I’ve lived here my entire life. In this area you always felt a strong sense of community. There are a lot of families like our family who have been here 30+ years. They had children and have chosen to stay in the area. The housing waiting lists of Grosvenor/Roden Street is quite high – which is a good sign. It’s really hard to get a home here – it’s not so hard to get a flat.
My family home was social housing. Very, very poorly designed. It was one of the first properties in this estate. It was built about 1975. The estate was designed in a rather peculiar way where the homes were back to front. So, what looked like their front was actually their back. It meant that if you were in your living room the property facing you were looking out their bedroom. There wasn’t a lot of distance given for gardens. In fact there were no gardens, you only had a yard.
In the centre of the estate was a football pitch – for want of a better term. Basically, a hard surface with walls and football posts painted on. As the estate grew it became a problematic as a place where people gathered. But when there was festivals and things on it was also a place where people gathered for positive types of activities. The wider design of the estate as Troubles/War whatever started was, for security reasons, they seemed to design the estate with a lot of alley ways that were one-way you can’t come out at the bottom end. It’s not the worst thing actually – it probably negates the joyriding.
Four of us, live here – off and on. There’s myself and my partner, my niece who fluctuates in and out of living here and my dad when he can’t stay round there on his own.
I’m in this house 16 years. I bought it from my sister. My sister had purchased the property from the ‘Right To Buy’ scheme from the Housing Executive. She wanted to move at that time and the guy that I was seeing at that time needed to move from his house too so we rented off her for a while here. Had all those factors not been in play I probably wouldn’t have left the family home. I’d probably still be there.
I kept it as was for a while, then over the years I put two new kitchens in and paved the front and paved the back. Redecorated. Put a new bathroom in. I was considering a loft conversion when my niece was here but it was very expensive and a lot of hard work so I just never got round to it.
Because it was an ex-Housing Executive property the bedroom sizes are far better I think than Housing Association properties and far better than some private builds that I’ve seen. I think it’s quite well designed.
My mum always said: “It’s not where you live, it’s how you live.” On this side it’s a Housing Executive property, there’s a nice lady in there and next door is an owner-occupier, She is a young professional from Dublin. and I quite like that she sees living here is viable for city centre commuting.
I’m very proud of the area and surrounding areas. There can be some fluctuating anti-social issues because it’s still an area of multiple deprivation . But there is still a sense, a real good sense of community pride.
You were lucky with parking at one time. But for the past 5 years….. it’s whether people are seeing now that it’s safe to park here – which is a good thing – but on the flip side you can’t get parked. People in the area get very irate about it.
I had a real wooden floor. It was lovely but it was so badly marked because I never take shoes off. The wall-mounted TV gives you more floor space. I’d love to get rid of this whole thing ( chimney breast) to give you a square living room, but I know it would be a big job. This was an oil central heated property and I put gas in.
The PVC windows give you a nicer bay – you’ll find quite a lot of the homes put those in. The windows before were just flat and you didn’t realise the difference it made until you changed them.
My brother said ‘knock all your walls down and have it totally open plan” He’s a man. I said: sometimes in relationships you like separate rooms. You like a bit of space. He was saying ‘ knock this down, and knock that down it will be massive’. I mulled it over and then I thought. When you are cooking … there’s the mess. It’s not big enough for open plan. So, no major drastic changes. Just a few cosmetic. A bit of structural.
I wouldn’t say the plumbing is fantastic. I think that might be shared in the general area. A lot of sewers run underneath Distillery street and there’s actually a massive under one the leisure centre. Of late there’s been an issue with rats. …. With the Westlink improvement scheme you had a big spike in the number of rats running about.
We have an alley way between this house and that house next door. It’s shared. If you didn’t get on it would probably be problematic. But we do get on so that’s fine. Next door is an older lady and it’s a social housing home so that could be re-allocated and change hands so I wouldn’t rule out that you would have noise issues. The back yards could have done with 10 extra feet.
It’s not a bad house for storage. It’s well designed…. I’m a hoarder. It’s all hidden. I don’t like clutter. I don’t mind stuffing wardrobes with clutter.
I like soft furnishings, a bit of ornateness. Palette-wise… I love green and more muted colours. I always preferred wooden floors. The kitchen wasn’t big enough for an island. Previously it had a hallway. It was a terrible shape, tiny. So I knocked that down. I’d love real flowers all the time but sure you’d be in the millionaire category. I like good solid doors. I changed the doors. I didn’t want glass here. You like a bit of privacy.
For me, it’s about.. not over-spending on your furniture but sort of all-right quality. Sofa-wise I went cheaper this time because I can be quite untidy with sofas. Kitchen. I just like a muted pallette as well. You are conscious that it isn’t the biggest house in the world …keep your mood up, with lighter colours. It’s a nice sort of feeling, I always thought. The rooms upstairs, the bigger bedroom, is a big enough room and the other 2 rooms are very liveable. The bathroom could be bigger but it’s not a real deal breaker.
I like picking up different stuff in places. I bought those when we got engaged. Kitchen – Creations was the table. Upstairs, a local furniture shop for the bed … they don’t need replaced that often… Oh, and the Hospice Shop. My mum would have been a fan. You could get real good quality second hand furniture in them. She would always have had a good eye would have picked something up for me.
People here take great pride in their homes. There are some fabulously decorated homes in the area. You have some real gardening enthusiasts around here. Once one person does something on the street it has an effect on everybody. In all of the streets you’ll find maybe 2 or 3 people who are very house proud and it just keeps everything up. Litter is an issue in the area though. Generally in Belfast…terrible. Some vandalism…Grafitti on walls that gives you that ghetto look. There would be a lot of homes that are very well furnished. So I would say mine would be about mid-range. Mine wouldn’t be at the higher end.
That was DFS, Creations… they were the Door Store… My mum always loved TK Maxx for different types of things… I think that lamp was TK Maxx but it’s not the original shade. I got that dirty and I’m struggling to get the proper size, it was massive.
I love the bottom of that lamp. I remember going to buy those with my mum and getting them into the car. There’s a wee nest of tables there. And I can remember having the conversation so these …would be quite emotional for me. I would be very attached to them.
I have an elephant upstairs that’s out of my mum’s home. I’ve always loved it. It’s was just something you always looked at at the top of the stairs. You always knew you were home…. So it’s made its way here.
This is the garden you can see the top it’s a bit like Alcatraz. I had ivy which I loved but it was dense. It was growing right over into the Royal. I’m going to put up fake ivy. I kind of like a bit of privacy.
There was a massive oil tank, honestly it could have powered the Royal, it was massive so we got rid of that. It was real dense weeds and nettles and things so we had to clear all that. I had stones for a while. I quite liked the stones but they got everywhere. So, I just got a cheap paving guy out to do it. It gave you the whole sort of space. I would love grass… but sure.
There was an army barracks at the top of Roden Street years and years ago. That was demolished. Those houses on the front were always 3-storey. There was an alleyway at the back of those. Mickey Marley lived there and that story about him, that he kept his horse at the back, is true. His horse was in the back yard. When you were coming down from school along the alleyway the horse’s head was sticking over the top.
I have always liked living here because of its proximity to the city centre and the Royal hospital. You forget how lucky you are to be so close to the hospital. When my mum was ill in the long nights, If anything happened you were straight up there in an instant.
The footfall going up and down the Grosvenor Road from as long as I can remember has been diverse. I just love that about the area. You can be in Botanic gardens walking in 25 minutes. You are near Queens so you can have one foot in both worlds. You never feel trapped.… you can just walk out and away.