The railway reached Portrush in 1855 and contributed to the rapid growth of the seaside resort by providing fast, cheap transport from the major ports and across Ireland.
The original station with its one platform was replaced in the spring of 1893 with the grand mock Tudor style building behind you. Designed by Berkeley Deane Wise this improved station had three platforms, each 180 metres long, an impressive café to service up to 300 customers and mock Tudor style cottages on the main concourse providing newspaper, confectionery, tobacco, etc.
Adding to the architectural splendour is a 16-metre-high clock tower with four faces, each one and a half metres in diameter.
Another legacy of this fine building is the large grandfather platform clock made by Sharman D. Neill of Belfast which stands 5 and a half metres tall and is currently on display in the Coleraine offices of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
When the railway station was completed in Portrush in 1893, an open space, adjacent to the new building, was transformed into a public space known as the Pleasure Grounds. The enclosure provided visitors with an area in which they could enjoy strolls by the shore and listen to music being played in an ornate bandstand. In 1909, the Pleasure Grounds became the site of a new venture called the Winter Gardens.
A large pavilion was built with a rink to accommodate hundreds of roller skaters, a popular pastime of the period. In the years which followed, “this Pavilion” also hosted dances, concerts, movies and side shows including a shooting gallery and bowling alley.
Barry’s Amusement Park opened seasonally on this site in 1926. It was run by James Chipperfield of the famous English fairground and circus family. James’s daughter Evelyn married Frank Trufelli, a renowned animal trainer who toured with the Royal Italian Circus. Frank & Evelyn took full control of Barry’s in Portrush in the early 1930s.
By the late 1930s many of the amusements were enclosed within a new building, while the larger attractions were located outside, overlooking the shore.
Barry’s has provided many great holiday memories for young and old. There are still some who remember the American GIs taking it over, for Christmas 1943, to host a party for the local children. In the decades since, visitors have enjoyed exciting rides on the ghost train, dodgems, swing-boats, over-the-tops, chairoplanes and the “Big Dipper” roller coaster. While the mirror maze, slot machines and children’s railway were always crowd pleasers.
Frank and Evelyn’s daughter Louisa helped with the management after the death of her mother in 1964. Their son Frank Trufelli Junior took the reins in 1972 and today Barry’s is run by his daughters Kristina and Lisa.
At the junction of Mark Street and Kerr Street stands the Town Hall. This fine building was designed by sir Charles Lanyon, the architect famous for such iconic edifices as Queen’s University and Belfast Castle. It opened in August 1872 as the Assembly Rooms.
It originally contained an Assembly Room (large enough to accommodate 500 people), a circular Reading Room, Kitchen, Caretaker’s Apartments and other rooms which the Coleraine chronicle reported would be made available for the “Brethren Of The Mystic Tie”, or Freemasons.
The Town Hall proved to be a popular and well used venue. It became the offices of the local Urban Council and the administrative centre for the town. In 1928, the building was extended to better facilitate the theatre and a small cinema projection room allowed regular film shows. Since its opening the hall has been providing a centre of entertainment for locals and visitors alike with variety shows, concerts and a summer theatre season which has become an annual attraction since 1954 and once again is home to a traditional Christmas pantomime.
It continues to provide a valuable and essential service to the community for theatre performances, exhibitions and meetings.
Holy Trinity Church was built in the Gothic-Revival style and consecrated on 19 July 1843. Over the next 50 years, it underwent a considerable enlargement as Portrush expanded. By 1858, the congregation had increased with the rapid growth of the town and the church underwent a considerable enlargement.
During the 1880s, the church was further enhanced with a clock in the church tower, followed by a chancel and a new organ. At that time, Holy Trinity was one of the largest churches in Ulster and could seat 1,000 worshippers on a busy Sunday during the summer season.
The adjacent Parochial Hall is believed to have originally been built at the same time as the church as a dwelling for the church sexton. Later, it became a school for girls and, during the 1930s, it was a venue for a “working men’s club” for members of the congregation. The boys’ school was on the adjacent site now occupied by the red brick former bank building.
This church replaced an earlier one located at Ballywillan about one mile south of the town. Ruins of the old church here date back to the 12th Century. It has no roof now, but the walls are intact.
It’s an important site from an archaeological point of view. It’s not known who built this church, nor is there a definite date of its building but this place would certainly have been the main Parish church for Ballywillan.
In the early 16th Century came the Reformation and, as was the case with so many others, this church would have been taken over by the Church of Ireland.
