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Stained glass windows

One of the features of City Hall which visitors enjoy is the collection of stained glass windows that are located throughout the building. The windows which illuminate the Grand Staircase, East Staircase, Principal Rooms and Chamber are all original to the building from 1906. Since opening stained glass windows have been unveiled in City Hall to mark historic events or celebrate the contribution to the city by various individuals, organisations or groups.

Some of the most recently unveiled stained glass windows can be viewed by visitors along the North West and North East corridors from the main reception while the historic windows on the first floor can be seen on one of the daily guided public tours of the building.

Belfast Women’s window

(Ground floor, north west corridor)

Throughout history women have made a diverse and invaluable contribution to Belfast, playing a significant role in shaping the city.  Belfast City Council’s Women’s Steering Group commissioned the window after a notice of motion to council which was supported by all the political parties to celebrate, recognise and pay tribute to the outstanding contribution by the city’s women. 

The council’s Women’s Steering Group worked with the women’s movement across the city and a local historian to develop the window which is an illustration of Belfast women mill workers, and signifies the struggles that women have faced throughout history, some of which still exist today.  

Working conditions in the mills were horrendous, wages were low, hours were long, health poor and life expectancy low.  Women outnumbered male workers but were paid much less, and employers often issued the women with fines for laughing, singing or even adjusting their hair to keep wages low.  

In response to their poor treatment, the women formed the textile workers section of the Irish Transport Workers Union and united to organise the Belfast Linen Strike of 1911.  The women mill workers showed solidarity and courage and that courage, strength and faith is an inspiration to the women of today. They believed, ‘if you have faith and courage in each other, you can win’. Women, both present and future will continue to play an important role in leading and shaping our city and changing lives for the better.  Through celebrating their history and contribution to the city Belfast city council’s women’s steering group hopes this window will inspire and unite women to continue the work for equality for all and for the uplifting of women’s lives. The window was unveiled in the week of International Women’s Day 2016 by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Arder Carson on Thursday 3 March 2016 and was designed, manufactured and installed by Alpha Stained Glass.

RUC window

(Ground floor, north west corridor)

This window was installed as a tribute to the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Reserve in recognition of their services to the people of Belfast since 1969. In the centre of the window is the RUC coat of arms. The coat of arms consists of a harp, crown and shamrocks. At the bottom there is an open scroll with an inscription in Latin. It reads as follows: “PROBITAS, AEQUITAS, MISERICORDIA, COMITAS, VIRTUS”. The English translation is honesty, impartiality, courtesy, compassion and courage. The window was unveiled by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor Councillor David Alderdice on 10 February 1999. The following year in April 2000, Her Majesty the Queen awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary to honour the courage and dedication of the officers of the RUC and their families; who shared their hardships. This was at a special ceremony at Hillsborough Castle, Co. Down. In 2006 the window was removed to incorporate the George Cross and then reinstalled.

British Army window

(Ground floor, north west corridor)

This window was commissioned in tribute to the corps and regiments of the British Army who have served in the city of Belfast and the province since 1969. It has a border of blue flowers with an image of a drum on crossing bells in the top centre. The coat of arms is detailed with a red hand on a clear background and a red dragon on yellow background. There is also a large motif of a lion standing on a crown over crossed swords. Within the coat of arms there is a fish and a ship, a red hand, a female harp figure and a castle. The window was unveiled by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor Alderman Herbert Ditty on 30th April 1993. The window was created CWS Design in Lisburn in 1992. 

UDR window

(Ground floor, north west corridor)

The window features a union flag and a green flag crossed over a wreath topped with a female figure and crown. It is surrounded by a green and red border. Underneath it reads, “In memory of all those who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment 1970 – 1992”. This window was first unveiled by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor Alderman Nigel Dodds on 29 May 1992. On the 6 October 2006, Her Majesty the Queen awarded the Royal Irish Regiment the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in recognition of the bravery, sacrifice and service of the home service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment and their forebears, the Ulster Defence Regiment. The cross was added to the window and unveiled by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor Alderman Gavin Robinson on 2 June 2013. The window was created by CWS Design, Lisburn. 

