Most people look at Parliament Buildings, Stormont and assume they have always been there and have been the seat of Government since Partition. The impressive permanency of the structure and the classical historic architecture give the impression that they predate the foundation of the state, however they were only completed a decade after the state was formed.

The first ten years of Northern Ireland’s Parliament was spent in the College of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. An equally impressive if somewhat smaller building it was build to house and train Presbyterian ministers, and its library and chapel were repurposed to house the lower house or Commons and the the higher house or senate of the Northern Ireland Parliament. There was some discussion over where the Parliament should sit, and while the first number of meetings including its State opening by the King was at Belfast City Hall this building was needed for the city council. While some argued that being located in a church owned builded would enable critics to paint the new government as ‘a protestant parliament’ the practical benefits and lack of other suitable locations meant the choice was made.

It was however a business transaction and negotiations with the Presbyterian Church for use of their south Belfast training college took all summer as there was a dispute over the proposed rent. An offer of £5,000 a year was turned down, and eventually £8,000 was agreed. The initial plan was for a maximum of three years but the building was used for a decade.

Few people are aware that the Parliament of Northern Ireland met in the College between 1921 and 1932. This online exhibition tells the story of this period in the College’s history using its own archives.


To find out more about this largely unknown and interesting decade, have a look at the exhibition below.