Woodbine Cottage

Woodbine Cottage was built about 1850 as a free-standing cottage on the Antrim Road going north out of Belfast, which at that time was little developed. At first it seems to have been known simply as Antrim Road Cottage, and then possibly as Ivy Cottage, but by 1870 it had become Woodbine Cottage. In 1880 it was occupied by a tea merchant named John Whitten.

In 1896 a painter called James McKenzie moved into what was then 114 Duncairn Street (as the section of Antrim Road up to Duncairn Church was known for about 30 years), and his family remained there till the 1970s. In 1934 James McKenzie (presumably the son of the original James) took sole control of what had become a partnership with his brother and their mother. In its heyday the firm employed forty painters. They used to mix up paints in the sheds, clean paint-tins in tubs of caustic in the yard and dry them on a pot-bellied stove in another shed before putting in new colours. The  ground floor ceiling of the office was studded with nails to hold the pots of mixed paints for matching in repairs. Mosaic tiling in the pavement at the front door still carries the name J McKenzie & Sons.

The house is two-storey and double-fronted, but modest in scale. It is finished with coursed smooth-render, with pilasters at each corner and moulded architraves to windows on the front elevation. A shallow Doric portico leads into a small hall, with three rooms on the ground floor, the front ones being complete with folding shutters, moulded cornices and panelled doors. The kitchen and scullery also lead off the hall. The staircase has a steeply curved handrail and moulded balustrades. In the garden at the rear was a small stable block (now demolished) and a well-glazed two-storey tin-roofed structure, which was formerly the office of the painting firm.

For a number of years the house had been essentially abandoned, and was getting steadily vandalised. In January 1995, youths broke in, stole the newel-post and set a fire at the back of the house; while the actual fire damage was localised, the risk of further arson leading to more extensive destruction was very high. Hearth reached agreement with the owner to take over the building and was able to start work in advance of full legal ownership. The house has not been altered, but extensive making good was required after dry rot treatment and fire damage. The tenant has purchased this house in accordance with the Assocation’s sales policy.

Project By
Hearth Housing Association
Year restored
Annadale Building Contracts, Belfast