‘Cregagh’ recalls the story of how once rural surroundings have developed into an urban environment. The story takes the form of a journey and looks at the way things used to be. It starts at the River Lagan at the Albert Bridge and goes along Woodstock Road then Cregagh Road to Bell’s Bridge and Cregagh Village, Hillfoot, Glenburn and Lisnabreeny.
History of Cregagh
‘Cregagh’ (also spelt ‘Craigah’ or ‘Cragie’) is Anglicised Gaelic and one definition is that it means ‘the rocky place’. In 1831 the Lagan Bridge, later known as Albert Bridge, was opened and meant that easy access to Belfast town, from Woodstock and Cregagh, was made possible. Often new building development was on the site of a grand old residence but the name has survived. A few examples from Cregagh are the names of Jocleyn Gardens on Woodstock Road, named after a large house located nearby called ‘Jocelyn Cottage’, once the home of an ancestor of a well known East Belfast men’s outfitter called Robert Cochrane. Nettlefield Primary School is named after a residence called ‘Nettlefield’ which was the home of former Belfast town Mayor (1854 and 1869) Frederick Lewis. Willowfield Parish Church and St Anthony’s Catholic Church are located on grounds once owned by local resident and another former Belfast Mayor (1866), William Mullan who lived in a grand villa called ‘Willowfield’.
In the East Belfast Historical Society Journal Vol. 3 No. 2, Dr John Wilson Foster wrote of his memories of Cregagh in an article entitled ‘A country boyhood in Belfast’. The heart of Belfast, if it had a heart, was a short trolleybus ride away: ten minutes at most, five at a quiet hour, and those trolleybuses whistled down the Cregagh Road (pronounced ‘Craigie’ by most, but ‘Craigah’ by posher inhabitants) every three minutes. It was probably the best bus service the world has ever known. The trolleys have long since given way to petrol buses, but like many I remember the trams before them, those two-faced vehicles that could come or go on a whim. The lines they had clamoured on remained after the trams vanished and they were always a peril for the cyclist, unless he rode shamefully on one of those thick wheeled and invulnerable roadsters (Rudge or Hercules) of the type farmers and the RUC favoured.
William Hamilton is a butcher and is the son of butcher W.R. Hamilton who operated a shop at 52 Albertbridge Road and recalls life in the 1930s. The shop staff worked from 8.00am until 6.00pm each day with a half day on Wednesday. My mother cooked dinner for the men every day. They worked until 7.00pm on Friday when she also made them their tea. The shop was open until 9.00pm on Saturday. There was no cash register in those days and the takings were put into an open drawer. Inside the shop there was a small office and a separate scullery and tea-room where my mother did all the cooking for the staff and everybody wore a butcher’s apron. My father and mother plus my two sisters Lily and Agnes, as well as myself and my brothers Charlie and John lived above the shop in rooms which we called ‘the attic’. We went to Mountpottinger Presbyterian Church on Castlereagh Street and tried to get a place in Mountpotttinger Public Elementary School. But there were no places available so we went instead to St. Clements School across the road at first and then Euston Street School.
Quite a crowd boarding the Cregagh trolleybus at Cromac Square just outside St George’s market approaching East Bridge Street in 1950. The building to the left is the post office and has since been demolished. Notice the square-setts and the tramlines.
(Courtesy of BC Boyle)
In 1936 Malone Rugby Football Club moved to premises with a single pitch at Gibson Park, Cregagh, previously occupied by Willowfield Football Club. The 2nd XV of Malone Rugby Football Club are pictured here with the Junior League title which they won jointly with CIYMS in 1938
(Courtesy of Malone Rugby Football Club)
Cregagh trolleybus terminus was opened in 1951 and this is how it looked in 1958. At the far left the wall of the Castlereagh Rural District Council Offices looks very new and this part of Cregagh Road has a modern look to it although some cobble-stones remain on the road surface. The Hillfoot Road in the distance has not yet been widened to form the A55 dual carriageway and a magnifying glass will reveal the signage at the front of ‘Speedy’ Graham’s wee shop.
(Courtesy of Ronnie Ross)
This large residence, photographed in 1910, is Lisnabreeny House and it was owned by the Robb family, who owned a large department store at Castle Junction in Belfast, and donated it along with 157 acres of land to the National Trust in 1937. It is now the Music Centre of Lagan College.
(Courtesy of Desmond Patterson)