Botanic Gardens History

The Belfast Botanic Gardens are situated in the South of the City between Queen’s University and the River Lagan. Their long and interesting history began during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when there was a substantial upsurge of interest in botany, horticulture and gardening, and consequently the formation of Botanic Gardens became very fashionable. Such gardens had already been established in Dublin and in Cork when the Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society was formed in 1827. In 1828 a 14 acre site was purchased outside the town at the junction of the Malone and Stranmillis Roads. This area was deemed suitable as a focus for botanical science and a botanical museum opened in the grounds.

Financing of the Botanic Gardens

The Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society issued 500 shares at a price of seven guineas each to help finance the project. Members of the public were required to pay for admission: one shilling for adults, sixpence for children. Shareholders and subscribers who paid an annual subscription were either admitted free or at a reduced rate.

Although the original intention was to provide a pleasant and well laid out garden primarily for instruction and study of plants, it soon became evident that more support was required to raise the revenue necessary for running the property. From June 1838, when two successful garden fetes were organised for fund-raising, the Botanic Gardens became the venue for all manner of outdoor activities and entertainment right through the nineteenth century. This tradition has been continued to the present day.

In the nineteenth century Botanic Gardens contain an attractive rose garden, colourful herbaceous and shrub borders, a bowling green and children’s playground. The property was often used for a variety of events, including band performances, circus visits and concerts. Approximately 600,000 visitors come to discover the distinctive beauty of the Botanic Gardens each year.

More history may be found in the web pages for the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine.

Time-line of Botanic Gardens history

1827 – Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society founded

1828 – Belfast Botanic Garden established

1839 – Marquis of Donegall lays Palm House foundation stone

1840 – The two Palm House wings completed

1840 – Queen Victoria bestows ‘Royal’ title

1849 – Visit of Queen Victoria

1851 – Garden Guide published

1852 – Palm House dome added

1864 – 100ft high hot-air balloon takes off from the Garden

1874 – Great International Fruit and Flower Show

1889 – Tropical Ravine opened

1892 – 300,000 people attend Unionist Convention

1895 – The Gardens sold to Belfast Corporation

1900 – The Tropical Ravine extended to include a stove section

1902 – Giant water lily pond added to Tropical Ravine

1912 – Lord Kelvin statue erected

1930 – Lower Botanic playing fields added

1932 – Rose garden established

1940s – Parts of the Gardens used for allotments for the war effort

1983 – Palm House and Ravine reopened after major renovation work

2018 – Tropical Ravine re-opened after major restoration and upgrading

2019 – Global Medicine Garden established

2021 – Global Medicine Garden opened by the Mayor

2023 – Start of planting for Templeton trail