In 1807 the Marquis of Donegall moved from Donegall Place in the centre of Belfast to Ormeau Cottage, then on the outskirts of the town. The Donegalls lived there on a demesne of some 180 acres, until they built Belfast Castle to the north of Belfast.
With the passing of the Public Parks (Ireland) Act in 1869, Belfast Borough Council was able to negotiate for what was to become its first public park. After a public competition the layout of the Ormeau Park was entrusted to the 24-year-old Timothy Hevey, and it opened on 15 April 1871. The house was built in 1878 for the Parks Superintendent, and cost £645.
After the last gardener had left the house it became vacant and the city council tried to sell it in 1998, but it did not attract a buyer. Some years after having expressed interest in taking on the building, Hearth was able to agree the purchase of a long lease of the house from the Council in 2006, and the building, by now roofless and badly vandalised, was restored in 2007.
As the building was in a historic park but not listed in its own right, Hearth decided to experiment with methods of insulation that would not be possible in a fully listed building where interiors would have to be preserved or accurately reinstated. The walls were lined with sheep’s wool insulation and thermal plasterboard, while new timber sash windows were made to Secured By Design standards with argon-filled double glazing. Underfloor heating was installed and designed to work at the constant but comparatively low temperatures produced by an air-source heat pump. High standards of airtightness were achieved, and the insulation proved so effective that when the heating system failed during the first winter it was some days before the tenants realised it.
Unfortunately the isolated building in the middle of the Park necessitated additional costs in services and security, leaving no money to reinstate the vandalised verandah, but it is hoped it will be possible to recreate it in future using surviving photographs.