In 1888 Queen Victoria granted Belfast the status of the city and it was agreed that a grand and magnificent building was required to reflect this new status. City Hall opened its doors on the first of August 1906, at a time of unprecedented prosperity and industrial might for the city.
The new City Hall was designed by Alfred Brumwell Thomas in the Baroque Revival style and constructed in Portland stone. The incredible building cost £369,000 to complete, the equivalent around 128 million pounds today but remains an extraordinary beacon of success and civic pride for Belfast.
City Hall has many connections with the famous ocean liner Titanic. Viscount William Pirrie who was Lord Mayor in 1896-1897 just before City Hall’s construction, was also managing director of Harland & Wolff Shipyard. He is the man credited as having the idea for both ambitious builds. He used many of his skilled workmen in the fit-out of City Hall which is why the interiors today are considered an incredible insight into the finish of Titanic’s lounges and suites, the ship’s carving panelling being very similar.
The current Belfast Coat of Arms dates from 30 June 1890 when the Ulster King of Arms made a Grant of Arms to the new city of Belfast.
The motto Pro tanto quid retribuamus comes from Psalm CXVI (116), verse 12 of the Bible.
The precise origins and meanings of the symbols contained on the Coat of Arms are unknown. But images such as the bell, the seahorse, the ship and the chained wolf were all used by 17th century Belfast merchants on their signs and coinage. The seahorse, which is used twice, shows the maritime importance of Belfast, as does the ship at the base of the shield.
The name Belfast also originates from the Gaelic Beal Feirste, which means mouth of the river.