The beauty of the Belfast City hall does not end with its glamorous external appearance. It is also equally magnificent from the inside. This is mostly due to the efforts of the Architect who made sure that he went into intricate detail to ensure that the structure was completely perfect in every way possible. The main things that will be shown at the tour are the following:
1) The Main Entrance
2) The Grand Staircase
3) The Dome
5) Council Chamber
6) Reception and Banqueting Halls
7) The Great Halls
1) The Main Entrance of Belfast City Hall
The entrance is quite dramatic and impressive. The visitors are ushered in through a grand Porte Cochre and Vestibule. The vestibule is marble lined. There is also a direct view of the Grand Staircase right in front. The staircase, as will be discussed later, uses four types of Marble. Three of these are from Italy while the fourth is a type of Marble found only in Greece. There is also a portrait of the Earl of Belfast being mourned by his mother after his death. The Earl died before his time due to a violent attack of Scarlet fever.
2) The Grand Staircase of Belfast City Hall
This staircase is built from for different types of Marble as already mentioned before. Some of the types are Carrara, Pavonnazzo and Brescia. The Carrara is a special type of Marble that is got from Italy. Its specific feature is its colour which is a pretty mixture of blue and grey. It gets its name from the city that it is quarried from called the Province of Massa and Carrara. It is in Tuscany Italy, a few miles away from Florence.
Brescia on the other hand is a type of Marble with a pinkish hue that is from Lombardy in Italy. The stairs go winding up the building and are lined by large glass windows. The Glass is stained to produce beautiful stories and municipal events such as the granting of cityhood to Belfast and the Original Charter by King James the First etc. The Earl of Belfast has a statue of himself made in his honour which is placed on the first floor.
Since he was supposed to be a person who was very literary as well as extremely culturally oriented he is depicted with books in his right hand. Additionally there are paintings of the Lord Mayors of Belfast over the years. The only exception is the one of Sir James Johnson which was destroyed by the German Raids.
3) The Dome of Belfast City Hall
As already mentioned there are four domes on all four corners. However, the dome that the visitors are taken to is the principal dome. As stated, this dome rises to a height of about 53 meters. There is also something called the Whispering Gallery. The whispering gallery here is somewhat similar to the one in St Pauls Cathedral.
It is called that because anything a person whispers in one end of the gallery can be heard at the other end. It is made that way by using certain principles of sound and acoustics. It can be a very entertaining and fun thing to try out. Apart from a dome it can also be made using two parabolic dishes. Such an effect is also observed in some caves.
However, in the case of the Belfast city hall such an effect was not intended and happened due to some minor quirk while it was being made. Above the dome is a round string of stained glass windows that are painted with signs of the Zodiac. The ship and Bell Symbols are alternated which has been taken from the Belfast Coat of Arms. A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat ortabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer.
Thus the term is often stated as “coat-armour”, because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement which consists of shield, supporters, crest and motto.
The design is a symbol unique to an individual person, and to his family, corporation, or state. Such displays are commonly called armorial bearings, armorial devices, heraldic devices, or simply armorials or arms. Above the Dome there is a smaller dome that can be noticed only if a person looks very carefully.
4) The Rotunda of city hall Belfast
The Rotunda is the name used to refer to the first floor. It is basically a landing and is round or rotund hence getting its name. It is very artistic. It is particularly fancy as it is filled with what can only be called classical influence. The dome is supported by four main arches. There is also a circular viewing hall. This circular viewing hall is basically a circular gap in between the Rotunda. From the gap the Hall below can be seen directly.
The one thing that has to be seen here is a large and beautiful Mural. This mural was painted by a famous Belfast artist called John Luke. It was put up during the 1951 festival of Great Britain. It was put up by the council for encouragement of the arts.
5) The Council Chamber in city hall Belfast
This is an important part of the City hall from the point of view of Governance of Belfast. The Council members usually meet in this hall on the first of every month. Due to this, if the people visit the City Hall on that day they will have to skip this part of the tour. This chamber is comparable to the house of the Commons in Westminister. It has a circular seating arrangement.
This is convenient when it comes to meeting and discussions because every individuals face is very clearly seen. It faces a central gangway and there is a slightly upraised dias at the center where people stand and make speeches. The lord Mayors chair is usually up there and is flanked by the deputy Lord Mayor and the Chief Executive Officer. The Chamber has many portraits such as that of King Edward, The Earl, Sir John Levery etc. There is also an oak screen to form the backdrop for their seating. It is hand carved and pierced hence making it extremely delightful to look at.
6) Reception and Banqueting Halls
The Reception hall is the smallest of the three of the functional rooms. It has fancy work on the ceiling. The work on the ceiling is mostly plasterwork that shows the Belfast Coat of Arms, The Royal Arms as well as the Chichester family. The Chichester family are one of the most famous families of Belfast known for their Benevolent deeds.
A glass case shows off the 1613 Royal charter as well as the signed charter from queen Victoria that elevated Belfast to the status of a city. The walls are also made of Oak. They are, like the backdrop in the Council chamber elaborately carved. They also show the Royal Arms and the Arms of Lord Donegall and Lord Shaftesbury.
7) The Great Hall
The great hall was always considered to be an impressive part of the City Hall. However, what makes it more impressive is the fact that it was the part of the hall that was affected most by the german raids that hit it during the second world war. The Great Hall had been almost completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
These Air raids that caused so much of Damage are now referred to by the term the Belfast Blitz. It happened on the fateful day of Easter Tuesday, 15th April 1941. The Germans used no less than two hundred bombers who belonged to the German Air force. This was part of their aggressive policy. Around 900 people died of the bombings and around 1500 were severely injured. Additionally almost half of the houses in Belfast were partially or completely destroyed.
This was all as a part of Germanys aggressive policy. The second raid happened on Sunday 4th January 1941 where around 150 people were killed. It was during this that the great hall suffered the damages mentioned. In 1952 the hall was rebuilt and has now been restored to its original glory after the years that have passed and restoration work that has taken place.