Riddel Hall is an impressive brick and sandstone Victorian building on the Stranmillis Road, with its individual entrance and gate lodge. Today it is home to Queen’s Management School and a conference centre, but Riddel Hall has a rich and compelling history. It was built in the early 20th Century as a “house of residence for protestant female students and teachers at Queen’s University Belfast”, thanks to the generosity and dedication of two Belfast philanthropists, Eliza and Isabella Riddel.
The Riddel sisters were committed to improving the access of women to higher education and the Hall fulfilled this purpose for 50 years, providing a home away from home to more than a thousand female students.
Queen’s Gender Initiative is celebrating the generosity of these two visionaries and their legacy, both to Queen’s University Belfast and the education of women in Northern Ireland. Scroll down to access videos and podcasts telling the story of the Riddel family, the legacy of Eliza and Isabella Riddel and the experience of women who lived in the Hall.
As a member of Queen’s staff, I attended many events in Riddel Hall but never realised what it was initially built for and the key role it played for women in the University. Working on the Riddel Hall Chronicles for QGI was a fantastic opportunity to learn about this beautiful place and the inspiring women and family who had such an impact on Belfast. I had a lot of fun ‘playing the historian and documentary maker’, meeting lovely and passionate people, and visiting historically-significant places. It was a wonderful experience which I hope viewers and listeners will enjoy! Dr Alice Dubois
Postdoctoral Development Centre Manager
RIDDEL HALL - A JOURNEY THROUGH PLACE AND TIME
In this video, Dr Alice Dubois takes us on tour of Riddel Hall, visiting its main rooms, admiring some of the unique features, looking back at its history and understanding what life in the Hall might have been like for residents.
THE RIDDELS AND BELFAST
The Riddel family was an important Belfast family in the early 1900s and had a strong influence on the region. In this video, Dr Alice Dubois explores links between the Riddels and some iconic buildings and places around the city.
PODCAST SERIES: THE RIDDEL HALL CHRONICLES
'The Riddel Hall Chronicles' podcast series looks back at the history of Riddel Hall and sheds a light on living in the Hall as a student. We are grateful to author, Dr Gillian McClelland and former Riddel Hall residents Dr Diana Hadden, Professor Barbara McDermott and Mrs Eileen Murray for sharing their reflections with us.
PODCAST: DR DIANA HADDEN AND MRS EILEEN MURRAY
In this podcast, Dr Diana Hadden and Mrs Eileen Murray reminisce about their time as Riddel Hall residents in the early 1960s, and the long-lasting friendships that started there.
“It was very friendly, it’s a great way of meeting the people who are either doing the same thing as you in the same year or even just meeting the people who are doing different things in the same year.”
Dr Diana Hadden
“Whenever we meet nowadays, we revert back to feeling like students again, and when you are in your 80s and you’re feeling like a student again, it’s the loveliest feeling! It lifts our spirits, all thanks to Riddel Hall.”
Mrs Eileen Murray
PODCAST: PROFESSOR BARBARA McDERMOTT
In this podcast, Professor Barbara McDermott talks about her experience as a Riddel Hall resident in the 1970s, only a few years before the Hall’s closure, and the changing expectations of students in terms of university accommodation.
“I think probably that my time in Riddel also influenced me in thinking about going down that career path as I absorbed this sort of atmosphere of academic tradition and the pursuit of learning, and also the ideal of the Riddel sisters that they had regarding equal opportunities for women and their huge commitment to that.”
Professor Barbara McDermott
PODCAST: DR DIANA HADDEN AND DR GILLIAN MCCLELLAND
In this episode, Alice talks to the two women behind the book “Pioneering women, Riddel Hall and Queen’s University Belfast”. Dr Diana Hadden shares how she acquired the Riddel Hall archives and initiated the research project that led to the publication of the book, and author, Dr Gillian McClelland explains how pioneers like Eliza and Isabella Riddel, and places like Riddel Hall impacted the history of women’s education.
