History of The Barrack
The Barrack area is situated on the southern section of the New Lodge area in North Belfast. It is so called after the Victoria Military Barracks which stood on the site up until the late 1960’s. This military barrack was first built shortly before the United Irishmen rebellion in 1798 in the area between the old Poor House and Artillery Barracks. Over the years numerous expansions were made and in the 1880’s the whole barracks was mainly rebuilt and enlarged. At this time it stretched from the New Lodge Road across to the old Poor House (today’s Clifton House) and from Lepper Street down to North Queen Street. The main entrance was situated on Henry Place out on to Clifton Street with other entrances being situated on the New Lodge Road and North Queen Street. Many thousands of troops would have been based here over the years and it’s history includes tragic events and brutal murders. For example the first man hanged in Crumlin Road Jail was a soldier from the Barrack who had shot dead his commanding officer. In 1901, after the death of the British Queen, the garrison was renamed Victoria Barracks. It’s first redevelopment in this century was a forced one when the German Luftwaffe bombed the Barracks destroying large parts of it and killing hundreds of soldiers. It began to decline after this and throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s it was slowly moved to Lisburn and to the nearby Girdwood Park. Demolition work began on parts of it in the early 1960’s and the first of the distinctive tower blocks erected and before the close of the decade the old garrison was gone and most of the new housing developments completed. Those who moved into the new estate came from the surrounding areas such as the New Lodge and Carrick Hill however, the vast majority of the new residents came from the streets situated around York Street. It was at this time that conflict broke out in Northern Ireland and like many other Nationalist areas the district suffered tremendously. Many residents were killed and in December 1971 a no warning Loyalist bomb killed 15 people at McGurk’s Bar.
Today not much remains of the old Barracks. The gymnasium is still there (The Recy) as are many parts of the old walls. A row of officers houses were not demolished and keep the name Victoria Barracks to this day.