The Black Box is housed in a Grade II listed building on Hill Street in the Historical Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, originally constructed c. 1850 and converted into its current usage as an arts venue in 2006.Hill Street, a narrow cobbled street running from Waring Street to Talbot Street, was first depicted on the 1757 map of Belfast as an entry running off Waring Street, the entry was originally known as Pott-House Lane due to the presence of a pottery shop along the street.

By the 1822 map of Belfast, the current layout of the street showed various structures lined the street, including private dwellings, a foundry and, in the mid-to-late-19th century, numerous public houses and licenced properties (Patton, p. 192).

Patton states that the building was constructed in c. 1850; however it is possible that the building possesses an earlier history. In 1843 the Belfast Street Directories noted that a Mr. Henry Steen, a provision merchant, operated from premises on Hill Street next to Elliot’s Court (the same location that Robert Atkinson was recorded from a decade later).

The original construction date of the building is difficult to ascertain due to the extensive refronting of the property in 1871 resulting in the current façade. The property was acquired by Bass. Ratcliff & Gretton ltd., English Brewers sometime before 1900 and continued to occupy the site until the mid-20th Century. Bass’s warehouse survived the heavy bombardment of the Belfast Docklands during the 1941 Blitz.

bb_outside_sqPatton noted the ‘interesting detail’ incorporated into the façade of nos 18-22 Hill Street describing the building in the following terms: ‘central carriageway entrance has chevron-sheeted doors with ornamental hinges, and large head in a garland of roses on keystone; other ground floor opes depressed lancets containing paired windows with barley-sugar columns under circular lights; roundels between windows contain carved shamrock, thistle, eagle, rose and motif of three barrels, emblematic of the various breweries whose wares were distributed from there’ (Patton, p. 193).

Nos 18-22 Hill Street was listed in 1981 by which time it had been subdivided into three addresses, nos 18, 20 and 22 Hill Street which were each utilised as offices; the First Survey Image records that by the 1980s the ground floor windows facing onto Hill Street had been blocked up while the building was still occupied by Irwin & Campbell.

Further, the stable block located to the rear of the building was demolished sometime in the late-20th century when the modern extension to the rear of the building was constructed. The site continued to be utilised as offices until 2006 when the current occupants came into possession of the building and converted the former licensed warehouse into the diverse culture and arts venue named the Black Box.

The Black Box continues to occupy the building and has been established as one of the principal arts and entertainment venues in the city, ‘a home for live music, theatre, literature, comedy, film, visual art, live art, circus, cabaret and all points in between’.

(Thanks to NIEA Built Heritage Department)
1. Patton, M., ‘Central Belfast: An historical gazetteer’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1993

Contact us

The Black Box & Green Room Café
18-22 Hill Street | Belfast | BT1 2LA

Tel: +44 (0) 2890 244400

Registered Charity No: NIC100983

Supported by

Belfast City Council ACNI & Lotto John Hewitt Department for Communities Film Hub NI BFI Cinema Children In Need