Skip to Content


150 years of history and beyond

Queen’s University and the Greater Shankill Partnership have been working together with the Public Office of Northern Ireland and the Shankill’s St Matthew’s Church to mark the church’s 150th anniversary.

Pictured at the Exhibition launch are (l-r): Professor of Social History at Queen’s Olwen Purdue, Researcher Sam Guthrie, Rector Rev Tracey Roberts, Heather Stanley of PRONI, Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Nola Dundas-Hewitt and Jackie Redpath of the Greater Shankill Partnership.

To celebrate and showcase the evolving social history linked to the church and the community, Queen’s is facilitating an exhibition of photos, artefacts and displays.

At today’s launch (Tuesday 8 March), the exhibition displayed, for one day only, a rare bishop's crozier dating back to the 9th century which was discovered in the grounds of Shankill Graveyard 300 years ago and has been brought back to the Shankill by the National Museum of Ireland.

To capture some of the rich social history of the church and the Shankill area, organisers have launched a History Harvest to gather stories, memories, old photos and memorabilia relating to the history of the church and wider area. All those with a connection to the area are invited to come along to the exhibition on Saturday to contribute to the project. Speaking at the event, Professor of Social History at Queen’s, Olwen Purdue said: “This church, and the parish it serves, has an important history, dating back to pre-Christian times and closely connected to the wider history and growth of Belfast.

The people of these streets have experienced wars and rebellions, industrialisation, urban change and conflict; they have also experienced work, play, loss, childhood, old age.

This exciting collaboration between academics, archives, public history students and local communities seeks to capture and tell the stories of these streets and the people who lived in them to explore the rich and diverse social history of this neighbourhood and community and develop new resources for learning and engaging with local history.”

Welcoming the exhibition, Jackie Redpath of the Greater Shankill Partnership, said: “We’re delighted that a partnership between St Matthew’s, Queen’s University and ourselves has come together to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church and the rich history of the Shankill. We are especially grateful to the National Museum Dublin for bringing the bishop’s crozier back to its origins on the Shankill to exhibit – truly an historical occasion.”

Rector at St Matthew’s, Rev Tracey McRoberts, said: “This is an important day in the life of our congregation, in an important week, when we celebrate serving God and the local area for 150 years from this beautiful shamrock shaped building, which still works as well for us today as it did for those who had the vision to build it well over a century ago.

A lot of hard work and cooperation has been put into the exhibition by Jackie Redpath, Professor Olwen Purdue, researcher Sam Guthrie alongside Tom Scott OBE and Jacqueline Weir MBE from our own congregation. On behalf of the Select

Vestry and indeed the whole congregation we would like to acknowledge them and thank them for negotiating with staff from the National Museum Dublin and the Diocese of Connor for making this happen.”

This project is part of a strategic partnership between Queen’s University and the Greater Shankill Children and Young People Zone where the University and the community collaborate on interventions aimed at making a lasting difference to the lives of people in the area.

Speaking about the relevance of the project, Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Nola Dundas-Hewitt, said: “Queen’s is committed to working in partnership for societal change. The project at St Matthew’s is a perfect example of bringing the best of our talent and expertise to work in partnership with the community to deliver genuine and meaningful local benefit.”