Our building is over 300 years old and has a great story to tell - and let’s be honest, we all love a good story! It was formerly a warehouse and traded everything from fish and tea to tinned soup, linen, whiskey and much more. Since opening in 2013, we have tried our best to maintain and expose the building’s original features and bring it to life in all it’s glory today. Check out the full history below…
The oldest building in Belfast
We researched the history of our building damn thoroughly, going through old archives, survey maps, newspaper cuttings and recruiting the help of an archaeological historian. We were able to discover a vast history going back to 1680 when it was first erected and discovered an array of produce to have been warehoused in these walls. It’s beginnings were as a fish merchant and general grocer throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. As it entered the 1800s it expanded in line with a booming Belfast…
A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME
FISH MONGER1680 - 1750
Seventeenth century Belfast was certainly not the sprawling metropolis (ahem) we know and love in the twenty first century. No indeed, Belfast was a compact settlement born at the meeting of three rivers: The Lagan, Farset and Blackstaff. Nonetheless a growing community of merchant traders was thriving and our own building was the home of a fish monger who was no doubt taking full advantage of the Farset River which still flowed up what is now High Street.
GENERAL MERCHANT/GROCER1760 - 1800
By the 1800’s the building was now in three parts, trading as different operators for many years.
WILLIAM BERWICK & COMPANY TEA IMPORTERS1808 - 1811
Other than alcohol, if there’s one thing we like to drink in Norn Iron it’s a good cup of tea (coffee is late to the party in this neck of the woods). We still make a good cuppa here at The Dirty Onion!
BERWICK & ASH1811-1819
The business expands and introduces new partner, Mr George Ash. Business then continues as Berwick & Ash, trading tea, flax seed, raisins and flour. In 1819 the business becomes known as Berwick & Ash, wholesale grocers & merchants - 31 Waring St.
BERWICK & ASH WHOLESALE GROCERS & MERCHANTS1831-1837
George Ash becomes the sole proprietor of Berwick & Ash. In 1837 the business and grounds expand. Building listed as ’Office, stores and counting house’.
NOW DESCRIBED AS 'SHOPS, STORES AND YARD'1859-1863
The building was Valued at £95. A few years later in 1863 the owner George Ash Dies, leaving the building vacant until 1865.
WILLIAM MORELAND & CO DRY SALTERS1865-1874
A new business inhabits the building, tea importers and general merchants, William Moreland & Co dry salters. Unfortunately, William Moreland was declared bankrupt in 1874 and the building lay vacant until 1880.
MACNAUGHTON CEMENT & ALABASTER STORES1880-1917
Norman Macnaughton cement and alabaster stores. Portland cement merchant.
Bonded Warehouse. By the twentieth century, we were home to a bonded whiskey warehouse. The bond, known as Stack “N” (The N refers to “North”, as a nod to the north side of Waring Street, number 42) was operated by Hollywood and Donnelly and then, in 1925, by Edward Dillon Bonders until the company moved to larger premises in 1991. Stack “N” was used to store Jameson in barrels and crates, and during this period tens of thousands of Jameson bottles passed through these doors.
ACQUIRED BY BEANNCHOR LTD2009
THE DIRTY ONION IS BORN2013
Under the current wooden beamed structure outside
ISSAC ARROTT FISH MERCHANT1811-1865
Isaac Arrott fish merchant and curer. Trading ling, cod and herring. In 1859 premises were valued at £115 with additional stores and sheds, including a bacon store.
T.J HAM TANNERY & DRYSALTERS1865
By the mid 1800’s the warehousing has been expanded to accommodate a tannery. Merchants at that time would have been exporting to England, Scotland, France, Spain and beyond. Given that urine was a popular tanning agent, we must have added to the pungency of the neighbourhood (as well as the economy)
WALKINGTON & SONS CHEMIST1871
Walkington & Sons chemist, oil and colour merchant. Trading included paints, varnishes, white and red lead, soap, corn, flour, starch and sealing wax
WALKINGSTON & SONS OIL MERCHANTS1877-1911
Walkingston & Sons oil merchants, lard refiners and drysalters
J NESBITT GENERAL STORES1912-1922
J Nesbitt general stores. 30-42 Waring St amalgamated into one. Vacant until 1925
CURRENT BEER GARDEN1808-1919
This area was divided into several offices, many of which were demolished in 1872 when roads were widened on Hill St and Waring St
ROBERT GRIMSHAW PROPRIETOR1808
Sales of pot ashes and dye stuffs
THOMAS GRIMSHAW & SONS1829
Thomas Grimshaw & Sons calico print sales (Calico was a plain-woven textile made of cotton)
THOMAS GRIMSHAW & CO1835
Thomas Grimshaw & Co calico printers and dyers, Edmund Grimshaw flax spinner and Robert Grimshaw, dry-salter. (As Belfast became a huge distributor of linen in the 19th Century, flax spinning became a popular business)
CHARLES DUFFIN & CO1843-1859
Charles Duffin & Co merchants. George Smith solicitor. James Grimshaw flax spinners and linen merchants
CHARLES DUFFIN & CO FLAX SPINNERS1865
Charles Duffin & Co flax spinners, mill owners and insurance agents
FREDERICK KING & CO LTD1887
Frederick King & Co Ltd, makers of preserved potatoes, tinned soup and gravania (type of gravy)
YOUNG PARAFFIN LIGHT &MINERAL OIL CO LTD1899-1919
Young’s Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Co Ltd were the last business to occupy the beer garden. Until the Dirty Onion of course!
Whiskey & Beer Book
Click here to view our beer and whiskey drinks lists. We also offer an extended range of spirits, liqueurs, wines and soft drinks.