A report has advised of a refurbishment recently been carried out which requires a re-assessment. Further details welcome.
Please note - the photos are therefore out of date and the description is one written before the recent changes. Recent photos would also be welcome.
The second finest historic pub interior in Belfast to the Crown for the quality and exuberance of its late Victorian interior. It dates from 1885 and was run by the McGuigan family for 77 years - note the 'C & P McGuigan' mosaic in the doorway. It has the layout that is special to Northern Ireland – a row of tiny snugs along the exterior wall and a wide black and white diamond shaped tiled drinking space between them and the bar counter.
The other best remaining examples of snugs in Northern Ireland are at the Crown, Belfast, Northern Ireland
; Rock, Belfast, Northern Ireland
; Ronnie Drew's, Belfast, Northern Ireland
; Mandeville Arms, Portadown
; Blakes of the Hollow, Enniskillen
and the rare survivor Carraghers, Camlough, Co. Armagh
being a small village pub.
In addition, the Fort Bar has on the rear left what looks like a snug but in the past it would have sold groceries - note the 'Grocery Department' in the etched glass window on the door from the vestibule entrance on the Cooligan Street side. Also, you will see the height of the counter here is lower than that of the main bar. The traditional Irish combination of a shop and drinking place was made illegal in 1923, following the partition of Ireland, and this area was closed and used by staff until the 1970s when it returned to use as a snug. It has a red and black quarry tiled floor and bare benches on two sides.
The seven-bay richly carved mahogany bar-back is a spectacularly ornate piece topped by a balustrade and a clock. There was a minor change in the 1970s to add barrel ends all the way all the bar back fitting (it was plain wood before) and across each cask end a piece of wood has been added so optics can be screwed to it. The bar counter has carved brackets all along it and along the top on the left hand side is a series of tiled paintings of lakeland scenes. There are less ornate tiles on the right hand side of the bar counter which curves inwards.
Within the drinking space on the right is a cast iron pillar with decorative capital and attached to it and the counter is a short carved mahogany screen with mirrored panels on both sides. On the left side of the counter is another small screen featuring a 'JJ & S Strongest 24% under proof John Jameson Whisky' mirror which is attached to another cast iron pillar with decorative capital situated within the servery. Good plaster segmented ceiling.
There is a row of five snugs facing the servery split by the main front entrance lobby and all retain their original doors but they have been permanently fixed in an open position since the days of 'The Troubles'. Originally there were eight - seven across the front of the room and another one on the rear right - look for the pattern of the black and white tiled floor indicating where the partition that created it was situated. A fireplace in this area has also been removed..
The snugs are formed of solid partitions with glazed panels at the top, bare benches attached to them and have red and black quarry tiled floors. Each snug has a number painted on a small glass pane in the door. The existing snugs have the numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Snugs 7 and 8 were situated on the front left of the pub and were lost when the the toilets were brought inside in the 1970s. Note the doors from snugs numbers 7 and 8 have been retained and situated on the left hand side of the servery.
The upstairs lounge did have some Art Deco fittings but it was refurbished in c.2004 and now has no old fittings.
To reach this pub why not try the famous Falls taxi-bus service which leaves from Castle Street. London-style Hackney cabs arrived in West Belfast at the height of the Troubles and provided an invaluable hop-on, hop-off service when regular schedules were severely disrupted. Though the Troubles are a thing of the past, the black taxis remain and are very much a part of the local community. Each cab takes up to 6 people and customers jump in and out as they travel along the Falls Road. Just flag one down anywhere along the road and tap the window behind the driver when you want to stop.