A Sign of the (RACKS) times
In the RACKS (Residents Association of Cherryvalley, Kensington and Shandon) area of Knock Townland there are several of the older street name signs in the black-tiled format as well as some in the modern metallic style.
The older more stylish type mounted on a ‘flute-cast’ iron post (below) are a reminder of when the modern built-up environment first took shape in late Victorian or Edwardian times as the landscape transitioned from rural to suburban. Although the common modern metallic format reflects the more functional times that we live in.
It is possible to date the likely age of some of the street signage by looking at the dates the thoroughfares first entered the Belfast Street Directory.
Kensington Road assumed that name in 1902 having previously been known as Knock Avenue Road. Kensington is a plush area of West London and other locally imported names include Sandown and Wandsworth. In South Belfast some examples are Windsor and Balmoral.
Was this part of the popular movement in Belfast during that era to re-name middle-class streets in a grander fashion as befitted the growing industrial power-house city? In 1905 Belfast was placed 3rd in the British Isles in terms of customs revenue collected when only the ports of London and Liverpool were greater and some of our leading citizens lived at Knock.
In 1898 there were only four houses in Shandon Park at the Knock Road end. Shandon is an Anglicized Gaelic name which derives from ‘sean dun’ meaning old fort and refers to the Shandon Mound dating from Norman times.
On 22nd May 1926 Shandon Park Golf Club came into being on the (current) course vacated in 1920 by Knock Golf Club which had re-located to a new site at Summerfield, Stormont (and retained their name).
Cherryvalley Park was known as Woodlawn Park in 1903. It was originally a cul-de-sac which only travelled for 100 yards from Cherryvalley (the road) before its link to Kensington Road was completed in 1907.
In Cherryvalley Gardens the street sign is wall-mounted, rather than at street level.
First mentioned in 1924 the houses were constructed at Cherryvalley Gardens by Belfast Corporation and a contemporary report described that: ‘Even a superficial examination is sufficient to show how immensely superior the houses are to the parlour and kitchen houses of pre-First World War times. Due regard has been paid to the provision of ample private open space in the form of gardens.’
Kingsden Park is an un-adopted lane leading from Knock Road to Kensington Gardens. It was previously the driveway to Kingsden Park House which was at the centre of Camlin’s Nursery, opened after the First World War and surrounded by 20 large greenhouses but closed in the 1950s and the land developed with housing at Kensington Gardens.
Many of these old signs are showing their age and beginning to look a bit derelict. The sign at Knock Road traffic lights (right) has disappeared although the frame remains. Some signs have been replaced with the modern metallic version.
We seem to be in a hurry these days to modernise so that old artefacts like post boxes, telephone kiosks and vintage street signage is quietly spirited away. I think the old signs add some grandeur to the locality and are a reminder of past-times. They should be listed, maintained and saved for future generations.
A cursory internet research on the subject indicates substantial Council funding available and favourable mentions on Hansard for similar projects. We are rate-payers too – why not this one?
By Aidan Campbell
RACKS Committee, 8.1.20