Short Strand - Ballymacarrett Tourism & Heritage Initiative  

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The concept of our walking tours are aimed at bringing an authentic community dimension to tourism; it will allow the visitor to not only visit and learn, but also for that short duration feel part of Belfast within that environment. 

There is a need for local narratives that can create an authentic experience and allows communities to become the stakeholder within the industry.

Community history shapes and influences many aspects of Belfast thinking and can greatly add to the cultural and creative vibe. 

Nestled against the River Lagan, the parish, which is generally known as the “Short Strand,” spreads from the Lower Newtownards Road along the Short Strand itself across the Albert Bridge Road and takes in the Mountpottinger and Seaforde Street areas to its borderline of Bryson Street.  It is a close-knit parish of 2,600 people where many families are related through several generations of settlement creating a core of community spirit.

Since the latter years of the nineteenth century when sectarian violence took hold in Belfast, St. Matthew’s Parish has been to the fore of conflict as its people suffered for both their religion and nationality.

The parish of St. Matthews houses one of the oldest Catholic communities in Belfast, which dates back to 1830.  A temporary church served the small community until the present church was consecrated in 1887 to serve the now expanding parish.

It is a history fraught with conflict; its geographical layout on the fringes of Unionist East Belfast has drawn it directly into the annals of sectarian warfare that has engulfed Belfast dating back to 1857.

From partition in 1921, to the recent conflict, the Short Strand played a pivotal role in the struggle, its republican base rooted very much in the community.

Often described as “a community apart”, it is driven by self -reliance and community empowerment.

The Short Strand Community Forum - 26A Beechfield St, Belfast BT5 4EQ, UK


Church Grounds

Here the first church was built in 1830-[0pening in March 1831] close to what became Chapel Lane. A new church was built in 1872 as the parish grew and developed.

Walking around the grounds, we will see a small memorial garden. Due to its geographical location, the church has been to the forefront of sectarian violence dating back to 1886.

Walking through the grounds around to the front doors, we will discuss the history regarding the 1920-1922 period of conflict and the 27th June 1970 known locally as The Battle of St Matthews, here you will see a small lead cross outside the front door commemorating Mary Mc Cabe killed in 1922.


Peace Walls

The “Peace Wall” that separates both communities reminds us of the stark reality of the division that existed as a result of the conflict and the measures that were taken to keep these communities apart.

The main Bryson Street pre 1970, was very much” mixed” with both communities residing along side each other.                           

This normal and peaceful co-existence was shattered in a 24 hour period over the 12th/13th August 1971, when residents were forced to flee their homes and the street was deliberately allowed to die as a social identity, in favour of a political/military buffer zone.

Beechfield Street and Madrid Street were completely partitioned and sealed by the wall. Thankfully, the original side of Beechfield Street on the Nationalist side still remains and the former primary school building on the Unionist side is still in situ. The school was occupied by the British Army at the end of June 1970.


This estate was the centre point of 12 months of sustained violence during the period 2002/2003.  Despite being in an era of relative peace it came close to derailing the peace strategy developed in the wake of the conflict.


At the corner of Clandeboye and Mountpottinger, once stood the old Picturedrome cinema. These picture houses were a hub of entertainment in older times and established in communities throughout the city.

A cinema was first built on this site and opened in March 1911.

The pillared building with a dome was designed by Liverpool architects, Campbell and Fairhurst and seated 1000 people. It was destroyed in a fire and replaced by a new cinema designed by John Mc Bride Neill in 1934.

The new Picturedrome seated 1,100 people in stalls and balcony seating and a foyer ran the full width of the cinema.


Here we are facing were once stood Mountpottinger Barracks until its demolitionin January 2011.   This contentious building was a focal point of conflict.

Originally an RIC barrack, it was heavily fortified during the conflict and was attacked on numerous occasions by the local IRA. The British Army was based there on a permanent basis between 1970 and 1974.

Through out the years, protests were held outside the barrack in relation to raids, arrests and collusion between state forces and Loyalist paramilitaries.


The Republican Memorial Garden

The Garden rooted in the heart of the community reflects in itself the concept of Community Struggle.  Images of young men killed adorn the wall spanning a century of struggle.

The diversity of conflict dates back torebellion of 1916, through the Spanish Civil War –[1936-1939] and into the recent struggle.

Please come dressed appropriately for the season but keep in mind, the weather in Belfast can be cold at any time of the year.

  • Warm clothing
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Refreshments on arrival and at various intervals
  • Discounts for some events and attractions
  • The EastSide Voices tours must be booked one week in advance and a confirmation of booking will be sent to you
  • You must bring a print out of your boarding ticket/voucher
  • Concessions for students (with student ID) and seniors over 60 (with ID)
  • Children under 5 years of age travel have free entrance to museums and tours
  • All young people under the age of 17 years must be accompanied with an adult.
  • For cancellation up to 48 hours prior to departure date: 10% administration fee will be imposed
  • For cancellation less than 48 hours prior to departure date or 'no-show': 100% of the total amount will be charged
The Short Strand Community Forum
26A Beechfield St, Belfast BT5 4EQ, UK