Mary Ann McCracken Foundation highlights the plight of women living in Afghanistan

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Mary Ann McCracken Foundation
highlights the plight of women living in Afghanistan

On Thursday 18th November, the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation hosted its inaugural annual lecture, focusing on the challenges facing Afghan women.

Many of us have watched in horror as events in Afghanistan have unfolded. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee, fearing for their lives and escaping conflict. Speaking at the event was Dr Sima Nazari, a successful Afghan doctor who was forced to leave her home country following death threats from the Taliban. Sima shared the heart-breaking story of having to leave a job she loved, a job which she worked so hard to get, having put herself through medical school, all because she was a woman.

Also speaking at the event was Bilal, an Afghan national who served as Cultural Advisor and Interpreter for British Forces in Afghanistan from 2009 until 2014. Bilal’s intricate knowledge of Afghanistan enabled him to secure safe passage for many vulnerable Afghans this August, including Dr Sima Nazari. Bilal is worried about the impact of women like Sima disappearing from public and civic life.

Dr Sima Nazari’s patients do not now have a doctor. Women, many-many thousands of women, will give birth without any medical help. This is replicated across all areas of society.

According to WHO, Afghan mothers already have the highest mortality rate, at one in eleven women dying in child birth. This figure, and that of infant mortality, will undoubtably sour with the disappearance of doctors and nurses from hospitals across the country.

Bilal also worries about the long-term impact of young women growing up without an education, about the pressure on families who now are reduced to one income and the lost opportunities of women being a role model for the next generation.

Attendees also heard from Sara. Sara came to the UK as a refugee at the age of six.  She successfully graduated from University this year, something women in Afghanistan are denied. She now helps other Afghans who have arrived in the UK to navigate the housing system, access to schools and translation services. Language is not the only barrier for people arriving into the UK. With more and more services moved online because of Covid, access to digital devices is also now becoming an issue.

The final contributor at this significant event was Liz Griffith from The Law Centre NI. Liz spoke passionately about the proposed changes to legislation within the Nationalities and Borders Bill, changes which would result in division and segregation of those refugees which make their way into the UK ‘on their own steam’. The future of these people would be very uncertain, they would be striped of their refugee status, and ultimately left in limbo. Something which goes against human rights law. Liz called on everyone at the event to do what they could to raise these issues with their local MPs

To close, Bilal painted a very dark picture of what the future holds for many millions of Afghans who haven’t been lucky enough to escape. Women and children will die of starvation this winter. More women will die in childbirth this year than last year. This situation is even worse for widows, like my mother. They will have no means to provide for their children. The lights have been turned off in Afghanistan by the Taliban but I’m asking everyone here not to forget the Afghans who have been left behind.”

Due to ongoing conflict and drought, many women and children face malnutrition and starvation. With winter temperatures falling rapidly, people are also in a race to find proper shelter and firewood.  Bilal closed the event by urging people in the audience to do what they can to support charities who are working on the ground in Afghanistan to help alleviate this crisis.

To find out more about the work of the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, visit here.

Social Enterprise Day 2021: Past & Present

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is like any other business in that it works to deliver goods and services to make a profit. The difference is that they are driven by their social and environmental purposes and any profit made is reinvested towards achieving these purposes. Today, the government defines social enterprises as “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”

The term social enterprise was first coined in 1953 and has been widely used since the 1980’s, however the principals recognised today as social enterprise are visible in the work which the Belfast Charitable Society was carrying out in the late 18th century.

                                                                                                                                 Our Past

                                                                                                                                 Water Pipes

The first foray into social enterprise was in 1790 when the Belfast Charitable Society (BCS) thought it should supply the town of Belfast with water. Duties were charged on water supplies at this time, but unsurprisingly not everyone was willing to pay. The Society believed if it took over the water supply there would be two immediate benefits; the health of the town would improve because they would supply clean water and the Society would benefit from the collection of water rates which would allow it to pay for the running of the Poor House. Between 1790 and 1840 the Belfast Charitable Society invested £30,000 in the water supply for the town, yet not everyone paid their dues to the Society! In the end the Society had to approach the government who ultimately set up the Belfast Water Commissioners to look after the water infrastructure of the town.

