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173 year old family business

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We have something a bit different for you today – an interesting look back at our original headquarters in Belfast city centre.

This year we celebrate 170 years in business so we have been doing some research into the long history and heritage of our family business.

Our original headquarter building was designed by John Lanyon from the famous family of architects and was located on Adelaide Place at the back of Belfast City Hall.

This would be where then new Bank of Ireland building now stands and in the 1860’s this was at the centre of a town experiencing the most remarkable story of growth and change.

The original building was demolished in 1969 to make way for Commercial Union House, which was then demolished in 2002 to be replaced with the new Bank of Ireland.

Here is what it looks like today;

The building can be found in the Dictionary of Irish Architects archive here too.

We appreciate the help of Gerry Ward and Richard Graham who have corrected some of the information we had initially received.

Gerry forwarded another impression of the building;

Preston building Belfast

We also received tremendous information from Richard Graham who provided very high quality images of both Sir John Preston and the original warehouse in central Belfast.

In the midst of the Industrial Revolution, which not only changed Belfast but had a fundamental effect on the world, John Preston Ltd was founded.

This was a particularly challenging time in Ireland – the famine had just ended and the movement of people from the countryside to the towns and cities was well under way.

In fact, Belfast in the 1790’s had around 20,000 inhabitants but by the 1890’s the town had become a city and now had over 200,000 people crammed into its streets.

Here is an image drawn from the top of Robinson Cleaver Department store which is now Burger King. It shows the Linen Hall before it was demolished to be replaced by Belfast City Hall.

From-Robinson-Cleaver

John Preston himself (pictured below) was a leading business figure in Belfast, primarily involved in the textile trade for which Belfast and Ulster became so famous. The location of his headquarters was behind what was then the Belfast Linen Hall and due to the volume of trade in this industry Belfast became known as Linenapolis.

sir John Preston

This photograph of Sir John Preston, is taken from the Coey album, which contains 200 early carte-de-visites of Belfast luminaries and personalities, including Civic and Municipal officials, local businessmen and gentry, and members of the judiciary, professions and academia.

Sir John Preston was born in Belfast in 1817. He became an incredibly successful businessman, establishing John Preston & Co, a firm of linen, flax and yarn merchants at Callender Street, (now the site of Bubaque, a popular restaurant) later becoming a joint partner in the firm of Preston, Smyth & Co, linen, yarn and flax merchants along with Henry Smyth of Lower Crescent, in the University area.

Preston originally lived at College Square East in the town centre (1843), but later moved to the Antrim Road, a highly desirable residential area, where he resided at Dunmore House with his family.

Dunmore House later became the residence of one of Ulster’s greatest photographers, W A Green (his collection is at the Ulster Folk Musuem) but was demolished in the 1950s to make way for Dunmore Stadium, famous for its dog track racing and stock car events

Sir John became Mayor of Belfast in 1877 (the title Lord Mayor was not used until Belfast received it’s charter as a city in 1888) and was knighted the following year.

He died at his home Dunmore in 1890 and was survived by his wife Mary Ann, and son Captain John Preston (1851-1897) of the 4th Irish Rifles.

Captain Preston lived at Athlone in Co Westmeath. Descendants of the family also played an important role in the military establishment with his grandson, Ralph Chevallier Preston, OBE, AFC, (1892-1972) becoming a Wing Commander in the Royal Flying Core before becoming personal pilot to the Marquess of Londonderry who lived at Mountstewart House in Co Down.

Wing Commander Preston later served as High Sheriff of Co Down (1961) residing at Garden Lodge, Hollywood

Belfast was built on the success of linen and textiles, and this growth fuelled the investment in the shipyards and heavier industries that came to define Belfast in the first half of the twentieth century.

Like Belfast itself – John Preston Ltd has continued to evolve. We are now the leading Healthcare, Homecare and Medical supplier in Northern Ireland.

We supply to the NHS and HSE in Ireland along with retail sales here and throughout Europe via our e-commerce site – www.thelivingcentre.co.uk

As we dig deeper into our heritage and history we look forward to sharing what we find and we look forward to our next 170 years in business!

We welcome any more information that anyone may have about James Lanyon or Sir John Preston and you can get in touch through marketing@johnpreston.co.uk 

Preston-building-Belfast-by-James-Lanyon

Have a look at our healthcare, homecare and medical product range on our e-commerce website