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North Belfast 1920
Alan Godfrey Maps, Gateshead. 1.50

A 1991 BBC Northern Ireland television programme, No Survivors in Burke Street, about the 1941 blitz of Belfast set me to wondering where Burke Street stood. It doesn't appear in current street directories. My interest is not merely morbid. My mother was an ARP warden during the war and her best friend was killed in a direct hit on the Percy Street air raid shelter.

My curiosity was rewarded with my discovery of a map of my own North Belfast in 1920. It is one of a series of old Ordnance Survey maps which have been republished by Alan Godfrey Maps of Gateshead in England.

Burke Street stood in the New Lodge district of North Belfast, near the Antrim Road. This short street of twenty houses was literally wiped from the map in one night. Everyone perished!

The map shows a lot of changes in North Belfast in the last seventy years. A lot of the changes in the city were the result of the wartime blitz. Much more, especially since the 1960's, has been the result of urban development.

In this map, the old Victoria Barracks is shown, complete with its drill grounds. This is now the site of high-rise flats and tightly-packed pebble-dashed houses. What amazed me was the existence of a large farm on the present site of Girdwood Barracks. The entrance to this farm was a tree-lined drive which extended from Duncairn Avenue.

This map is a fascinating document to pore over. Why were there so many more urinals in 1920 than today? Did you know that the Pollock Dock was once a timber pond? This map is an essential aid for anyone who is interested in their local history. Real history - not the records of generals and kings - but the history of ordinary people.

David Kerr (1991)

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