Clifton Street Cemetery

The Society’s next move into social enterprise was more successful. It decided a graveyard was required. This graveyard was to enable the Poor House to have somewhere to bury the dead from the House, but also to generate an income by selling plots in the cemetery. In 1797 the “New Burying Ground” was opened. Plots were very expensive with “walled plots” being sold for £12 10s. The “New Burying Ground” was so successful it had sold out by the 1820’s and additional ground was made available. Running the cemetery was not without its difficulties including warring families and the dreaded body snatchers, however it did provide an important source of income to the Society to support the Poor House. It also enabled the Society to teach new, but necessary, skills and to provide employment to the men of the Poor House and surrounding areas. Coffin makers, grave diggers, nightwatchmen and caretakers were all required and the Society were able to train and employ many people in these essential skills supporting them to become financially independent.

Our Present

Today Clifton House, the original Poor House, operates as a events and heritage venue. In keeping with our roots, it is run as a social enterprise. The income from our conference hire, tours and talks is one of the revenue streams which enables Belfast Charitable Society to continue the work of promoting philanthropy and addressing disadvantage 269 years after its foundation. Some of the ongoing philanthropic work of the Charitable Society is set out below:

 

Barbour Fund

This fund was set up through a partnership with the Hilden District Nursing Society, the Barbour family and BCS. Aims to support activities for older people, disadvantaged young people and skills development. To date over £180,000 has been awarded: creating training courses and jobs; providing bursaries; delivering activities and placing hundreds of volunteers with older people.

Great Place North Belfast

A 3-year project (2018-2021) of the North Belfast Heritage Cluster supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This local Heritage Cluster is comprised of 15 organisations responsible for historic buildings and sites stretching across one mile from the City centre into north Belfast. This project, led by co-funder BCS, will use the unique built heritage and authentic character to deliver and support regeneration in this part of north Belfast.

Mary Ann McCracken Foundation

The Foundation was set up by BCS to celebrate the life and works of this remarkable woman, and her legacy and relevance today. Looking at issues around poverty, modern day slavery, human rights and equality, it will raise awareness and promote conversations around these areas.

Family Early Intervention Support

BCS has supported two part-time home visitors and vouchers for local families in need for three years. Since Oct 2020 almost £6,000 of financial aid has been shared with 80 families (inc over 200 children). The need is identified through a multi-disciplinary approach (60+ organisations) considering North Belfast families facing hardship.

Black History Month 2021: Belfast and the Slave Trade

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized

As part of Black History Month this article explores the abolitionist and pro-slavery elements within the town of Belfast in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Waddell Cunningham

Belfast had many wealthy merchants who owned land, estates and businesses in the West Indies in the 18th and 19th Centuries.  As was the practice at the time, these estates and businesses would have exploited slave labour to harvest crops such as sugar and tobacco.  Waddell Cunningham, a member of the Belfast Charitable Society is probably the most infamous advocate of slavery in Belfast as he attempted to open up the town as a slave port.  Waddell had gone to America in the 1750s and with a business partner, Thomas Gregg, a founding member of the Belfast Charitable Society. Together they established a firm, which by 1775 had become one of the largest shipping companies in New York.  Both men made their fortunes and purchased an estate in the Ceded Islands which they called “Belfast.”

Other members of the Belfast Charitable Society were also involved in the slave trade.  Dr William Haliday, a physician to the Poor House, owned sugar estates on the island of Dominica.   Valentine Jones was another founding member of the Society.  He imported rum and sugar into Belfast as well as running a wine merchant business.  He had established a thriving agency in Barbados buying and selling to the planters. His eldest son, another Valentine, lived in the Caribbean for some 33 years and was elected a member of the Barbados House of Assembly.

Back in Belfast in 1786, a group of local businessmen considered launching a new Belfast-based slave-shipping venture that, in their eyes, might bring fresh prosperity to the town. Waddell Cunningham was the lead figure in this venture. For one local and radical citizen, this was anathema. On the night the prospectus was presented Belfast Charitable Society member Thomas McCabe attended the meeting and declared – ‘May God wither the hand and consign the name to eternal infamy of the man that will sign this document’. The venture never came to pass.

