History of the Shankill Road
When people hear the mention of the Shankill road they would automaticly think of the feud between the uda and uvf and a place of fear. People seem to forget that brave Shankill Road men gave their lives for king and country in both great Wars. The Shankill is also renouned for a busy shopping community, also many of the work force form the Shankill worked in the many mills and also in Harland and Wolffe.
The first people to live on the Shankill did so at the bottom which is now Glencairn, Which was a small settlement of people , where the Ballygomartin and Forth rivers meet. The Shankill Road itself was an ancient track, the main link from County Down to Antrim, known then as the Antrim Road , in 1831 is when the Shankill Road offically got its name.
The shankill graveyard is well over a 1000 years old and has a lot of historical value. A stone found in 1855 in the graveyard is thought to date back to druid times, when it would have been used in cermony for sacrafices. The stone was also used as a baptism font. One of the many local legends has it that the stone can cure warts.
For years the Shankill Graveyard was the main burial ground for belfast. Its oldest gravestone dates back to the 16 hundreds. It lost its status as Belfasts main graveyard when the city cemetary opened in 1869. Their is the commonwealth head stone of William Sterling an raf pilot.
As Belfast became more industrialised in the 19th century, the Shankill linen production swept through out the area in the mid 18 hundreds. Their were 32 linen mills by 1861 on the crumlin but most were on the Shankill and Falls Roads. Housing at the time was very bad so local linen lords Ewarts and Andrews built kitchen houses which i can remember my grandmother calling them two up and two down. Their is not very many of these types of property left today as redevelopment is seeing the knocking down of the old two up two down for the more newer type of accomidation.
The mill houses may have been better than the rural homes, But the living conditions were not as comfortable as they are today and most were unhabitable within 15 to 20 years of being built. Their was more people moving to the Shankill area than their was housing at the time, by the 1890's most of the Shankill had been built up and housing was starting to appear in the Woodvale area. In some instances with wages being so low it would have been 2 or 3 families to a house which in todays standards is well below the comfortable standard of living. Woodvale park was also opened in the 1890's, for to give the residents of the area more open space. Most of the Shankill community found work a in the enginering industury, Belfast industury at the time was booming with the building of the ill fated cruise liner the Titanic which sadly sank on her maiden voyage with over a 1000 lives lost.
In the early 20th century many young men had joined the Ulster Volunteer Force to resist home rule. The 3rd home rule bill resulted in the signing of the covenant, which was signed by hundreds of thousands of men and woman opposed to home rule from dublin as they seen Rome and the roman catolic church as trying to eradicate Protestantism. The begining of World War One saw many young men of the Ulster Volunteer Force going to fight for king and country. Many young men lost their lives at the battle of the Somme on the 1st of July 1916.