Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Scottish Provident Institute

Here is another fine old Belfast building - the Scottish Provident Institute, decorated with sphinxes and dolphins ....

Between 1892 and 1902, in other words, during the last decade of Victoria's reign, the Belfast architects Young and Mackenzie designed two enormous officeblocks immediately to the west of Donnegal Place and the new City Hall. The most notable building in the area, the Scottish Provident Institution, a towering Corinthian-inspired block of Giffnoch sandstone, was built in sections from 1899 to 1902:

[It] is faintly reminiscent of the work of Cuthbert Brodrick in
Leeds. The central bay is bowed; there are six floors and an an attic storey;
heavy engaged Corinthian columns run through the third, fourth and fifth floors.
The octagonal domes at the corners, with heavy knops, are not very successful. .
. . there are two large sphinxes, four dolphins, sixteen lion's heads, and
seventeen queens; four panels showing printing, ropemaking, shipbuilding, and
spinning [Belfast's principal industries at the time], all being carried on by
amoretti; and at the corner of Wellington Place, a rather nauseating marble
group in a pompous aedicule compromising a semi-nude lady doing her hair; a
small boy imitating her; and another lady looking on in surprise: apparently
modelled on 'the beautiful seal' of the Scottish Provident Institution. All the
carvings are by Purdy and Millard. (C. E. B. Brett, pp. 58-59)
The Victorian Web:

Somebody is obviously not impressed but I like it - I think it is much better than those monstrosities they are erecting down by the docks.