This neoclassical building was built in 1810 when Portaferry was a busy thriving coastal port. For over a hundred years the town was full of ship builders, master mariners, ship owners, rope-makers and ships’ chandlers. Dozens of ships were built here. In 1802, one of the largest vessels ever built in Ireland, the 500 ton Bess,was launched from the dockyard of Captain Edward Conway of Portaferry.
Local products such as potatoes, wheat and barley were exported to major industrial cities such as Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow and Liverpool. Sailing ships, many built in Portaferry, sailed from the quay to take passengers on a six week journey to North America.
Grand houses lined the shore where the majority of trade was conducted. It was, therefore, practical for the Belfast Bank to open a branch in these premises in 1865. It remained a bank until 1936. The building has been described as a fine three-story and basement house with a Doric porch with radial fanlight. It also has neoclassical features such as sash windows and pilasters highlighting the main entrance.
In 1972 Queen’s University, Belfast bought the building and established a marine research laboratory here. Facilities in Portaferry are used today by the resident staff and students as well as associated researchers from the University and international institutions.