World War I North Irish Horse window

(Ground floor, north east alcove)

The window centres on a figure in medieval gold armour. He is holding a sword. There is above a smaller figure of St George on horseback slaying a dragon and two plaques. The first one reads, “To the memory of the officers, NCO’s and men who joined the North Irish Horse and lost their lives in the great war 1914 -18 and those whose names are recorded on either side of this window. This memorial is erected by surviving members of the regiment.” The second one reads, “This window was unveiled by Brigadier General Anthony Ashley Cooper, Ninth Earl of Shaftesbury KP GNVO CBE colonel of the regiment 30th April 1925”. The window was created by Ward and Partners, Belfast. 

World War II North Irish Horse window

(Ground floor, north east alcove)

The window comprises the North Irish Horse motto and a female harp figure topped with a crown. There is also the large sword of sacrifice with a small halo of stars. The first plaque reads, “To the memory of the officers, N.C.O.’s and the men of the North Irish Horse who lost their lives in the Second World War 1939-1945 and whose names are recorded on the tablets on either side of the window. This memorial is erected by the surviving members of the regiment.” The second plaque reads, “This window was unveiled by Major General David Dawney CB DSO and Honorary Colonel of the Regiment 28th October 1962”. The window was created by Caldermac. The artist is J. Calderwood. 

Spanish Civil War window

(Ground floor, north east corridor)

The window marks the contribution of those Belfast citizens to the anti-fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 – 1939.About 320 Irish volunteers fought against Franco’s forces as members of the XV International Brigade. Of these, forty-eight were born in Belfast. Twelve died in Spain. The Spanish Civil War became for many an opportunity to stand against the growth of fascism. Men and women from all over the world answered the call to defend democracy and their working class counterparts.

Northern Ireland, already impacted by political and religious divisions, was deeply affected by these events and many local people took part in the Spanish aid campaign, including Belfast activists Alderman Harry Midgley, Betty Sinclair, Sam Haslett and Sadie Menzies.

They played a significant role at home, raising awareness to support the democratic cause abroad. The Spanish Civil War Window was unveiled by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor Councillor Arder Carson on the 24 November 2015. The window was designed, manufactured and installed by Alpha Glass with the agreement of all of the political parties on the council.

The Celtic Myths and Legends window

(Ground floor, north east corridor)

The main inspiration for the work was the imagery from the story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, together with the moral tale of fighting over riches were no-one ever wins. Queen Medbh of Connacht and her warriors attempted to steal the great bull, Donn Cuailnge, owned by the men of Ulster. Medbh wanted the bull to match the white bull of Connacht, Finnbennach, owned by her husband. The central figure is Cuchulain, shown at the ‘gap of the north,’ protecting the borders of Ulster against the onslaught by Medbh’s armies. The Connacht warriors were no match for Cuchulain, who was said to become divine when engaged in battle. The Irish text on the window roughly translates as “a blessing be upon all such as faithfully keep the rain in memory as it stands here and shall not add any other form to it” and was taken from the 12th century book of Leinster. The window was commissioned by Belfast City Council with financial assistance from the good relations programme of the Office of the First/Deputy First Minister. The window is the first in City Hall to have Irish text. It was unveiled by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor Councillor Niall ó Donnghaile in 2012. 

The Belfast Dockers Strike window

(Ground floor, north east corridor)

The artist of the window is John McLaughlin. In a statement he said, “I designed this window in 2007 to commemorate the Belfast Dockers’ Strike of 1907. The window shows a protestant worker and catholic worker linked arm in arm, a woman representing the workers for the cigarette factory and a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary reminding us of their solidarity with the strikers. They are united in one cause as they stride forward together to demand fair rights for workers. The resonance of their actions roars like thunder in the present political world of Northern Ireland and the absolute need for workers and everyone else to stand together is personified in the image of the great orator James Larkin seen in typical stance at the top of the window while his spirit guides the marchers.

