Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ballysillan Playing Fields

In 1937 Belfast Corporation advertised for land in the Shankill and Woodvale district and in response to this ground at Silverstream, Ballysillan, was examined and found to be suitable for sports use.
The Corporation purchased twenty-five acres of land from a Miss Price and eleven from a Miss Dunbar.  A loan of £10,150 to cover the cost was sanctioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
A further sixteen acres of land from the Lyons Estate and two from the Victoria Estate were added, at a cost of  £5,000.
The names of the landowners from whom the land was purchased provide some useful information about the area.  Miss Price was the owner of a farm off the Oldpark Road and part of the playing fields was originally part of her farm.  The Lyons Estate was that of the Lyons family who had lived at Oldpark for many years before moving to Lisburn and the Victoria Estate was the estate associated with the Victoria Homes.  These were founded by Margaret Byers (1832-1912) and were on the Ballysillan Road, at the top of the hill, opposite Bilston Road.  Margaret Byers was a remarkable woman who also founded Victoria College as a school for girls, a great educator, a social reformer and a Liberal Unionist. 

Some of the ground was set aside for allotments, which were to be rented at £2 an acre, and the remaining forty-six acres had to await the end of the Second World War before they were developed.

There were ambitious plans to provide facilities for football, hockey, bicycle polo and cricket along with a bowling green, cycle track, paddling pool, two playgrounds, six tennis courts, pavilions, shelters and a rest garden.  However on reflection the Public Parks and Playgrounds Committee decided hat the costs were too high and the cycle track was taken out of the scheme.

Other elements of the original plan may also have been dropped - I can well remember the tennis courts, which I used on many occasions, and the bowling green is still there but I have no recollection of a paddling pool or cricket.  Later one of the tennis courts was turned over to a crazy golf course but that did not last for too many years.

In 1974 the council introduced an Easter Recreation Scheme for children and young people at Ballysillan and five other parks and they also introduced summer schemes..

Today the regeneration of the playing fields has been identified as a priority in the context of the Greater Ballysillan Masterplan which will be launched later this month.

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