1820 - 1920

The History of the Area's Development

1800 - 1920

Up until the 1700s, the Market was either woodland ‘Cromack Woods’ or beneath the Lagan tide. By the end of the century, the Lagan was reformed, and the estuary flats were reclaimed for development. Cromac Street started being developed commercially in the 1800s. North of Cromac Street, was developed around 1820 occupied by gentry and merchants. When Joy’s dam was drained in 1828, the land was reclaimed and housing was then developed. South of Cromac Street was then developed by the 1850’s which were occupied mainly by labourers and working people. The community’s population grew massively with the influx of people from rural Ireland, including ‘navvies’ and those fleeing the Irish famine.

The area grew rapidly, industrially and commercially by the mid-1800s, in line with Belfast’s industrial rise and the growing urban migration. The area had extended significantly through the establishment of various Markets, including May’s Market, pork, cattle, fruit & vegetable markets. St George’s Market and the fish market were built in 1898. By the end of the 19th century, the area had its first abattoir in McAuley Street, which moved to Stewart Street in 1912 to serve the livestock markets alongside a number of hide and skins. Other notable industries which came in this era included Inglis Bakery on Eliza Street in 1884, McWatters bakery in 1974 and Corry’s mineral aerated water in 1954 both on Cromac Street. Cromac Street itself grew as the commercial hub of the community, which had butchers, bakeries, grocers, salons and drapers to name a few by the end of the century. The community’s development peaked by 1920.

1920 - 1960

By 1920, the entirety of the Market area as it was then, had been developed. At the time, it extended from Alfred Street in the north to the River Lagan in the South and from Chichester Street in the east to Ormeau Avenue on the West. Businesses flocked to the area due to the proximity of the city centre and markets, but with the benefit of a relatively cheap rent. The various Markets remained integral to the community, which by the 1930s included Robsons’, Allam’s, May’s, Colgan’s, St George’s, the fish market and the variety market.

Livestock continued to play a large part in the industry of the area. By 1960, there we stabling yards in East Street, Gloucester Street, Murdock’s on Lagan Lane and Market Street, Barney Ross’ on Lagan Street and Ross’ & Sons on Oxford Street. Inglis & Co Bakery on Eliza Street remained a major source of employment in the area. Other large industries included Hendron Bros machinery and electrical outlet on Eliza Street, . Cromac Street was also thriving in that era. In 1960, there were 8 pubs, 7 butchers, 8 drapers, 5 fruiterers, 4 grocers, 4 confectionaries, 3 newsagents among many other commercial businesses. 

1960 - 2000

Throughout the 1960s, planners had been drafting proposals for redevelopment. The aim was not only to rehabilitate the old houses in the area, but also to take a move its vital industries into distinct commercial zones on the outskirts of the city. This coincided with plans for the new urban motorway which was to link inner Belfast with shopping zones like Boucher road on the outskirts. The intention was to build a 6-lane carriageway through Cromac Street and to link the both sides of the community by an underpass. While this was rejected by the community, the imposition of a key arterial route through Cromac Street segregated the community. As planned, many of the area’s markets were relocated to Boucher Road as its ancillary livestock industries such as the abattoir. 


At the time of redevelopment, 624 families needed housing. The planners initially proposed multi-level flats, rejected by community leaders. A compromise was reached between residents and planners, which altered the entire layout of the area. On the south side of Cromac Street, many of the old streets were compiled into one, where many old streets never returned. The approved plans required more space for housing and car-parking. However, demand for housing meant industrial sites were converted for residential use. With the Conflict ongoing during redevelopment, the new layout was said to be influenced by security forces. The layout allowed only 3 ways in and out of the south side of the Market, which was to facilitate containment in case of unrest. The planner’s protections for industry were unfulfilled; of the many hundreds of businesses in the area pre-redevelopment, only one was there after. 

The Area Now