The lower segment of the window depicts the Custom House which is Belfast’s ‘Speakers’ Corner’ where ‘Big Jim’ held many public meetings. On the steps I have placed a poster seen on the falls road at the time of the strike with the words ‘Not as Catholics and Protestants, not as republicans and unionists, but as Belfast workers standing together'

Behind Larkin at the bottom of the picture we see a flurry of banners and flags of many colours which represent the different origins, beliefs and loyalties of the strikers. I first heard of Jim Larkin when my legs were so short that they dangled from the form at the breakfast table where my father taught us about the nobility of the trade union movement. He was a committed trade unionist and I dedicated this window to him.” Designed by John McLaughlin, the window was manufactured by Calderwood Glass Ltd and was unveiled Thursday 10 May 2007 by The Right Honourable Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy.

The Famine window

(Ground floor, north east corridor)

This window illustrates the horrors of one of Ireland’s greatest disasters and its impact on the citizens of Belfast. The stained glass window was commissioned to commemorate the plight of all those citizens of Belfast who suffered and died as a result of famine and famine related diseases, such as typhus and cholera. The worst effected years were 1846, 1847 and 1848. Those who perished during the famine were laid to rest in mass common graves in the Shankill, Friar’s Bush, Clifton Street and Donegall Road graveyards. 

The window features a woman in a graveyard, a starving father and daughter weeping over a boiling pot; and a woman and child toiling in a field searching for edible potatoes in the blight-ravaged crops. Also featured is Clifton House, used as the poor house for Belfast’s destitute. The bent figure of a woman by the gravestones was an only too familiar sight in a tragedy which affected everyone, irrespective of social status. The emigrant ship (depicted in the window) was a blessed escape at least for those who could afford the cost of a steerage passenger ticket for a voyage to the ‘new world’.

The plaque underneath reads, “this window was unveiled by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor Councillor David Alderdice on 23rd March 1999”. The window was designed and made by Calderwood Stained Glass Ltd. It was commissioned by Belfast City Council with the support of the arts council of Northern Ireland through its national lottery fund.

The Pathways window

(Ground floor, north east corridor)

This window is dedicated to the memory of all the individuals and their effected families whose organs and tissue were removed and retained without the knowledge or consent of relatives and families following post-mortem examinations in former times. The outline of a mountain peak and converging pathways speak of hardship shared by those who mourn; while the leaves fall silently from the tree as tears. A red ribbon binds all together in passion and pain. The rising sun however signifies promises of a new dawn. Hope is symbolised by doves ascending and a butterfly spreading its wings in anticipation of flight. United in the light of remembrance, both candles and a multitude of stars preserve the memory of the many loved one commemorated by this window. The Pathways Memorial Window was unveiled by The Right Honourable Lord Mayor Councillor Tom Ekin on Tuesday 18 January 2005.The window was funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and was designed by Nora Gaston. The design was in collaboration with members of the relatives’ reference group and Karl Harron. It was manufactured by Glass Scene.

The Centenary window

(Ground floor, north east corridor)

This window is a celebration of the many successes and achievements witnessed by City Hall during the past 100 years. Included in the window are Titanic and the Harland and Wolff cranes, ‘The Beacon of Thanksgiving’ (more affectionately known as “Nula with the hula”), the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’ (better known as ‘The Big Fish’) and the Waterfront Hall. The aircraft industry is illustrated by the Skyvan and the first Vtol aircraft in the world, both created by Shorts. The splitting of the atom was achieved by Ernest Walton in 1932. Achievements in the fields of sport, music and literature are also represented and the City Hall mural is represented by the John Luke inspired landscape in which we see a Massey Ferguson tractor and an ‘Electric Hare’ invented by James McKee of OD Cars Ltd. The multicoloured tree reflects the many different traditions and cultures found within Belfast. 

Designed by Ann Smyth, the window was fabricated and installed by CWS Design in collaboration of Karl Harron. The window was unveiled by The Right Honourable Lord Mayor Councillor Pat McCarthy on Tuesday 12th December 2006.

