Restoration of One Sussex Place, Belfast, by Hamilton Architects sets a new standard for quality apartment accommodation in historic conservation area

sussex place entrance
Entrance of One Sussex Place
Hamilton Architects are delighted to have completed the impressive restoration of One Sussex Place, a former convent in Belfast’s Linen Conservation Area.

The £1.1m restoration provides 12 apartments split between the refurbished original building and a brand new five storey extension.

The Linen Conservation Area played a vital role in the social and economic development of the linen trade in the 19th century and the growth of Belfast from town to city.

Although the linen industry declined dramatically in the 20th century, the area remains one of the most important office sectors in the city centre.

The convent goes back to 1878, when it was built for the Sisters of the Convent of Mercy by Alexander McAlister, the leading Catholic church architect of his day. It operated on and off in a religious capacity for much of the 20th century before falling out of use in the early part of the 21st century.

Since the old convent played a pivotal role in the local community for over a century, it was important not just for the immediate area but for the whole of Belfast to ensure it was saved and safeguarded for future generations.

The developer recognised in One Sussex Place the potential for a striking historical building in an incredible city centre location to provide desirable accommodation for young professionals and people working in and around the city.

Work began in November 2016 and was handed over on 18th January 2018, with Hamilton Architects delivering the conservation of the original structure and the design of the extension to deliver the 1 and 2 bedroomed apartments.

Restoring the building to the standards expected of modern living while retaining as much as possible of its unique history and heritage proved to be one of project’s biggest challenges.

The red brick and buff sandstone building, with pointed arch windows and high pitch slate roof, was classified as ‘a building at risk’ by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in 2008.

Refurbishment uncovered extensive dry rot which required specialist treatment. Due to the age and nature of the building, all onsite excavations required the inspection of an archaeologist to ensure no historic material was uncovered.

Huge efforts were made to retain as much as possible of the original fabric, for example the lovely plaster cornicing and stain glass windows in the living areas of the ground floor apartments.

Today, the accommodation offers modern kitchens, free wifi and flat screen tvs with balconies on some apartments offering views of the Georgian architecture of Joy Street and across the city at the higher levels, particularly from the two penthouses.

The old building is accessible via the two ground floor apartments, while the new section is entirely accessible via a wheelchair lift. Apartments throughout the building have wide interior corridors (1.5m) to allow easy access.

Taking a derelict historic building and turning it into 12 desirable apartments, thereby breathing new life into the building and giving it an important role in the community going forwards, is the ultimate in sustainability.

Moore McDade Dowse of Belfast were the Quantity Surveyors for the project, with Annvale Construction of Armagh carrying out the construction.

Photo - James Hughes Photography
interior details of the lounge room
Lounge room
stained glass interior details
Stained glass window preserved
ornamental details
Ornamental light fixtures
view from little may street
Entrance view from Little May Street
view from entrance
Close up view of entrance