Over the mantle in the Board Room of Clifton House sits the ‘Poores Board’- it is the only tangible evidence for the relief of distress in Belfast prior to the foundation of the Belfast Charitable Society. The ornate top reads:

GEORGE McCARTNEY Esq

Sovereign of the Borough of Belfast and High Sheriff

of the County of Antrim A.D. 1680

This tablet was erected in his time for the general satisfaction of

the friends of the donors as also of others who hath or shall be charitably

inclined to follow their good examples

 

The board hung in the old Corporation Church which stood on the site of the present St George’s on High Street. The first recorded name is that of Edward Holmes, who died in 1631, leaving £40 for the relief of Belfast’s poor. The total amount recorded on the board was £1086. For seventy years small sums from this fund distributed by the Sovereign [Lord Mayor] or Church Wardens. This constituted the only permanent organised charity in Belfast. However, the growth of Belfast brought with it increasing levels of poverty and destitution. It became clear to the concerned citizens of Belfast that something more than the ‘Poores Money’ was needed. When the Belfast Charitable Society opened the Poor House, the Belfast Corporation donated the old ‘Poores Money’ to them over a number of years- at times with a lot of petitioning. The ‘Poores Board’ was donated to the Society as a reminder of where the money had come from when the Old Corporation Church was renovated. Today it is the oldest artefact in Clifton House, and continues to fascinate visitors as they delve into Belfast’s early development.