The grand staircase windows

(Leading from reception to Rotunda, first floor)

The grand staircase is lit by 21 beautiful stained glass windows original to the building from 1906. Seven large windows display the family crests of four individuals prominent in the history of Belfast, the city coat of arms and then portraits of the monarch at the time of unveiling, Edward VII and his wife Alexandria. Below each of these designs appears a tablet recording important municipal events from the granting of the original charter by King James I on 27th April 1613 to the redefining of Belfast as a county borough in 1899. Smaller panels radiate outwards from each of the panels with the names of those individuals who are listed on the original 1613 charter. The windows moving clockwise beginning on the far left display:

  1. William Lewsley - The name is presented within a wreath.
  2. The coat of arms of Henry Le Squire, Constable of the Castle of Belfast - A silver and green shield with the head of three swans with crowned blue medieval armour above. Below the arms is displayed the first of the historic tablets in which it is written “1613 Belfast constituted a borough by charter of King James I on April 27th. John Vesey, first sovereign”.
  3. John Willoyhby - The name is presented within a wreath.
  4. Carey Hart - The name is presented within a wreath.>
  5. The coat of arms of Thomas Hibbotts, a burgess mentioned in the original charter - Three fleurs-de-lis piercing through the heads of gargoyles appear on a silver and green shield with blue medieval armour above. The historic tablet below states “1688 charter annulled by James II and a new one issued but the original charter was restored by king George II”
  6. John Ash - The name is presented within a wreath.
  7. The emblem of a crowned rose, thistle and shamrock - Presented within a wreath.
  8. Edward VII - Portrait of King Edward VII 1906. A tablet appears below with the inscription, “1840 by municipal corporations (Ireland) act; the constitution of the corporation was changed. George Dunbar, first Mayor."
  9. The emblem of a crowned rose, thistle and shamrock -  Presented within a wreath.
  10. John Vesey, first sovereign of Belfast in 1613 - The name is presented within a wreath.
  11. Belfast coat of arms - The centre window of the staircase is the coat of arms of Belfast.Underneath reads the following inscription “1888 the charter of Her Majesty Queen Victoria conferring the rank and privileges incident to a city upon Belfast”.
  12. John Vesey, first sovereign of Belfast in 1613 - The name is presented within a wreath.
  13. The emblem of a crowned rose, thistle and shamrock - Presented within a wreath.
  14. Alexandra Regina - Historic tablet below reads “1892 the style and title of Lord Mayor conferred by Her Majesty upon the Chief Magistrate of the City of Belfast 20th May Daniel Dixon, first Lord Mayor”
  15. Samuel Boothe - The name is presented within a wreath.
  16. The coat of arms Sir Fulk Conway, Governor of Carrickfergus - A silver and green coat of arms with a diagonal band displaying two annulets and a central rose with blue medieval armour above. Historic tablet below reads “1896 city boundaries extended; the number of wards increased from 3 to 15; corporation to consist of 15 aldermen and 45 councillors”.
  17. James Barr - The name is presented within a wreath.
  18. Waterhouse Crymble - The name is presented within a wreath.
  19. Coat of arms of Moyses Hill, a burgess mentioned in the original charter - A silver and green shield consisting of three gold lions and three gold shells with blue medieval armour above. Historic tablet below reads “1899 Belfast for assize purposes made a country borough and became the county of the city of Belfast. Sir James Henderson, first High Sheriff”.
  20. John Barr - The name is presented within a wreath.

The King’s Tribute window

(Rotunda, first floor)

The window is in dedication to the king’s tribute to Ulster’s contribution in the First World War, particularly to the courage and valour of the 36th Ulster Division. The window depicts a mediaeval warrior and female figure in front of a stone monument headed with the Royal coat of arms. At the bottom is the Ulster flag between the flags of the allies from world war one; Britain, France, USA and Ireland. In the centre is the following inscription, “their name liveth for evermore”. Underneath is the king’s message that reads, “Your prompt patriotic answer to the nation’s call to arms will never be forgotten. I shall continue to follow with interest the fortunes of your division. I pray that god may bless you in all your undertakings”. George I. The memorial window was unveiled by his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Field Marshall the Viscount French of YPRES. K.P., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G. on the 26 July 1920, and was created by Ward and Partners, Belfast.

