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Visit our beautiful Church -
learn more of its history:

The Church is situated on Eglantine Avenue, in the University area of Belfast

The part of Belfast south of Queen's University between the Malone and Lisburn roads underwent rapid expansion from the middle of the nineteenth century, as a prosperous and fashionable suburb of large detached villas and grand terraces. At the time the Church of Ireland presence in this area was limited to the old Malone Church, as well as Christ Church in College Square, neither of which was deemed an appropriate place of worship. Following a generous bequest by Andrew Thomas McLean for the endowment and construction of a new parish church, John Lanyon of Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon, then Belfast's leading architectural practice, was appointed in 1866. Building work commenced in 1869 and St Thomas's was consecrated on 22 December 1870.

The same year had seen the completion of Belfast Castle by the same practice. Other notable examples of their recent work in the city included Clarence Place in May Street (now occupied by Lambert Smith Hampton), Richardson Sons and Owden's warehouse in Donegall Square North (now part of Marks & Spencer) and the Old Library, Queen's.

On a grand scale and designed to impress, St Thomas's is a fine example of High Victorian Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. Built of white Scrabo sandstone with finely dressed masonry round doors and windows, it is adorned with red sandstone banding and coloured marble discs and colonnettes to the tower and spire. The exterior is a confident exercise in eclectic design: generally the style is Early French Gothic, but the polychrome effects point to an Italian Gothic influence. There may also be an Early Christian Irish reference in the round stone-capped stair turret. The date 1870 is inscribed over the North doorway. Probably because of constraints imposed by the sloping site, the orientation of St Thomas's is unusual, the chancel facing North. In 1888 the church was enlarged at the South end, to a John Lanyon design, when the South West porch was added, as well as the internal gallery with its Gothic timber stairway. Along with the increase in the length of nave and aisles, this extended the seating capacity to over 1,000.

The interior with its open timber roof is decorated with string courses and brickwork of contrasting colour, as well as good carvings and mosaics. In spite of being so large it gives an impression of comfort and warmth. Elegant features, such as the narrow Gothic windows in the chancel and the slender timber trusses, mingle happily with the robustly carved, almost overgrown, foliage which adorns the capitals to the nave columns and the black-banded red brick arcade itself. The capital above the pulpit with its four heads of angels is more delicately executed than the rest, and is the only one on which figures appear. Carvings of the symbols of the four Evanglists - man, lion, ox and eagle - can be seen in the chancel next to the windows of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which flank St Thomas and St Paul in the two central lancets, and there is finely carved tracery on the wall panels as well as on the oak altar. The stone pulpit is fairly heavy in style but elaborately ornamented. Attractive original wrought iron light fittings are still in use in the nave. Eight modern roundels on the chancel wall to the left and right of the altar are symbolic representations of aspects of the Holy Communion.

The Hill organ of 1874 was enlarged by its builder in 1906, but has remained essentially unaltered since then, which makes it an instrument of considerable and national significance.

There is a wealth of stained glass. Almost all the windows below the clerestory have been filled with good glass which while not brilliantly coloured makes a very handsome whole. Much of the pre-war glass is by Heaton, Butler and Bayne of London. The greater number of the windows depict scenes from the life of Christ and familiar Biblical passages, such as the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Talents. The Resurrection also figures prominently. A plan of the windows, with explanations, is available in the church.

The peal of eight bells in the tower, ranking in quality and tone among the finest in these islands, was presented by Robert Atkinson of Beaumont, Malone Road, in 1870.

The adjacent Rectory was also designed by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon and built in 1871. A fine red brick residence, this is also decorated with bands of contrasting colour. Above the front door is a nice carving of an angel playing a lute.


Written by L M Andrew, 1997. Acknowledgements: Notes on St Thomas's by Hugh Dixon. Paul Larmour, The Architectural Heritage of Malone and Stranmillis, UAHS, 1991.

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