Pediment, Customs House, Belfast designed by Thomas Fitzpatrick. 1856. Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph and text by Philip V. Allingham 2006. This image may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose.

The Customs House in the High Italian Renaissance or "Palazzo" style is the finest neoclassical building in Belfast. Custom-House pedimental group of includes Britannia (The Protestant Mother-Country), Neptune (another aspect of Britannia, ruler of the waves), and Mercury (signifying nineteenth-century Britain's economic preeminence, rather than that Roman god's function as patron of thieves). According to C. E. B. Brett,

its most successful feature is the seaward facade, and particularly the carving in the pediment. This was executed by Thomas Fitzpatrick, a really working sculptor, and consists of splendidly large and serene figures of Britannia, flanked by lion and unicorn, with Neptune and Mercuryt gazing out on either side through their anti-pigeon cage. Various appropriate capstans, barrels and rope-ends are introduced into the composition [the whole reminiscent of the effect of London as depicted on Phiz's wrapper for A Tale of Two Cities published two years after the completion of the building]. The whole thing has the lazy grandeur that characterizes Victorian mason's work at its very best; not an affair of muscle, still less of bone or structure, but of mass. [pp. 29-30]

Other Views

References

Brett, C. E. B. Buildings of Belfast, 1700-1914. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967.

"Customs House: One of Belfast's Finest Buildings." www.wcities.com."30 August 2006.


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Last modified 29 September 2006