Thomas McCabe was not alone in fighting for the abolitionist cause in the town. The Northern Star, the newspaper of the United Irishmen movement which was operated by some members of Belfast Charitable Society, including Robert Simms and Samuel Neilson, would tell its readers that ‘every individual, as far as he consumes sugar products becomes accessory to the guilt [of slavery].’

Dr William Drennan (© National Museums NI)

William Drennan, visiting physician to the Poor House, and founder of the United Irishmen was responsible for helping to draw up a petition, which was passed around the town, collecting signatures against slavery. He hoped it would be a blow against those Belfast traders who sold such Caribbean products as molasses and rum as well as those who exported foodstuffs and shoes from here to the Caribbean.  Not untypical of the toasts offered at Belfast dinners in this era was the one suggested in 1792 by Belfast Charitable Society member and the owner of The Belfast News Letter, Henry Joy – ‘to Mr Wilberforce and a speedy repeal of the infamous traffic in the flesh and bone of man’.

Our next post will look at the visit of Frederick Douglass to Belfast and the abolitionist activities of Mary Ann McCracken.

 

Belfast Charitable Society & the Belfast Blitz: Return From Garron Tower

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized

Following air strikes in April 1941  those in charge of Clifton House set about making arrangements to get the residents and the staff out of Belfast. They ultimately settled on Garron Tower on the North Coast as a safe refuge.

Garron Tower was a quiet, isolated spot compared with life in the city of Belfast. Rationing also had an impact. In Belfast the relatives of the residents could have easily walked there for visits, however with petrol rationed, even those with cars did not have enough fuel to get to Garron Tower. The Matron requested additional games, gramophone records and a wireless to help the residents wile away the days.

The war rumbled on and everyone was keen to return to Clifton House. As 1945 was drawing to a close and it seemed the war had finally ended, the Committee went to the army, who used Clifton House during the war, to seek the return of the building. Five and a half years after leaving the House, the Belfast Charitable Society Board returned on 31st August 1946 and set about the mammoth task of to organising the transportation of our residents, equipment, furniture and staff back to North Belfast. It was an enormous relief to all involved when, on this day (25th October) 1946 the buses brought the last residents back.

Black History Month 2021: Equiano and Belfast Charitable Society

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News

Each week as part of Black History Month Belfast Charitable Society will be exploring the multifaceted history of the charity from its connections with black abolitionists and enslaved people to the abolitionist and pro-slavery movements in Belfast. The second  in this series looks at Olaudah Equiano, one of the first black abolitionists to visit Ireland.

Equiano himself had been born in Africa and kidnapped into slavery at the age of ten or eleven and was forced to become a sailor. It was said that an Irish man encouraged him to learn to read and write and ultimately he managed to save enough money to purchase his freedom. As a first generation enslaved person, Equiano knew of traditional customs in his homeland and could speak to the cruelty of the passage from Africa to the Americas. After purchasing his freedom, he settled in London and visited the House of Commons to listen to debates around slavery. In 1789, he published his Interesting Narrative, which helped to propel him to the forefront of the abolitionist movement.

In May 1791 Olaudah Equiano journeyed to Dublin to organise the fourth printing of his Interesting Narrative which detailed his experiences and the reality of slavery. He spent the next eight months in Ireland touring and promoting the sale of his book.

Equiano said that he was ‘exceedingly well treated, by persons of all ranks’ in Ireland, and found the people of Belfast to be particularly hospitable. During his time in Belfast Equiano lodged with Samuel Neilson who lived at what is now the site of the Northern Whig building. Neilson was a leading radical and in the same year as Equiano landed in Ireland, Neilson was involved in the establishment of the United Irishmen. The Neilson home was a hub of political activity and it is likely that Equiano met many of the key personalities involved with the early United Irishmen movement. Equiano was still a guest with Samuel when the Northern Star, the newspaper of the United Irishmen, first appeared in January 1792. The paper was abolitionist in outlook and condemned those who supported the slave trade through the purchase of sugar, rum and molasses.

During the time of Equiano’s visit, Samuel Neilson was treasurer of Belfast Charitable Society and on 17 December 1791, Equiano attended a committee in the Boardroom of the Poor House, now Clifton House. Equiano returned to England, but appears to have disappeared from public life, due to his connections with radical and revolutionary groups on both sides of the Irish Sea, around 1794. He died in London aged 52 in 1797. Sadly, his place of burial has never been identified.

