Heritage Angel: Bill Wolsey
Project: The Dirty Onion, Belfast
The ‘Dirty Onion’ is a former warehouse that traded everything from fish and tea to tinned soup, linen, whiskey and much more. It is B listed and is Belfast’s oldest intact timber-framed building, dating back to the late 17th Century. It sits within the Cathedral Quarter Conservation Area in Belfast, a location that has seen much progress in recent years by way of heritage-led regeneration. The warehouse had lain empty for a number of decades, as consecutive owners considered the balance between its creative reuse and the challenges associated with its protection and retention of important historic fabric. Bill Wolsey had a vision that would not only bring the building back into use, but give it a thriving social and commercial future. Bill has been responsible for restoring some of Belfast’s most important historic buildings, regenerating buildings at risk, bringing them back to life. The key objective of this project was to create one of the most beautiful and authentic bars in Ireland, with a strong association with Irish music, art and culture. The heritage value of the building was seen to be the perfect draw. The project involved removing unsympathetic additions to expose its original beams, treating the wood to protect it. Modern interventions were slotted in with minimal damage to the rear of the remaining historic structure. The building has now become a unique and popular bar and restaurant. Heritage-led regeneration projects, like the Dirty Onion, have changed the Cathedral Quarter area and contributed to its growth.