Park of the Month - Ormeau Park, Belfast

Ormeau Park is the oldest municipal park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, having been officially opened to the public in 1871. It is owned and run by Belfast City Council and is one of the largest and busiest parks in the city and contains a variety of horticulture, woodland, wildlife and sporting facilities.

The land for Ormeau Park was formerly part of the Donegall family estate. It became their home in 1807, when the family moved to Ormeau Cottage from their town house in Donegall Place. The building was extended by George Chichester, 2nd Marquess of Donegall, who lived there until his death in 1844. Eventually the family was forced to sell the estate to pay its spiralling debt. In 1869, the area was purchased by Belfast Corporation and it was opened as a park to the public in 1871. The opening of Belfast’s first public park was marked with a parade from Carlisle Circus through Belfast which attracted a large crowd and finished with speeches in the park.

The park was designed by Timothy Hevey, a successful young architect of the day. He won a competition for the best design for 100 acres (0.40 km2) of parkland. The present-day park still roughly follows his design with several alterations. Some of the land is home to the 9-hole course of Ormeau Golf Club, and other nearby land near Ravenhill was laid out in playing fields. The embankment road cut off the river frontage of the park in the 1920s.

The park has been used for Orange gatherings on the twelfth as well as other open-air events such as revival meetings. It was also the scene of the first meeting of the Ulster Vanguard on 18 March 1972 when William Craig called on his followers to attend following his decision to leave the Ulster Unionist Party. Joined by 100,000 followers Craig made a controversial speech in which he stated that “we must build up a dossier of the men and women who are a menace to this country because if and when the politicians fail us, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy”.


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