140 years of bringing Christmas cheer to Clifton House

Benn Dinner 2022

George Benn, who was born on New Year’s Day 1801, was a renowned local philanthropist, historian and benefactor of Belfast Charitable Society. In his lifetime he opened three hospitals in the town, the Benn Skin Hospital, the Benn Ears Nose and Throat hospital and the

David Watters (second left), Chair of Belfast Charitable Society with representatives from the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Christina Black (second left) at the Benn Dinner.

Samaritans Hospital. Not long before he died George also oversaw the change of use from the Poor House to an Old People’s Home when the last child left in 1882. His legacy continues at Clifton House, as ninety percent of the building is still used for the care of the elderly, and the Christmas dinner held in his name will take place today (Tuesday 13th December) for the 140th time!

The Benn Dinner was first held in the winter of 1882 after George bequeathed £1,000 in his Will to enable everyone who resided in Clifton House to gather together and have a Christmas lunch. Since then the Belfast Charitable Society have continued to support this tradition in his name. And every year the event is supported by the current serving Lord Mayor of Belfast.

David Watters (back row), Chair of Belfast Charitable Society and the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Christina Black with local choir from Blessed Trinity College who sang for the residents of Clifton House as part of the 140 year Christmas tradition, the Benn dinner.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Christina Black said: “It’s such an honour to be at Clifton House today as part of this long running Christmas tradition for the residents; especially after the last couple of years when Covid restrictions prevented people from being able to come together and celebrate the festive season. It’s been so heart-warming to witness the ladies and gentlemen from the home enjoying a lovely Christmas lunch together, and to socialise with each other and staff. It is commendable that the Belfast Charitable Society, despite all the recent  difficulties and ongoing cost of living crisis, has kept this important tradition going for 140 years, and I have no doubt many more years to come.”

The event was supported again this year by the Belfast Junior Chamber of Trade, who were able to arrange a special visit from Santa, helping to add to the festive atmosphere and raise spirits throughout the house.

David Watters, Chair of Belfast Charitable Society concluded “The Belfast Charitable Society has entered its 270th year, and I strongly believe that it has stood the test of time because of the ongoing influence of our early Board members like George Benn, whose generosity and philanthropy fed into the everyday relief for the poor who lived in Clifton House. We are so glad that we can continue to carry out George’s wishes, and provide funds to support this Christmas tradition for the residents here. We witness every year how it helps to boost morale, not just of the residents but also staff, and long may it continue”

Belfast Charitable Society News