Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Funding and Development Agency
for The Arts in Northern Ireland

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Arts Council opens doors for European Heritage Open Days

Monday 5th September 2005 at 12pm 0 Comments

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Saturday 10 th September: 10am – 4.45pm

Sunday 11 th September: Not Open

Entrance is free of charge

Tours on the hour include some of the Arts Council’s art collection

(Directions: MacNeice House is on right hand side, facing entrance to Queen’s Elms Village, heading countrywards on the Malone Road out of Belfast.)

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will open its doors to the public on Saturday 10 th September 2005 in a special event to mark European Heritage Open Days.

European Heritage Open Days is a popular annual celebration of Europe’s built heritage, taking place in 48 countries throughout Europe, and providing the public with the opportunity to visit a diverse range of private houses, public buildings, monuments, churches and gardens – all free of charge.

MacNeice House, the current home of the Arts Council, is one of the 200 buildings of special architectural or historical interest in Northern Ireland that the public will be able to visit over the second weekend of September.

Designed by the Belfast architect Samuel Stevenson for James Johnston, a successful tea merchant, this imposing double-fronted Victorian merchant’s villa dating from 1889 is in many ways typical of the substantial late-nineteenth-century houses which were built for the wealthy industrialists and entrepreneurs of Belfast.

The house has been known by several different names and performed various functions over the years. As James Johnston’s home it was known as ‘Dunarnon’. After Johnston, it functioned for a period as a Church of Ireland bishop’s palace. In the 1940s it became Aquinas Hall, a Dominican convent school and residential accommodation for female students at nearby Queen’s University.

When the Arts Council took up residency in 2001, they renamed the building MacNeice House to highlight the building’s links with the famous Belfast-born poet Louis MacNeice, whose father, John Frederick MacNeice, lived in the house as Church of Ireland Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore. Indeed, it is reputed that the poet wrote the poem ‘Snow’ in one of the ground floor rooms. The house also enjoys further literary connections with the poet Paul Muldoon who recalled clandestine visits to it – and the link with MacNeice – in his poem ‘History’.

European Heritage Open Days in Northern Ireland are co-ordinated by the Environment and Heritage Service for Northern Ireland. Full list of participating venues in Northern Ireland on www.ehsni.gov.uk/built/built.shtml

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