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  • Belfast Between The Wars


Belfast News-Letter, Friday 29th April 1938

North Street Arcade, to which tradesmen are now putting the finishing touches, is an important addition to one of Belfast’s most popular shopping centres. It is an outstanding example of the shopping arcade, and comprises no fewer than 29 first-class shops. Not the least of its merits is the fact that it provides a much needed thoroughfare from North Street to Donegall Street, opposite the officers of the “Belfast News-Letter,” and with its North Street end close to Garfield Street, forms a convenient through route from Royal Avenue.

The architects responsible for the planning of this important development are Messrs. Cowser & Smyth, A.A.R.I.B.A., of 13, Donegall Square North, Belfast. They had a very difficult site on which to work, but they have turned all the difficulties to good account. On plan the Arcade is straight from North Street, leading to a circular rotunda which is about equidistant from North Street and Donegall Street. From the rotunda the Arcade sweeps round towards Donegall Street in a graceful quadrant. The total length is 292 feet. This plan, which was dictated by the exigencies of the site and the surrounding property, is most attractive, and adds to the interest of the general scheme.


The 29 shops are of various sizes, and each has a floor about approached by a staircase. All have independent lavatory accommodation, and gas, water, and electricity are laid on. Air ducts have been provided between each pair of shops so as to give adequate ventilation.

Steel frame construction has been used, and this has an important advantage in permitting the removal of party walls between shops, if required. Two or more shops can thus be made into one if a tenant so desires.

All shops have hardwood floors, and the rooms about them are lit by roof lights. The shop fronts are modern and attractive, with their bronze frames, marble plinths and pilasters, and teak doors glazed with etched glass.

At the Donegall Street end are two larger shops, one on each side of the entrance. Each of these shops is 33ft. square, and unlike the other 27, which have one floor above, these have two. The upper floors are splendidly lighted, the first by wide windows overlooking Donegall Street, and the top floor by five small windows and two large roof lights.

The lighting of the Arcade is also all that could be desired, both by day or night. By day it seems to be even brighter inside the Arcade than outside, this being the effect of the glass roof, helped by the bright colour scheme of the walls. The artificial lighting is thoroughly up-to-date, and is provided by a system of fluorescent tubing which runs round the cornice on either side. This gives a soft decorative lighting which is very pleasing. In the roof about the rotunda is a dome, on the under side of which is concealed lighting of a soft orange shade.

The floor of the Arcade is of cream coloured terrazzo, divided by green border strips. Materials which ensure easy upkeep have been used. Above the shops the walls are faced with artificial marble which can be wiped down, and the same applies to the fluted glass used above the cornice. Care has been taken to provide a good circulation of air. A concealed system of direct ventilation has been adopted, and this has the further advantage of preventing condensation on the glass roof. The width of the Arcade is 14 feet between the shop fronts, and 18 feet above them. The diameter of the rotunda is 30ft.

At the North Street end are the caretaker’s apartments, with bedrooms, bathroom, etc., and large living room overlooking North Street. Also overlooking North Street are certain rooms in the old building which have been converted into offices for letting. From the caretaker’s rooms there is direct access to the flat roof of the Arcade.

A feature has been made of the entrances from both North Street and Donegall Street. At North Street the elevation has been carried out in cream terrazzo slabs, marble and granite, and there are moulded panels to the jambs of the first floor windows. The name of the Arcade is placed above the entrance in neon sign lettering, and other neon signs have been placed at the sides of the building. The entrance itself, which is carried to the height of two stories, is imposing, and has a marble fret lining.


The Donegall Street façade, which is entirely new, is of special interest. Architecturally, it is one of the finest examples of commercial design in the city centre. The entrance, which is the height of two storeys, dominates the façade, and is led up to by the smaller doors on either side – one to each of the two shops. On the first floor are wide windows, and the whole composition is drawn together by the row of small windows on the second floor. The entrance, like that in North Street, is 23ft. 6ins. in height, and has a lining of green marble fret.

A bronze canopy projects above the entrance, and on the underside of the canopy, a strip light has been placed. Set into the wall below the canopy is a Portland stone panel, with a group of sculptured figures representing the linen industry. This is a reminder of the building which formerly stood on the site – the warehouse of the Brookfield Linen Company, designed by the late Mr. W. H. Lynn after the manner of an Italian palace, and long regarded as one of the finest buildings in central Belfast.

The Arcade shops which have frontages in North Street and Donegall Street have bronze frames, teak doors, and trimmings of granite and marble. The upper portion of the Donegall Street frontage is carried out in reconstructed stone.

The Arcade has been built by the North Street Development Co., Ltd. The lettings are in the hands of Messrs. J. Alfred McAuley & Co., of 12, Arthur Street, Belfast.


All the glass for the entire contract, consisting of 32 shops, including North Street and Donegall Street fronts, was entrusted to Messrs. Campbell Bros. British glass-plate was used throughout. The edges of the glass are mitre-bevelled and secured with bronze clips and screws in the modern style. Triple-embossed plate-glass was used for the doors, and in the transoms new decorated reeded glass. The total area of the glass was approximately 10,000 super feet. Messrs. Campbell Bros. state that it is the largest contract for shop front plates carried out in the city.


The black Bonaccord granite and Issore green marble pilasters and plinths are tastefully finished with Greek key pattern surrounds, and the doorways are finished in light Swedish green marble. The flooring throughout the arcade and porches is cream coloured terrazzo. These contracts have been carefully executed by Messrs. Toffolo, Jackson & Co., of Glasgow, whose representatives are Messrs. A. N. McClinton, Ltd., of 35, Wellington Place, Belfast. Messrs. McClinton also represent the Pennycook Patent Glazing & Engineering Co., Ltd., of Glasgow, who have made an excellent roof over the Arcade, composed of patent glazing with spherical glass domes, cupola lights and also lantern lights. The work has been carried out in a first-class manner throughout.


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