Black History Month 2021: William John Brown and his escape from slavery

Black History Month 2021: William John Brown and his escape from slavery

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized University News

In August 1830 William John Brown appeared before the magistrate at the Belfast Police Court. Mr Brown, an enslaved man from America, entered the courtroom accompanied by members of the Society of Friends.

Newspaper reports describe him as looking crestfallen and physically frail- the fifty-year-old slowly took the stand and was said to have recounted his story in a feeble voice. William was enslaved as a young man in Virginia, but had worked his way out of bondage and received his papers of freedom. Now a free man he got married and had five children and settled in Baltimore, Maryland. However, in 1826 a band of slave speculators, commonly known as ‘slavers’, arrived at his family home where they manhandled him, placed a blindfold over his eyes, bundling him into a waiting cart and drove off. During the course of the attack, they also took possession of his cherished papers. Arriving soon after at a nearby port the slavers forced him to board a slave ship which set sail from Maryland and arrived in New Orleans. While in New Orleans he was sold numerous times and ultimately he was forced to load bales of cotton onto trading vessels, many of which were bound for Europe. One such vessel was the copper-bottomed brig the Planter owned by John Vance, a cotton and cloth merchant based in Donegall Place, Belfast.

Brown managed to secure the trust of one the Planter’s crew. Buying a dollars’ worth of biscuits from him. Brown told his sympathetic confidante that, once the cargo was loaded, he was going to escape from his captors. Once the last bale was in the ship, Brown made his way into the brig’s hold and hid inside a bale of cotton as the Planter set sail for Belfast. During the voyage, he kept himself alive on his dollars’ worth of biscuits and only ventured out at night for water. As the brig was being unloaded in Belfast, Brown made good his escape but was spotted by a crewmember who informed the police. While in custody, the police contacted the philanthropic Quakers who appeared in court to lend their support to Brown’s testimony and to vouch for his character. Having listened intently to his story the Magistrate felt proud to announce that the man who stood before him was no longer a slave and that he would leave his court room a free man.

William John Brown went on to find employment as a labourer in Belfast, living near Smithfield Market. However, the trials and traumas of his life finally exacted their toll. He died in November 1831 and was buried  in an unmarked grave in Clifton Street Cemetery run by Belfast Charitable Society. A tragic note beside his entry in the burial records that his wife and children were still enslaved in America.

 

Mr Girmondi, Dancing Dogs & the Belfast Poor House

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized

There have been some unusual donations to Belfast Charitable Society over the years, many of them recorded on huge wooden boards with the details of donors stencilled on. On this day (30 September) 1818 Mr Girmondi, who was in Belfast entertaining the citizens of the town, became one of these donors. Girmondi was the proprietor of a troop of ‘Dancing Dogs’ and he donated a days takings from his exhibition to the Poor House in order to support its work.

You too can support the work of Belfast’s oldest charity! Our weekend tours offer something for everyone- from our Friday afternoon Mary Ann McCracken Walking Tours, to our Saturday and Sunday  tours of Clifton House and Clifton Street Cemetery.

Come along and discover the stories for yourself!

For more information and to book click here

Hello Autumn!

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized

Hello Autumn!

Where did the summer go! At Clifton House it went in a blink of an eye as we prepared ourselves for re-opening. Our new immersive house tours have been running for four weeks now, and we have settled into our stride. More importantly you have told us you love them!

You love the history and the stories that surround this beautiful Georgian building, and you especially love our new augmented reality app, which, for the first time, lets our visitors see what life was like in Clifton House in the late 18th century when it operated as the city’s Poor House.