The Portrush Presbyterian Church was built in 1843, around the same period as the Church of Ireland, Methodist and Roman Catholic places of worship and during a time of rapid expansion in the town. The architect was John Williamson, a member of the congregation.
Securing money for the construction of the church required considerable effort by the first minister, Reverend Jonathan Simpson, and he traveled 14,000 miles across America and to Scotland to raise the necessary funds.
The building was extended in 1861, to accommodate a larger congregation following the 1859 Religious Revival, and again in 1920 to increase the seating from 600 to 900 worshipers.
A schoolhouse and lecture hall were also built in the grounds during the 1850s and during the twentieth century it was extended to hold three classrooms. The building was listed in 1977.
The present Methodist Church was consecrated in 1887 and replaced an earlier building completed in 1832 which had also served as a school for local children.
It is one of the few Methodist churches to have a bell.
The bell was cast in 1681 by Francis Fremy of Amsterdam. It was gifted to the church by Dr. Clarke, who received it from the Duke of Newcastle, who In turn was given it by the Earl of Durham a former U.K. Ambassador to Russia who was alleged to have received it from the Czar of Russia, Alexander I. The bell unfortunately was chipped which resulted in an unusual chime when rung on Sundays. The bell is now displayed in the Church porch.
Dr. Adam Clarke was born in Tobermore, Co. Londonderry and held the most senior position in the entire Methodist Church in 1806, 1810 and 1826. On his retirement, Dr Clarke returned to Ireland and began an ambitious plan to open six schools and chapels for the poor.
Tragically, Dr. Clarke died in 1832 before he could see the building completed in Portrush. The obelisk was erected in 1859 on ground behind the church to mark the centenary of Clarke’s birth. It was moved to its present position in 1916.
Work on St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church commencing in 1845.
Over the next six years, progress was steady as more money was raised by the congregation and the church was completed and dedicated on 17 August 1851.
The neighbouring parish school building was erected in 1855, then a parochial house in 1859, followed by a teacher’s residence.
In 1937, an extension to the church increased the capacity from 300 to 750 parishioners.
This striking former Belfast Bank building was completed in February 1898 and was the work of the architect Vincent Craig, of Belfast. It was highly praised at the time for “the artistic beauty of its design…singularly pleasing by the tasteful intermingling of Dungiven stone dressings with red brickwork”.
Features such as the ornamented turret with its Italianate conical cap beneath which are monster festoons and blind oculi together with a restless mixture of oriels, gables and dormers enhanced its unique appearance while the aesthetic appeal was matched with the necessary functions expected of a bank building.
The building was also a domestic dwelling for the Bank Manager. It had a pantry, kitchen, servants’ rooms, dining room, drawing room and the luxury of indoor lavatories upstairs. Each of the six bedrooms “vied with the other in the enchantment of the views” while the drawing room originally had a veranda facing over Main Street.
The bank’s strong room had brick walls, floor and ceiling which were two feet thick. The premises were in constant use for 114 years, becoming the Northern Bank in 1970 and later the Danske Bank in 2005, before closing in 2012. It was listed in 1977 and is now a protected heritage building.
Henry Hamilton established the prosperous White House department store in 1891 selling fashionable ladies and menswear, with “Irish homespuns, hosiery and lace, Irish china and hand-embroidered Irish linen” available to customers.
He was born in Portglenone in 1851 and came to Portrush as a young man looking for employment. He worked as an apprentice to “a grocers” business for a few years before he was enticed by the exciting prospects of riches and success in America.
When Henry returned from America in 1890, he was a wealthy young man and he had the foresight to realise that mail order was a lucrative market and his shop published its first catalogue, “The White House Budget” at Christmas in 1899.
The White House became famous for supplying “Irish homespuns, hosiery and lace, Irish china and hand-embroidered Irish linen” across the world, including to British royalty and an Indian Rajah! It is believed the town’s post office was built with three storeys specifically to cope with the pressure of the White House mail order business.
In 1965, the White House was sold by the Hamilton family and today it is part of the portfolio of the Ulster Stores Limited.
The Majestic Cinema had its opening performance on 10 April 1939 with ‘Pygmalion’ starring Leslie Howard. It had seating for 780 people, 400 seats in the stalls and 380 in the balcony. It was a classic example of “Art Deco” style and was furnished to a very high standard.
In 1956, it was taken over by the Rank Organisation. By 1970, with the advent of television, and the onset of the Troubles, it was forced out of business.
