In the County Down town of Comber, on the Ballygowan Road (the A21) close to its junction with Carnesure Terrace, stands the Andrews Memorial Hall. The hall is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Andrews Jr, lost in the sinking of the Titanic.

Thomas Andrews was born on 7 February 1873 to Thomas Senior and Eliza (nee Pirrie). Eliza's brother was William Pirrie (later Lord Pirrie), managing director of the Harland and Wolff shipyard. Privately schooled to the age of eleven, Thomas Andrews then started attending the Royal Academical Institution in September 1884. By the age of sixteen Thomas Andrews was apprenticed at his uncle's shipyard in Belfast.

As a premium apprentice Thomas Andrews spent the next five years working in the various departments of the shipyard, ultimately finishing his apprenticeship working in the drawing office. He became part of the drawing office in November 1892, and after rising through a number of managerial positions reached the position of Managing Director in March 1907.

In a biography of Thomas Andrews published after his death author Shan Bullock wrote that as "Managing Director he saw her [the Titanic] grow up, frame by frame, plate by plate, day after day throughout more than two years. For Andrews this was his ship". Thomas Andrews sailed aboard the Titanic, leading The Guarantee Group. The group were there to resolve any teething issues with the new ship. All nine men were lost.

Work began on the hall on 2 October 1913 when Elizabeth Andrews, daughter of Thomas Andrews, symbolically broke ground at the site. Three months later, on 13 January 1914, Thomas Andrews' mother laid a foundation stone for the hall. Both events are recorded by inscribed granite blocks set into the main facade of the hall. The hall was officially opened by Thomas Andrews' widow on 29 January 1915.

The hall was designed by the prominent Belfast architectural practice of Young & McKenzie. The firm was responsible for a number of important buildings, notably the Scottish Provident Building located on the west side of Donegall Square, in central Belfast, and the impressive red sandstone Ocean Insurance Buildings located on the north-east corner of Donegall Square, by Chichester Street. Young & McKenzie were responsible for a number of schools and halls in the area, so they were perhaps an obvious choice to design the Andrews Memorial Hall.

Constructed by Courtney & Company of Belfast, the hall is a two-storey gabled building faced in rough-cut sandstone. The hall is six bays deep, with buttresses between each bay. The ground-floor windows are rectangular, with lattice glazing. Above, the first storey windows are headed with Tudor arches and feature ornate tracery with lattice glazing. The main elevation facing onto Ballygowan Road is a gabled facade featuring a single central bay. The corners of the gable-end project beyond the main body of the hall and feature four-pane mullioned windows on the ground-floor and decorative panels on the first-floor depicting a heraldic shield motif, with the western motif bearing the motto 'Always faithful'. The corners are surmounted by castellated pediments.

The gabled facade features a large, Tudor-arched central doorway. The spandrels of the arch are decorated with cherubs playing musical instruments, either side of the inscription 'Thomas Andrews Jr Shipbuilder Memorial Hall' carved in relief. Above is a double-height mullioned Tudor-arched window with lattice glazing. Above the window is a roundel with an anchor design and 1914 numerals carved in relief. Either side of the window are half turrets with three tall slit-windows set into the base of each turret. The half turrets rise in height above the gable-end, terminating in octagonal-shaped spires topped with ball-shaped finials, while the apex of the gable is topped with its own finial.

Inside the hall, the main hall extends over the first floor with administrative rooms and lavatories on the ground floor. The hall features a gallery at the front of the hall, accessible from a landing reached by stairs from the hall's entrance hall. At the far end of the hall is a stage beneath a proscenium arch.

For many years the hall was used as a community hall before becoming part of the adjacent Andrews Memorial Primary School, initially serving as temporary classroom space until that school was completed in 1979. The hall was first listed on 4 March 1977 and is currently given Grade B1-listed status, as a "special building of... local importance".

More information

  • Bullock, Shan F (1912) Thomas Andrews Shipbuilder Dublin/London: Maunsel & Company Ltd
  • Department of the Environment (1999) Historic Building Details [HB24/15/036] Belfast: Department of the Environment,
  • Graham, Karen and Magee, Ralph (2012) A Titanic Memorial - The Andrews Memorial Hall Comber: Andrews Memorial Primary School
  • Irish Architectural Archive (2016) Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940, Young & McKenzie Dublin: Irish Architectural Archive, +%26+mackenzie
  • Sun, The (1912) Titanic Builder Lost New York: The Sun, 25 April 1912