We have availability throughout September, so if you haven’t been yet, now is the time! Check availability and book online here

#OnThisDay 1752 Belfast Charitable Society was founded

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized

At the George, 28th August 1752

The evening of Friday 28th August 1752 was cool in Belfast. After closing up their businesses and homes, a group of nineteen merchants, burgesses [councillors] and the local vicar, made their way to the George Inn at the corner of North Street and John Street (now Royal Avenue). It was there in the George Inn that these gentlemen formed the Belfast Charitable Society, to address poverty and help the poor. The names of the founders were recorded in the first minute book of the new society, which is now held in the Clifton House archives:

Margetson Saunders Esqr. Sovrn [Mayor] in the Chair

Revd. Mr. Saurin Valentine Jones William Stewart
Mr Jas. Adair Geo: Black Thomas Bateson
James Getty Samuel Smith John Hyde
Geo: Ferguson James Hamilton Saml. Hyde
Chas Hamilton George Macartney
Willm. Wilson James Ross
Robt. Wilson Thomas Gregg

At this time the population of Belfast was expanding at a great pace due to the growth of its port and the textile industry. The poor lived in ‘ill-ventilated hovels’ with little or no sanitation, and the town’s inhabitants had a limited diet. There was very little provision or support for the poor and so the Belfast Charitable Society set about providing assistance to alleviate the worst of the poverty prevalent in Belfast, mainly through the construction of a Poor House and Infirmary.  It raised the money through a lottery scheme and donations, with the Poor House and Infirmary opening its doors in 1774.

Two hundred and sixty nine years later, we remember these philanthropic individuals for planting the seed of what would ultimately become a Belfast institution. Many of these men did not live to see the project completed. However, their drive and enthusiasm led to the construction of a home for the poor and sick, which would provide relief for thousands of men, women and children through the years.

 

The Founding Members Biographical Notes

Prior to the construction of the Poor House, members of the Belfast Charitable Society were officially appointed as ‘Overseers of the Poor’ in December 1757. Those appointed included the Rev James Saurin, James Getty, Samuel Smith, Valentine Jones, James Adair, John Hyde, and George Ferguson.

Margetson Saunders was the first chair of the Belfast Charitable Society. Margetson was Sovereign (Mayor) in 1752, but he had previously held the position three times in the 1730s, and then again in 1754.

Rev James Saurin was the grandson of the French Huguenot Jean Saurin. James’s grandfather fled France due to religious persecution. James Saurin was born in London in 1719 and married Jane Duff. He became Vicar of Belfast in 1747, a position he held for 26 years. The Rev Saurin used his position to lobby Lord Donegall for the land required for the Poor House. He lived to see the laying of the foundation stone of the Poor House, but passed away two years before the building opened in 1774.

James Adair was a partner in the first private bank in Belfast with Daniel Mussenden and Thomas Bateson, a fellow founding member of the Belfast Charitable Society. Their bank opened in 1752, but was dissolved by 1757. This bank was involved in the second unsuccessful lottery scheme run by the Belfast Charitable Society.

James Getty was the son of the Rev James Getty of Inveraray, Scotland. James Getty Jnr was a Belfast merchant and his signature appears on a number of petitions to notable figures in relation to Irish free trade and the impact of the American War on the merchants of Belfast. Many other founding members also signed these petitions including Thomas Greg, George Ferguson, William Wilson, Robert Wilson and Valentine Jones.

William Wilson was a merchant with interests including coal, tobacco and textiles imported from Glasgow. He was also amongst the signatories of a minority report on financing Belfast’s first police force.

Robert Wilson is believed to be the same Robert Wilson who sold carpets and fabrics in Belfast and who also owned a bleach green at Castlereagh during this period.

Charles Hamilton was a Scottish merchant who came to Ireland to expand his business ventures. Unfortunately, he was not successful and his businesses failed. When he died of typhus in 1759 he left his widow and three children with a large amount of debt. His widow sent one of her daughters, Elizabeth, to live with a prosperous Scottish aunt and uncle. Elizabeth Hamilton would grow up to become a well-known novelist, satirist, educationalist and essayist.

Valentine Jones was a merchant with West Indian interests. The Valentine Jones dynasty, which had premises at Winecellar Entry off High Street, Belfast, were wine merchants and rum and sugar importers. They had established a thriving agency in Barbados where they bought goods from the planters and also sold goods to them. Thomas Bateson, another founding member, was Valentine’s partner. Valentine was involved in a number of public projects in Belfast including the Lagan Navigation proposal, the Brown Linen Hall and of course, the Belfast Charitable Society. The money from his West Indies trade provided substantial finance for these projects.

George Black held the position of Sovereign on five occasions (1775, 1776, 1782, 1783 and 1785) and was later appointed Vice-President of the Belfast Charitable Society. George was the brother of Dr Joseph Black, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, who was famous for his work on carbon dioxide and latent heat.

