History of St George’s MarketSt George’s Market was commissioned by the Belfast Corporation (now Belfast City Council). It was built in three phases between 1890 and 1896.
Pre-1890, St George’s Market was an open market with stalls similar in style to May’s Market and certainly included a meat market and slaughter house. Its name may have come from St George’s Church in High Street.
Design and conceptThe original open St George’s Market would have been smaller than the 1890 structure. It was designed by the then city surveyor JC Bretland - architect of the 1896 Fish Market and the new Albert Bridge following its collapse in the 1880s.
Built in red brick with sandstone dressings, external features of St George’s include Roman pedimented arches with Latin and Irish mottos. The Latin motto, 'Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus', means for 'so much what shall we give in return?' and the Irish motto, 'Lámh Dearg na hÉireann', means 'Red Hand of Ireland'.
The central portico contains the Belfast Coat of Arms.
Light and spacious interiors with glazed roofs are supported by seventy cast iron columns made by Ritchie, Hart and Co of Belfast and Glasgow based company Brownlie S Murray.
The newly covered St George’s Market was open to the public on 20 June 1890 for the sale of butter and eggs.
The Belfast BlitzFollowing heavy German bombing of Belfast on Easter Tuesday 1941, St George’s Market was used as an emergency mortuary. Some 700 people were killed during the raids with 255 bodies brought to the market for identification.
Not all of the dead were identified and a public funeral of the unclaimed dead took place on 21 April 1941. After separate Catholic and Protestant services were held at the market, thousands lined the streets as the cortege passed by on its way to both Milltown and the City cemeteries.
TradersMany of St George’s current stall holders have had close connections with the Markets area down the years. Some have lived there and their families have traded at St George's and other markets for at least three generations.
Renovation and restorationSt George’s Market was originally built for the sale of butter, eggs, poultry and fruit. But by the 1980s, it had developed into a general market. It was the last of Belfast's thriving Victorian markets.
Increasing maintenance costs, changes to hygiene regulations and its ’once a week usage’ had prompted us to consider other uses for the listing building.
A vigorous campaign, spearheaded by us and backed by traders and the general public, resulted in a Heritage Lottery Fund backed £3.5 million refurbishment programme assisted by the Environment and Heritage Agency.
During the two year restoration period, we aimed to reinstate St George’s elegant, yet practical Victorian character.
Brick and stonework had deteriorated badly and the original drawings were used to plan the restoration programme.
The unusually sized bricks were specially produced in England. Blaxter stone was used to complement the original Glasgow made Giffnock stonework. The Bangor Blue slate and glass roof has been reinstated. The cast iron columns and and exterior gates have been sandblasted and painted in the original holly green.
Inside, the painted white brickwork has been maintained and whilst the flooring was probably cobbled, today's concrete version retains St George's utilitarian design. Exact replicas of the original Victorian shops have been designed and installed on the Oxford Street frontage using architectural drawings.
The renovated St George’s Market opened its doors on 14 May 1999.
Events held at St George’s MarketAlthough St George’s Market is primarily used as a market, it is also used for a whole range of events including food festivals, art initiatives, exhibitions, charity launches, fashion shoots and live music gigs.
The market has also hosted contemporary crafts and healthy living fairs as well as a two day motorcycle exhibition.