Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 13:55 UK

'Hidden history' uncovered on tour

Castle Place
17th-Century artefacts were found during the first dig at Castle Place in 1983

Underneath the streets of Belfast lies a hidden history which archaeologists have been exploring for years.

However, until now, locals and visitors have not had the chance to actively explore the history that lies beneath them.

Since 1983, more than 50 excavations have taken place all over the city, in order to discover information about Belfast's 800 years of history.

Foundations of 17th Century red brick tenements were uncovered in a dig in front of Cotton Court and also under what is now the Potthouse Bar, at the corner of Waring Street and Hill Street.

Other findings include pottery dating back to 1676 and foundations of Georgian houses.

Now, 26 years after the first excavation, this "hidden history" is being uncovered through a series of special one hour tours.

On every Wednesday in June, as part of archaeology month, archaeologists Ruairí O'Baoill and James O'Neill will lead walking tours.

Mr O'Baoill said they hope the tours will, "bring the archaeology and history of Belfast to life."

Waring Street
17th and 18th Century tenements were found in front of Cotton Court

He said: "The fact that not many people know about Belfast's 800 year settlement history may, in part, be due to the lack of upstanding historic monuments in the city.

"There is no surviving medieval castle, medieval parish church or historic town walls."

"With nothing old to see or experience, it is difficult for people to get a sense of Belfast's hidden history," Mr O'Baoill added.

However, "as investigators and interpreters of the past" they will try to explain the history underneath the city that we see today.

Mr O'Baoill said: "We will try to explain why we have Victorian and Edwardian architecture surrounded by modern buildings.

"We'll also be describing how Belfast developed over 800 years, the layout of the streets, the important buildings that it once contained but are no longer there, and the persons who figured prominently in its history."

Stories of the city's historic buildings and landmarks such as The City Hall will also be examined on the tours.

He added: "There is still a lot of work to be done to improve our understanding of Belfast.

"As more information from excavations becomes available we will be able to start filling the gaps in our knowledge."

"Hidden History" tours are free but places need to be booked through Belfast City Council. Email: or tel: 028 9091 8734

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