The Markets area of Belfast was developed on marshy land reclaimed from the mill dam of the Joy family’s paper mill, which was situated at the junction of Cromac Street and Ormeau Avenue during the 18th century.
Joy Street was mostly developed between 1825 and 1840. Many of the houses were built of local dark brick and only very soberly ornamented, but this group was probably one of the last developments in the area and built at the beginning of the Victorian period when fashion was moving towards stucco plasterwork and richer decoration of architraves and doorcases.
The terrace originally comprised three houses and a flat over a shop on the corner with Little May Street, but the shop was bombed in the 1970s and its site cleared. The terrace was acquired as part of the Markets redevelopment by the Housing Executive. Although it was listed, the decision was taken, when it was found to be surplus to requirements, to put the terrace on the market as a commercial site. Hearth argued that there was sufficient housing need in the area to justify its retention, acquired the property in 1986 and put caretaker tenants in pending restoration, which got under way in 1989. As a housing association scheme it was not practicable to restore the corner shop, and no.12 was rebuilt as flats, providing a wider choice of houses.
Nos.4 and 6 have now been restored as three-storey family houses, with alcoves in the cross-walls of the ground floor front rooms, panel doors and simple moulded cornices. No.8 was an entry to the rear of the property, and remains such. No.10 was to have been restored, but proved structurally very fragile and when piling for the replacement of no.12 was under way the decision was reluctantly taken to demolish the house and rebuild it in replica. Both it and the flats at no.12 and 31 Little May Street are therefore of modern construction, but the continuity of the houses with the important Georgian terrace at 14-16 Joy Street, restored some years earlier by the Housing Executive, has been retained.