The cinema resumed business in 1977 and was re-named the Playhouse but closed again within a few years. Fortunately, it has now been re-developed as a successful venue combining a popular bar, cinema and theatre.
The Portrush Post Office was built in 1908 to replace an earlier smaller building further down the street to cope with the huge demand created by the mail order service offered by the White House department store.
It was the biggest and most modern provincial Post Office in Ireland. Every December since 1899, Henry Hamilton’s popular store had published 20,000 copies of a colourful catalogue called the “White House Budget”.
As the Christmas season began in 1906, the latest list of “Irish homespuns, hosiery and lace, Irish china and hand-embroidered Irish linen” was dispatched, for free, to thousands of eager customers.
A century later, the premises are now owned by Portrush Community Enterprises and house a public library, with the upper floors converted into apartments and offices.
On 1 May 1838, the Antrim Arms Hotel opened, on the site of what is now the Portrush Atlantic Hotel, promising guests that it was “the most agreeable establishment of the kind, combined with comfort, elegance and utility, no expense has been spared”.
It had luxuries such as hot, cold and shower baths and water closets (or toilets). Advertisements proclaimed that its larder was “well supplied with the best provisions and wines and other spirits were selected with the greatest care”.
It was clear that the Antrim Arms Hotel wanted to attract only the finest guests and this was emphasised later that summer when it hosted a grand ball and supper, attended by the Mayor of Coleraine as guest of honour.
By 1870, the Antrim Arms Hotel had acquired a pleasure garden facing the front entrance, known as the Antrim Gardens, with a band stand for concerts. It also had two vegetable gardens to supply the kitchens. In addition, the nearby bath house was operated by the hotel, with 16 baths and a steam engine to pump the saltwater up from the sea.
In 1883, the Hotel was purchased by the Belfast & Northern Counties Railway Company. The name was duly changed to the Northern Counties Hotel.
The Northern Counties Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1990. The current hotel was rebuilt on the same site.
The Arcadia Café was built in 1911 by local business partners John Campbell and Robert A. Chalmers who owned a grocer’s shop on Main Street.
The site had previously been called the Rock Shop and the original premises were a “garden roof café…overlooking the ladies’ bathing place” which could accommodate 200 people.
The location added to the popularity of the venue and customers were entertained by Madame Levantes’ Ladies’ Orchestra as they enjoyed the spectacular sea view.
In later years, another storey was added, and further expansion included a ballroom in 1953 where concerts and dances were held (now demolished).
Popular showbands performed at the Arcadia during the 1950s and 1960s, including local favourites the Dave Glover Orchestra. In addition to a café, the Arcadia now also includes an upstairs function room which was the original ballroom used for tea dances and concerts.
In 1870, William and Isabella Osborne arrived in Portrush and opened the Londonderry Hotel. Within a year, Isabella was widowed, and, for a couple of years, she took over as the proprietor of the hotel.
At that time, there were only four hotels in Portrush, all of which were highly profitable. By 1876, Isabella had used her shrewd business acumen to sell her shares in the Londonderry Hotel and buy the neighbouring premises, in which she opened the Osborne Temperance Hotel.
The Londonderry Hotel passed through several owners over the next century, each of which expanded the number of rooms and improved the experience for the guests. At its peak, it could cater for 70 residents and provided popular licensed premises, entertainment and a restaurant.
The Old Lifeboat House at Lansdowne was the second lifeboat boathouse in Portrush.
The R.N.L.I. station was established at Portrush in 1860 with a lifeboat called Zelinda which had a transportation carriage, and was kept in a boathouse at Kerr Street, beyond the south pier of the harbour and overlooking the Mill Strand.
In 1892, a slipway for the lifeboat was constructed near Portandhu, followed by the boathouse in 1900.
The Osborne Temperance Hotel closed in 1919 and the premises were bought by Hugh Black and converted into a new restaurant called the Trocadero and a Bakery and Patisserie.
By 1921, the Trocadero was advertised as the “finest restaurant in the Kingdom” where tourists could “find everything they desired”. However, within a year, disaster struck when the restaurant burned down, damaging the electricity network and causing a complete black-out in Portrush.
All was not lost, and within months, the restaurant was open again for the new season. Crowds packed the tables and enjoyed the “Afternoon Jazz Teas”, accompanied by the Trocadero Orchestra, while being served continental cakes in the “daintiest style” while accompanied by the music from the Trocadero Orchestra or Sibbald Treacy’s Trocadero Quintet.