27th March: 2.00pm

The Merchants who Grew a City: A Guided Walking Tour on Belfast’s Industrial History
The story of Belfast is really the story of its people and of its location, how it grew from a small settlement where the rivers Farset and Lagan meet the sea. Our city’s geography played a key role in its industrial history.

This walking tour will bring you around the oldest parts of Belfast city centre and provide entertaining and informative accounts of some of the key figures behind the successful industries that helped Belfast grow from a small town to a prosperous Victorian city.

The tour will take in Donegall Quay and Clarendon Dock, the Cathedral Quarter, High Street, the Four Corners and Belfast’s historic entries. Participants on the walk will hear stories of the people who developed shipbuilding, printing, linen and whiskey production in Belfast. Belfast was well-known around the world for these industries: and each was connected with the city’s rivers and port. The city holds clues to these business ventures in the cobbled streets, entries and docks that the tour will explore.

On this tour, we will learn about some of the key early merchants of Belfast – the entrepreneurs of their day – who contributed to the industrial heritage of Belfast. We will explore where Francis Joy, William Ritchie, Thomas Waring, John Dunville, William Pirrie and others came from and the skills that they brought with them. We will see examples of what their innovation, hard work and ambitious visions have left behind, and reflect on their contribution to developing Belfast. We will see how important Belfast’s rivers and port have been.

We will also hear about the part played by women, particularly in the linen and cotton mills and factories. While women until the First World War could not vote and very rarely set up a business, the significant achievements made in charitable work and in campaigning for change by Mary Ann McCracken, Winifred Carney and Margaret Montgomery Pirrie will be shared.

The tour will appeal to anyone who wants to find out a little about our city’s history and its development from small town to a vibrant city.

This tour has been developed by Creative Tours Belfast, in association with Belfast Design Week.

Age 14+.

date & time

date & time

Sun. 27th March
Duration: 2.5 hours



Starts Big Fish, Donegall Quay




book tickets

Tickets for this event can be booked below, or on the event’s Eventbrite page.

Image: Erl Johnston (CC BY-SA 4.0)