Developers Wilton Group Limited, a partnership between Daniel Jackson (Cornerstone) and Ciaran Toman (Informed Percent), have proposed a £4.5m redevelopment of Wilton House, a listed Georgian townhouse in College Square North, Belfast city centre.
Wilton House forms part of a terrace of Georgian properties at College Square North which were designed during the 1820s and 1830s. Located adjacent to RBAI and John Bell House, Wilton House is an end terrace property that neighbours the Old Museum Building, the current home of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.
The proposals would include the refurbishment of Wilton House, which has been vacant since 2012, and was the former headquarters of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) as well as being the Centre for Deaf people for over 100 years. It is home to an Ulster History Circle which commemorates Francis Maginn. He was a pioneer for the rights and education of deaf people who promoted sign language and was instrumental in the establishment of the British Deaf Association. He was also voted as the ‘Greatest Deaf Briton’ in a poll carried out by the BBC See Hear Programme.
The proposal would revive Wilton House with eight apartments and replace the existing extension with a separate, and sensitively designed, new build that will reflect the historic design of the existing listed building.
Daniel Jackson, Managing Director at Cornerstone explained:
“We are very excited by our plans for Wilton House, it will allow us to regenerate this wonderful building and give it a sustainable future. We believe that this project will be transformative not just for Wilton House but also for this historic area of the city. Working with listed buildings can present an interesting challenge. We want to respect and retain its history, and at the same time bring it back into use as a place to live. We are confident that this scheme, which has been sensitively designed by RPP architects, rises to that challenge and will allow us to breathe new life into this piece of Belfast’s history.
“Too many of our heritage buildings are at risk. Our plans will allow this listed building to be retained but also revived to create new homes in an ideal location, at the heart of Belfast city centre. We will restore this building to its original purpose as residential accommodation. Our proposal will also contribute to the strategic goal of the Belfast Agenda which seeks to increase the city centre population. By bringing more residents into the city centre we can help achieve that objective and simultaneously protect a building of architectural significance for the future.”
Brian Symington, was a former Chair of the Ulster Institute for the Deaf and Director of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). He has a long association with the building, going back to the early 1970’s.As a former occupant of Wilton House he commented:
“It is great to see that this wonderful listed building is going to be rejuvenated and brought back into use. Having worked in the building for many years I understand its importance as a site for the deaf community in Northern Ireland. It was a wonderful home for RNID and I am sure that it will be a great home for the future occupants of the building. As someone with a connection to the building I believed it was important for me to contribute constructively to its future. Aside from this I am personally pleased to see that this building will get a new lease of life from this development.”
The current Wilton House was first built as a two separate homes, the two homes were combined around 1894 by Mr J. Hicks who opened the Hotel Metropole. The hotel closed and in 1906 and the Adult Deaf and Dumb Organisation later established a mission hall within the building. This organisation became the Ulster Institute for the Deaf and continued to occupy the building until merging with the RNID in 1991. The RNID rebranded to Action on Hearing Loss in 2011 and relocated from College Square North.