One of Northern Ireland's best-known pubs, it is a rare and classic example of a Victorian gin palace. Its one of my favourites, similar to the Phil' in Liverpool and one more reason to consider staying at the famous Europa hotel over the road.
It was opened as The Railway Tavern, as the Great Victoria St train station is just opposite. The pub was then bought by Michael Flanagan. His son Patrick renamed and renovated the pub in 1885.
The Crown owes its elaborate tiling, stained glass and woodwork to the Italian craftsmen whom Flanagan persuaded to work on the pub after hours. These craftsmen were brought to Ireland to work on the many new churches being built in Belfast at the time. It was this high standard of work that gave the Crown the reputation of being one of the finest Victorian Gin Palaces of its time.
In 1978 the National Trust, following persuasion by people including Sir John Betjeman, purchased the property and three years later completed a £400,000 renovation to restore the bar to its original Victorian state. Further restoration by the National Trust was done in 2007 at a cost of £500,000. As a NT member myself it would be nice to get a free pint on production of my NT membership card. I might take that up with them.
The pub was used as a location in David Caffrey's Divorcing Jack (1998), a film following Colin Bateman's character Dan Starkey through a web of political intrigue and Irish sectarian violence. I would fully recommend the book and many more of his books in the same style.
The exterior is decorated in polychromatic tiles. This includes a mosaic of a Crown on the floor of the entrance. The interior is also decorated with complex mosaics of tiles. The red granite topped bar is of an altar style, with a heated footrest underneath and is lit by gas lamps on the highly decorative carved ceilings.
The Crown has ten booths, or snugs. Built to accommodate the pub's more reserved customers during the austere Victorian period, the snugs feature the original gun metal plates for striking matches and an antique bell system for alerting staff. Extra privacy was then afforded by the pub's etched and stained glass windows which feature painted shells, fairies, pineapples, fleurs-de-lis and clowns.
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