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The history of Minnowburn

Bridge over River Lagan, Minnowburn, Northern Ireland
Bridge over River Lagan, Minnowburn | © National Trust Images

We first became involved at Minnowburn in June 1945, when the Minnowburn Beeches, a famous stand of trees alongside the Ballylesson Road at Shaw's Bridge, was under threat when a felling permit application was requested.

Protecting this special area

As the Shaw's Bridge was a well-established retreat and walking destination for Belfast, the Trust stepped in to buy the ten acres surrounding the trees and protect this special area from development.

A generous offer

With funds unavailable and pleas to local Malone Road residents unsuccessful, out of the blue a local philanthropist Bennett Sergie offered the full amount of £1,400, equivalent to about £45,000 today. Unfortunately, before the Trust could purchase the land, Bennett Sergie sadly took his own life.

Success at last

However, the publicity Bennett’s offer had generated meant that the felling was delayed and the Beeches were eventually acquired in 1952, with help from the Ulster Land Fund. As further land became available around the Beeches, the Trust purchased an adjoining field of 17 acres in 1962 to further protect the area.

View from the garden at Terrace Hill at Minnowburn, County Down, Northern Ireland
View from the garden at Terrace Hill at Minnowburn | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Terrace Hill

In 1938, Ned Robinson decided to spend his fortune, made in Northern Ireland’s world-renowned linen industry, on a new house and garden. Like many of the linen magnates of the time, he wanted a grand house overlooking Lagan valley, providing picture-postcard views at the centre of industry and transport.

More important, however, was a garden suitable for hosting evening parties. Terrace Hill Garden was born, in the Italian sunken garden style, with Art Deco and Arts and Crafts influences.

Purchased with a grant

And yet just over two decades later the area was under threat from development, having moved on from Belfast’s industrial heyday.

When the owner of Terrace Hill applied for planning permission to build houses on their property, fearful that the development would spoil the surrounding area, a the National Trust purchased 100 acres with a grant from the Ulster Land Fund, bringing the property to the size that it is today.

A musical concert

The Pop for Peace event was an open-air concert held in the Sandpit field at Minnowburn in 1969. It was organised by a priest, a politician, two nightclub promotors and a music journalist.

Promoting peace

The concert aimed to bring the young people from across Belfast together while promoting peace and harmony in a time of religious divide. The organisers were an unlikely group of allies from different religious backgrounds. At the time this was a brave decision. In their own words the concert aimed to bring an end to senseless bickering and public disorder.

Hosting the show

The concert was originally planned to take place at the Balmoral show grounds although at the last-minute permission was withdrawn. We stepped in allowing the promoters to host the event at Minnowburn.

Visitors in the garden at Terrace Hill at Minnowburn, County Down, Northern Ireland
Visitors in the garden at Terrace Hill at Minnowburn | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Telegrams of support

At this time the song 'Give Peace a Chance' by the Plastic Ono Band was number one in the music charts, and 'Give Peace a Chance' stickers were given out to concert-goers. One of the event organisers, Donal Corvin, invited John Lennon and Yoko Ono to perform at the concert. They were unable to attend, but instead sent two telegrams of support, one of which read, ‘All we are saying is give peace a chance, Love John and Yoko.’

The telegrams were used as prizes for the people who collected the most rubbish on the day.

The River Lagan at Minnowburn, County Down, Northern Ireland

Discover more at Minnowburn

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From the majestic Minnowburn Beeches to the peaceful Terrace Hill Garden, Minnowburn is a haven just outside the city. Take a look at what you might find on your next visit.

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