Historical sketch by Aidan Campbell
RACKS is located in a suburb of East Belfast known as ‘Knock’. The name of Knock has its origin in the Gaelic or Irish form of Cnoc according to a publication in 1887 by PW Joyce entitled ‘Irish names of places’:
“Cnoc signifies a hill and its common anglicised form is Knock in which the K is silent”.
The hill in question is most likely the one at the old Knock Burial Ground at Knockmount Park which is about ½ mile from Marie Curie Hospice and faces Ascot Park on the Knock Road.
There was a church recorded here as far back as the 14th Century. Apparently the ancient church is shown on old maps as ‘Knock Church (in ruins)’. It was recorded as Dundela church in 1306. The church was in a ruinous state in 1622 but was in use again by 1637 and by 1695 was merged with neighbouring Breda. A new Knockbreda Parish Church was erected at Church Road, Newtownbreda in 1737.
Building development in the Knock area was given an impetus by the presence of The Belfast and County Down Railway (BCDR) which began a service to Comber and Newtownards in 1850 and a ‘halt’ was built on Knock Road, facing (what is now) PSNI headquarters at Brooklyn. This halt was originally called ‘Ballycloghan Halt’ after the neighbouring townland. Proper station buildings were constructed in 1869 and the name became Knock Station (which is now part of a footpath and cycle track known as ‘Comber Greenway’.)
Photo:Knock Railway Station with 1.11pm Comber train on 4th July 1933.
When Knock resident Fred Hurley took this photograph of Cherryvalley on the Gilnahirk Road at the junction with the ‘Old Dundonald Road’ (now King’s Road) in 1895 he called the area ‘Knock Village’.
In 1899 Cherryvale Road contained 7 grand houses and by 1904 the name had become Cherryvalley Road and thereafter the suffix ‘Road’ was dropped. A further 5 houses were constructed in Woodlawn Park by 1904 (at the Cherryvalley Road end) and the thoroughfare soon became re-named as Cherryvalley Park. Cherryvalley Gardens is first mentioned in the late 1920s when Belfast Corporation built a development of public housing (below).
A contemporary 1929 report noted 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…… to walk along the roads in the time of summer is to see a sight that will gladden the heart of every lover of well-kept home gardens ……. these houses are perfect for a clean and tidy wife…and a father who does not want to go out to a public house’.
A third dimension to the RACKS name is Kensington which originates in a plush area of West London. From Kensington Road there are many related thoroughfares which include the Kensington name such as Gardens, Gardens West, Gardens South, Park, Drive, Manor, Crescent, Gate and Court. The Belfast Street Directory for 1901 records that the original name of Kensington Road was Knock Avenue Road and there were about only about 20 large residences in the area. The large houses were lived in by wealthy business owners and other leading professionals in society. Most of the large houses have now gone and have been replaced with modern developments. The present name of Kensington Road was adopted by 1903 although an old house named Kensington House dates back to the 1870s.
2 Kensington Road is pictured in 1910. It was one half of a large Edwardian semi-detached block constructed in the early 1900s and demolished in the early 2000s for the construction of Kensington Crescent apartments.
Kensington House was a large detached residence constructed in the 1860s with large gardens and demolished in the 1980s. It is now the site of a modern developments called Kensington Gate and Kensington Court.
Another large house with extensive gardens at 15 Kensington Road was called ‘Drinagh’. It was constructed in the early 1900s and demolished after nearly 100 years in the early 2000s. It is now the site of Drinagh Manor.
The ‘Shandon Mound’ is often called ‘The Moat’. The Mound is the remains of a defensive construction called a ‘Motte and Bailey’ and dates back to the late 12th Century. Norman Knight John De Courcy conquered the province of Ulster, marching from Dublin in four days with twenty two knights and three hundred soldiers.
The name Shandon comes from the Irish, Sean Dún, meaning ‘old fort’.
By 1898 the Belfast Street Directory reports that there were only 4 houses in existence at (the Knock Road end of) Shandon Park.
Interesting that the Shandon Mound has remained open for 900 years.
Aidan Campbell has published 12 local history books covering areas of East Belfast and the books are on sale at Hillmount Garden Centre, Marie Curie Hospice and Amazon – also online at: www.eastbelfasthistory.com