Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life of C.S. Lewis, Part 4, Queen’s University Belfast and the Surrounding Area - page 1


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From the Winter 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life
of C.S. Lewis, Part 4, Queen’s University Belfast
and the Surrounding Area

by Sandy Smith, Ph.D.
Author of C.S. Lewis and the Island of His Birth

The three previous articles of this series focused on three locations in Belfast that have strong associations with C.S. Lewis and his family. These locations and the focus of the articles were (1) Little Lea, his boyhood home from 1905, (2) Dundela Villas, where C.S. Lewis was born in 1898, and (3) St. Mark’s Church where Lewis was baptized in 1899. Events that took place at these locations shaped Lewis’s early life and influenced it forever.

his fourth and final article in the “Surprised by Belfast” series focuses on the area of south Belfast, now often called the University Quarter. Traveling south from the city center, the University Quarter commences after passing Shaftsbury Square; it is bounded by the main arterial routes of the Ormeau Road and the Lisburn Road that run radially outward from the Shaftsbury hub until they reach the outer ring of the city. The sector enclosed by these boundaries contains the buildings that comprise the main campus of Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), the Botanical Gardens, sprawling student accommodation, dozens of church buildings, schools, coffee shops, offices, and restaurants of every description. Its heart is a thriving, bustling mixture of interesting architecture that contains the beat of new generations of young university students charting their paths in life. Within a dozen miles from the center of the city, the journey out through the University Quarter takes you through an area that gradually becomes more residential and more affluent in character, and eventually becomes the green landscapes and gently undulating hills of County Down.

Queen’s University

  Although the university buildings today can boast an eclectic array of architectural styles, the school’s beginnings were mainly contained in what is known as the Lanyon Building, named after its architect Sir Charles Lanyon. The beginning of Queen’s can be traced back to the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, founded in 1810, making QUB the ninth-oldest university in the United Kingdom. In 1845 a charter was granted by Queen Victoria for the establishment of three colleges in Ireland which together were known as the Queen’s University of Ireland. The three colleges were Queen’s College Belfast, Queen’s College Cork, and Queen’s College Galway. In 1879 the three colleges were associated as the Royal University of Ireland (RUI), and in 1907 the RUI was dissolved to form two new institutions, the Queen’s University Belfast and the National University of Ireland. The current charter for QUB was established in 1908. Following the establishment of Queen’s College Belfast in 1845, the Lanyon Building opened in 1849, serving some three hundred students. It requires little imagination to capture the difference in the level of activity from those early beginnings to the current university that accommodates some twenty-four thousand students.
  C.S. Lewis did not study at Queen’s. However, his mother, Florence Augusta (nee Hamilton) did. Flora was born in Ireland in 1862. In 1874 she came with her parents to Belfast from Rome, where her father, Thomas R. Hamilton, had served the Anglican community as a curate for four years at the Church of Holy Trinity. On the family’s arrival in Belfast, Flora continued her early education at Methodist College, which comprises a series of architecturally imposing buildings, occupying a large site just opposite both the Lanyon Building of QUB and the Botanical Gardens on Belfast’s University Road. On completion of her studies at Methodist College, Flora progressed to Queen’s College Belfast, where in the early 1880s she completed a BA degree in mathematics.

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