eamon Phoenix said Holy Rosary served a growing Catholic population at the start of the 20th century.

"The Catholic population was historically small in south Belfast, but more and more people began to move to the Ormeau Road area," he said.

"Many people attended St Malachy's on Alfred Street, but the parish was extended further out along the Ormeau Road and Holy Rosary opened in 1898 for the growing Catholic population in the area.

"It ran for 80 years as a church with a large parochial house beside it. It was also located within the vicinity of Nazareth House and several other Catholic Church owned properties in the area.

"Archdeacon Robert Murphy, a former chaplain at Stormont, decided Holy Rosary was too small for the current population in the area and it closed in 1980 and the Good Shepherd Church was acquired."

Dr Phoenix said a number of famous parishioners attended Holy Rosary, which also dealt with some tragedies during the height of the Troubles.

"It became a landmark along the road and had a number of famous families among its parishioners, including the MacEntee family who were wealthy publicans," he said.

"They lived behind the church on the Ravenhill Road and of most interest was Sean MacEntee, who was involved in the Irish Volunteers and fought in the 1916 Easter Rising. He was sentenced to death, a sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

"But he was released in an amnesty in 1917 and went on to become involved in politics becoming Tánaiste in the 1960s.

"There was also the Corr family, which included two sisters Elizabeth and Nell who joined Cumann na mBan and travelled to Dublin to take part in the rebellion during the Rising, meeting James Connolly.

"Among the tragedies faced by the church was the Rose and Crown bar bombing at the height of the Troubles, with many buried from the church.

"The Catholic population was historically small in south Belfast but the suburbs grew and the Holy Rosary Church became a small, but active congregation before its closure."

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