The history of Belmont Tower

Belmont Presbyterian Church, manse and school.

In the early 1860s, Sir Thomas McClure, a tobacco merchant and future Liberal MP for Belfast lived at Belmont House (now the grounds of Campbell College). Sir Robert donated land along with £1600 for the construction of Belmont Presbyterian Church, manse and school. The church and school opened in 1862. Children were taught separately at the request of their parents; boys were taught upstairs, and girls were taught downstairs.

The school proved popular and saw a significant rise in attendance with 150 boys fitting into a 30' x 21' classroom. Thankfully the students would not have to be taught in such cramped conditions for very long. A new school was constructed on the corner of the Belmont Road and Belmont Church Road, sponsored by Robert Ferguson, of Robertson, Ledlie, Ferguson & Co. (the Bank Buildings). The new school opened on 4 August 1890 and was named Ferguson Memorial School, in memory of Robert's wife, Mrs Mary Ferguson. 

Ferguson Memorial School, circa 1893
Ferguson Memorial School

In 1923, Ferguson Memorial School became known as Belmont Public Elementary School. In 1975, the school was sold to Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB). By 1994, the school building had deteriorated, and an economic appraisal of the building carried out by BELB concluded that a new school should be built on the grounds and in 1999, the building was declared 'surplus to requirements'.

In June 1999, The Old Belmont School Preservation Trust was established. Supported by over 600 local families, politicians, schools and professional advisors, the Old Belmont School PreservationTrust was set up to acquire, restore and preserve the former school for the benefit of the local community. 

The condition report of 2001 identified considerable deterioration in the fabric of the building, with extensive wet and dry rot in the roof structure, floors and staircase; cracked and weathered stonework; rusted and warped window frames.
Belmont Tower restoration

With assistance from Belfast City Council, the Trust purchased the building in April 2001 and commissioned Kriterion Conservation Architect to undertake the restoration work. The building reopened for use in May 2004.


In 2001 the National Trust, who care for many important buildings thought the UK acquired Belmont Tower in 2004 it opened to the public. Where the community now enjoys an exhibition space, rooms to hire local groups and a cafe.