At the top of Clifton Street Belfast nests one of the city’s great architectural achievements. This fine building has twenty arched windows and is 126 feet in-depth from front to rear, with a 56 fronted footage. In height it is 50 feet up to the main cornice and most of its stonework came from the old Glebe Quarry in Newtownards, County Down.
The actual foundation stone was laid in 1883 and the Hall opened two years later in 1885, yet few folk know that the well known landmark of King William III on his mounted charger was not actually raised to its high position atop the hall until four years later.
Prior to the equestrian statue of William arriving at the Hall for its uplifted mounting, the following worded notice appeared on the front door of the Belfast Orange Hall on the morning of 15th November 1889:
"His Majesty King William III will arrive here at 8 o'clock on Friday morning. Those desirous of accompanying His Royal Highness on his march northwards, should be at the Bristol Shed, Donegall Quay at 7 o'clock."
Many tens of thousands took up the invitation to ensure a safe passage and arrival of the Prince of Orange at the Orange Hall.
The statue cost £600 and was cast by Singer of Frome and sculpted by Harry Hems in Exeter. In Bronze, it is twelve feet high to the uplifted hand and fifteen feet to the front of the King's sword. The stirrups, saddle cloths and pistol holders were castings of the original items worn by King William, whilst the uniform was copied from specimens preserved in the Tower of London. So artistically and historically the statue is nearly perfect.
At the unveiling, a procession of Orangemen, four abreast, took almost an hour to pass despite a brisk marching pace. They paraded around North Belfast watched by thousands of friends and supporters before lining up to see this magnificent statue unveiled.
The ceremony was performed by the Honourable Mrs Saunderson, wife of the beloved Orange leader, Colonel Saunderson and the actual unveiling cord was from the front room of the building opposite, which, up to its demise, was the RAF Social Club. The original occupant of the premises was the then Editor of the Belfast NewsLetter. The main speaker on that memorable occasion was the County Grand Master of Antrim, Worshipful Brother W.H.H. Lyons.
At the time, and for years since, many and varied architectural experts have commented, 'if the whole essence of Belfast could be displayed in one building, the Orange Hall in Clifton Street is where it is to be found'.
The accompanying picture shows the crowds around the front of the Orange Hall awaiting the arrival of the statue of King William III on that most memorable date in November 1889 when it was to be uplifted to its rightful position on top of Belfast's Premier Orange Hall.
Article taken from the Belfast County Twelfth booklet 2000.