St. Joseph's 'Open The Doors' Project
Sailortown regeneration group in partnership with CEDA
The project is seeking to raise £100k to realise Sailortown's vision for a new community in Belfast Docks.
Urgent repairs are needed to roof to stop water damage. The provision of heating and toilet facilities are planned and funds are needed to meet Health and Safety Standards to permit community and public access.
We can provide a badly needed space for activities which will give people the chance to meet, chat and come together. The project will Bring this historic building back to life and create a much-needed space for community activities cultural events and public access
We will build a community of connected people creating an inter-generational community of people proud to say “I come from Sailortown”.
Donations are not refundable. All proceeds collected will go towards the project.
The Sailortown Community was decimated by Road building in the late 1960s. Houses were bulldozed and the people moved to large estates around Belfast. St Joseph’s was closed and deconsecrated in 2001. However, its dispersed community came together and led a spirited campaign to retain it. They protested on its steps for 2 years, slept in it for 3 nights and began to gather their stories and memories of the generations of their families who attended it. They still come today, although the Church fell into near dereliction over the years.
Sailortown Regeneration continued to work in the area and in 2006 eventually secured a 150 lease on the Church and its attached Parochial house. They brought the first Social Housing to the area in 2012 and continue to work on regeneration and restoration so that the memory of Sailortown is not forgotten. They have spent the last 18 years working towards re-establishing a community in Sailortown. Repairs to the church building are ongoing with many leaks remaining as well as dry rot to the woodwork. Heating and toilet facilities are urgently required before the building can safely be opened for public and community use. When this emergency work is complete it can be opened as a Community Hub and also used for cultural and heritage events.
Sailortown was Belfast’s first waterfront village with over 5,000 people packed into the small, cobblestoned streets of terraced houses between the docks and York Street.
The men worked on the docks or went to sea. The women looked after large families and found work in the mills. In the late 1960’s the community were dispersed to new Housing around the City to enable the building of the M2 motorway. They were enticed with offers of new houses and were promised that they’d be able to return. This never happened.
They were abandoned in soulless estates having lost their generational connections to friends and family.
Their houses were gradually demolished with only 4 originals remaining today.
However, in 2000 a decision was taken to close and deconsecrate St. Joseph’s Church.
This was the final straw. The people of Sailortown came together to fight the closure.
They formed a Cultural and Historical Committee, campaigned widely and had a 3 day lock in in protest. In 2006 the Church handed them over the keys and a 150 year lease.
However, the Church had not been maintained for years and with no resources and damage caused by building high rise buildings next door the Church gradually fell into near dereliction and needed essential repair work to ensure its survival. In the intervening years they have succeeded in keeping the memory of Sailortown alive for the diaspora at home and around the world.