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1884 – Ulster Reform Club, Royal Avenue, Belfast

Architect: Maxwell & Tuke

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In 1880, a a group of Ulster Liberals debated whether the cause of the Liberal Party should be advanced by formation of a Club in Belfast similar to the Reform Club in Manchester. After coming to the conclusion that it would, and a suitable site on Royal Avenue was acquired, a design was put out to competition and the successful firm was Maxwell & Tuke of Manchester. The construction contract went to Mr James Henry of Crumlin Road, Belfast, at an estimated cost of £12,000. The building has a fine interior with a spectacular billards hall with a high wooden ceiling (now a function room).

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Although formed as a Liberal Club, within a few years the Club’s political complexion had changed to that of Liberal Unionism in reaction to Gladstone’s espousal of Irish Home Rule. For decades the Club had a political committee strongly influential in the Ulster Unionist Party but it was not until 1964 that remaining references in the Club Rules to Liberal-Unionism were changed to simply Unionism. By that stage in any case politics were playing a much less significant part in the life of the Club which had become primarily a social centre in the city for business and professional people.