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The History of Belfast


The name Belfast comes from the Gaelic ‘Beal Feirste’ derived from the River Farset which means ‘mouth of the sandy ford’. The banks of the Farset became the first quaysides of the developing merchant city and the river flowed beside docks on High Street into the 19th century. In the late 18th century it contributed to being one of many Belfast rivers which provided the power for early industrialization by powering factories and supplying essential water to the Mills for linen production.

The history of Belfast dates back to the 17th century and started to grow during the plantation of Ulster when charters were granted to develop land in the province. A Royal Charter was granted in 1613 giving Belfast ‘town’ status where it continued to thrive thanks to its location adjacent to Belfast Lough. It soon became a port for wool, grain and food exported to and from Ireland. By the end of the 17th Century other industries had also begun to develop in the town including linen, tobacco and rope making.

Success in the linen trade was matched with the rapid expansion in shipbuilding, particularly with the opening of the Harland & Wolff shipyard in 1862 who built the infamous RMS Titanic in 1912 amongst others. At the height of prosperity, the shipyard was one of the biggest and most productive in the world employing a vast number of the workforce in Belfast. By the end of the 19th century, Belfast had grown from strength to strength and Queen Victoria granted Belfast the ‘city’ title in 1888.

Today Belfast continues to develop and grow as a popular tourist destination and cultural hub. As the birthplace of the Titanic, Belfast’s maritime heritage is portrayed at its best with the sensational new Titanic Belfast visitor attraction. Visitors can explore and experience first hand the Titanic Quarter where Titanic was built and marvel at the city skyline dominated by the world famous Samson and Goliath cranes.

Learn more about: Belfast's Titanic History

Main image: Belfast City Hall, BELUM.Y.W.10.21.82 © National Museums Northern Ireland Collection Ulster Museum


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