“It was Molly Dawson’s [Riddel Hall’s last warden] idea I would say; I think she probably was quite pleased.”
Dr Diana Hadden
“It was a great opportunity to do some original research into an institution that enabled women to avail of higher education, which was at its infancy at the time.”
Dr Gillian McClelland
INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
Links to resources used and places featured in the development and production of this project:
- John Riddel & Sons Ltd (Riddels): History page of the leading hardware wholesale distributor in Northern Ireland, established in 1803 by John Riddel.
- Riddel’s Warehouse (Hearth NI): The Hearth Historic Buildings Trust rescues and restore historic buildings in Northern Ireland, notably the Riddel Victorian Warehouse on Ann Street.
- Hogg collection (National Museums NI): This beautiful collection of photographs from A. R. Hogg sheds a light on how Belfast and Northern Ireland looked like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It notably includes pictures of the Riddel business and warehouse.
- Rediscovering Donegall Place (Open Heritage Belfast): This webpage developed by the Ulster Architectural Heritage and Belfast City Council walks you through the buildings of Donegall Place, their styles, history and significance, changing the way you look at the Belfast city centre. It notably includes the Riddel main business site, “Riddel’s arcade”.
- Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum: The museum hosts collections related to the linen industry in the Lagan Valley, including the Barbour family, into which Margaret Riddel married. (Video: Past, Present and Future of Linen in Northern Ireland - Hilden Mill | NI Science Festival)
- First Church Belfast: This Presbyterian Church on Rosemary Street was the Church of the Riddel family and hosts a beautiful stained-glass window dedicated to Eliza and Isabella Riddel on which you can see a representation of Riddel Hall, as well as plaques in memory of the family and an organ donated by the Riddel sisters.
- Colaiste feirste: This Irish-speaking school is based in the former home of the Riddel family.
- Riddel Hall (venues at Queen’s): A range of rooms in Riddel Hall are available to hire for professional and private events, such as conferences and weddings. This page includes pictures and information for Riddel Hall and other venues in Queen’s.
- Queen's McClay Library: QUB staff and students can borrow the book 'Pioneering Women: Riddel Hall and Queens University Belfast' from the Library.
IMAGES OF RIDDEL HALL
We are very thankful to all the people who contributed to this project, notably by generously providing valuable information, archive documents or pictures, and/or access to their facilities for filming: especially Carey Ramsey; the Murphy family and staff at Riddels; Marcus Patton at Hearth NI; Micheál Mac Giolla Ghunna and the Colaiste Feirste staff; Stephen Weir at National Museums NI; Ciaran Toal at the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum; Ursula Mitchel at Special Collections and Archives, Queen's University Belfast; Raymond O’Regan at First Presbyterian Church Belfast, Rosemary Street, Belfast; Brian Stewart and the team at Riddel Hall; The Belfast Telegraph.
We warmly thank our podcast contributors, Dr Diana Hadden, Dr Gillian McClelland, Professor Barbara McDermott and Mrs Eileen Murray, for sharing their personal experiences and memories with us; we had such a great time listening to their stories!
This project is a Queen’s Gender Initiative Anniversary project, with special thanks to Professor Karen McCloskey, QGI Director. We would like to acknowledge the following members of staff for their involvement and contributions to this project: Alice Dubois (project lead and design, research, video scripts, presentation, podcast interviews and podcast editing); Stephen Mullan (filming, editing and video production); Erin Davidson (website design, organisational support and feedback); Cathy Carey and Ann Campbell (organisational support and feedback); Victoria Wilson (inclusion of QUB branding and music to podcasts and publishing of podcasts on YouTube); Louis Farrell (podcast registration and publication on platforms); input/support from Jacqueline Kearns in addition to input and suggestions from members of the QGI Executive Committee, including Dolores Vischer and Renee Prendergast.