Sir Crawford McCullagh window

(Rotunda, first floor)

The window is dedicated to the memory of Sir Crawford McCullagh. He was the longest serving Lord Mayor of Belfast. He served for 16 years during three separate periods. In the middle of the window is a portrait of Sir Crawford McCullagh.  Around him are assorted images from his time as lord mayor. At the top there is a description that says, “presented by the citizens of Belfast as a tribute to the distinguished service rendered to the City by Sir Crawford McCullagh Lord Mayor 1914 – 1917, 1931 – 1942, 1943 – 1946”. The window was created by Glass Designers and Factors Ltd, and the artist was D J Braniff.

The Lunette window

(Rotunda, first floor)

The lunette above the grand staircase depicts the Royal coat of arms. The motto in French underneath reads, “DIEU ET MON DROIT”; translating as, ‘My God and my right’. There is a crown thistle and wreath with the motto “BEATI PACIFIC” meaning “blessed are the peacemakers” on each side.

Lady McCullagh window

(Rotunda, first floor)

The window is dedicated to the memory of Lady Margaret McCullagh, the wife of lord mayor Sir Crawford McCullagh. She was subsequently the Lady Mayoress of Belfast. In the centre of the window is her portrait. This is surrounded by depictions of the charitable organisations that she was involved with, namely the Boys’ Brigade, the Scouts, the Guides, the Sailors’ Society and the British Red Cross. It was installed in City Hall to show the peoples appreciation of her contribution to Belfast when she was Lady Mayoress. The window was created by Glass Designers and Factors ltd, and the artist was D J Braniff. 

Whispering Gallery windows

(Central Dome, above Rotunda)

The stained glass windows in the dome above the whispering gallery represent the 12 signs of the zodiac. They are intermittent with windows of either a ship or a bell. There are four of each. The symbols of the ship and bell are taken from the Belfast coat of arms. 

East Staircase

(Leading from Great Hall to east entrance lobby)

The east staircase is lit by seven stained glass windows with the British royal coat of arms at the centre and radiating outwards on each side with the shields of the City of Belfast, Province of Ulster and Country of Ireland.

Council chamber

(First floor)

The stained glass windows of this room display the arms of the Marquess of Londonderry, the arms of the City of Belfast, the British royal arms and those of the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.

Reception room

(First floor)

Three stained glass windows dominate this room, the central displaying the British royal arms and a tablet marking the official opening of City Hall in 1906. This window is flanked on either side by the arms of the city of Belfast.

Banqueting Hall

(First floor)

The four stained glass windows of this room shows the arms of the Earl of Donegall, the British royal arms, the arms of the City of Belfast and the arms of the Earl of Shaftesbury.

Great Hall

(First floor)

These are perhaps the most famous stained glass windows in City Hall as these remarkably are the original windows though this room was almost completely destroyed in May 1941. The room suffered a direct hit by a Nazi bomb during the Blitz of Belfast. The windows had been fortunately removed previously at the then Lord Mayor’s request at the outbreak of war and stored in the basements of Mount Panther House, County Down.  During restoration of the building in 1952 the windows were returned and reinstated to their rightful positions. They display the four provinces of Ireland; Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht; with the three British monarchs who has visited Belfast up until City Hall’s construction in 1906 between each; King William III, Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.

Deputy Lord Mayor’s office and City Hall kitchens

(Not accessible to the general public)

A deer in front of castle is displayed in stained glass which is possibly a reference to the original Belfast castle which stood close to the site of City Hall.

Lord Mayors parlour

(Not accessible to the general public)

A wreath with bell is displayed in the panel of the lord mayor’s dressing room door in stained glass while the room contains three unusual porthole style windows.