Samuel Smith, born 1693, was a leading Presbyterian in Belfast and a member of the First Congregation in Rosemary Street. He resided in High Street with gardens extending to Ann Street. He passed away in 1760 aged 67 years.

James Hamilton was appointed as an ‘Overseer of the Poor’ in 1757 and went on to serve at least two terms as Sovereign of Belfast in 1761 and 1769.

George Macartney served as a Sovereign of Belfast. His family line had a proud tradition of serving as burgesses and as Sovereigns. It is likely that the George Macartney who was present at the first meeting of the Belfast Charitable Society was the Sovereign of the same name who donated the ‘Poores Money’ to the Society in 1768.

James Ross was a merchant who owned a number of vessels in Belfast including the brig Koulikan and Ross. The ship registers show the Ross travelling between Belfast, the West Indies and New York. He is a kinsman of Waddell Cunningham, another merchant, who was involved in the Belfast Charitable Society.

Thomas Greg set up a shop in North Street in the 1740s selling provisions including French wine, Spanish fruit, London porter, coal and blue powder for bleaching linen.
Thomas bought a small ship and renamed her The Greg which he used to trade with the West Indies. Through his American trade he acquired a merchant partner in the United States, Waddell Cunningham. Thomas invested in Plantations in the West Indies, and his brother John purchased slaves for the Greg and Cunningham ‘Belfast’ Sugar Plantation in Dominica. He spent much money searching for coal and mineral deposits in the northern counties of Ireland. Thomas invested in the Lagan Navigation; glass manufacturing in Belfast; and founded the Downshire Pottery. When Waddell Cunningham returned to Ireland, the two partnered again to establish a vitriol works for bleaching linen at Lisburn in 1766. In 1783 Thomas was a founding member of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce and in the same year, for reasons unknown, he refused a Baronetcy.

William Stewart built his family seat at Wilmont (now Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park), about 1765, which included an extensive farm, with a sizeable bleach green. William was a merchant with numerous interests including a partnership in the Newry Flour Mill Company and shares in the Belfast Discount Company. The Belfast News-Letter of 4 March 1766 records him selling Bristol Crown glass, Welsh slates, lignum-vitae and various kinds of forest trees from premises at Drumbridge. He also donated £300 to the building of the Linen Hall in Belfast in 1782. William Stewart is commemorated by a tablet in the porch of Drumbeg Parish Church.

Thomas Bateson was a business partner of Valentine Jones and his name frequently appeared in advertisements offering for sale large quantities of West Indian produce. Thomas was also a partner in the firm Mussenden, Bateson and Co, wine merchants, in Winecellar Entry, Belfast. Bateson and Mussenden also collaborated with James Adair to open Belfast’s first bank. Thomas resided at Orangefield House, Knockbreda and Thomas’s grandson Robert resided at Belvoir Estate. Robert continued his grandfather’s philanthropy during his time as landlord giving each of the poor in Knockbreda a bed to help alleviate their poor living conditions.

John Hyde was active in all manners of public life in 18th century Belfast. His main business venture was in partnership with Mr Legg in the Rosemary Street Sugar House.

Samuel Hyde, of Hydepark, was the second name on a list of subscribers in 1740 to a petition from the merchants of Belfast to the Government respecting the conditions of the town’s docks.  Samuel was a founding member not only of the Belfast Charitable Society, but also the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, He died at his house in Castle Place, Belfast. His daughter Elizabeth Hyde married another founding member Thomas Greg.

Belfast Charitable Society Today

269 years after its foundation Belfast Charitable Society continues to benefit the people of Belfast by supporting various charities and philanthropic causes. For more information on its philanthropic projects please click here

On This Day 1818: An Unusual Visitor to the Belfast Poor House

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News Uncategorized

On Saturday 22 August 1818 the Belfast Poor House had a rather unusual visitor. Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia dismounted his carriage at the stone steps in front of the building and was given a tour of the institution by members of Belfast Charitable Society.

The Grand Duke must have been impressed by what he saw as he was shown through the corridors of the Poor House, as he made a substantial donation of £54 to support its work- the equivalent of over £5,000 today. His name was subsequently added to one of our donation boards which originally hung in the main entrance hall.