The Harbour Bar, as its name suggests, stood in Quay Street opposite the harbour and the steamboat pier. The site is now occupied by the Windsor Bar and lies between the Royal Hotel and the Marine Court Hotel. According to Patton the site was originally occupied by two-storey houses. He does not specify which ones, but it seems to be those numbered 5 & 6 Quay Street in the valuations. A photograph of the late 1880s shows two houses beside the Royal Hotel. In 1863 the premises were occupied by Captain John McKee who held them from Robert Edward Ward, the Bangor landowner. By 1872 they had passed to Frances McKee and by 1878 to Mrs West. In 1887 they were held by a Mrs Knox as a tenant of Mrs West. Then in 1890 Mrs West was again listed as the tenant of Robert Edward Ward. It is possible that Mrs West was the former Frances McKee as a Frances McKee of Belfast married Thomas West in 1872.
The brief appearance of Mrs Knox in the valuation is interesting. There is a memorial in Bangor Abbey graveyard to Sarah Selina Knox of The Parade who died 2 September 1889. Her residence at the registration of her death was also recorded as The Parade and her husband had been a solicitor. This name was used for at least part of Quay Street, long before Sandy Row was renamed as Queen’s Parade. Indeed the Royal Hotel, beside Mrs Knox’s residence, was stated in directories to be on The Parade. This evidence makes it almost certain that the Mrs Knox of the valuation is the same as Mrs Knox of the memorial.
On the latter it states that she was the widow of Dominick Knox of Prehen, County Derry, the daughter of John Dysart, J.P. and the sister of Julia Griffin. She was aged 84 at the time of her death. Her will on the PRONI website seems to contradict the valuation. It was dated 20 March 1881 and her residence was given as The Parade. It was witnessed by Edward Maguire, rector of Bangor Abbey and by his curate. This suggests that the valuation was not always updated quickly and she was already living there by 1881. There is no mention of children in the will. Her property was left to her sister Julia Griffin. Bangor Historical Society visited Prehen House in 2008 and there is a picture and short account of the visit on the society website. I have found no evidence to suggest that any of the women mentioned above ran a public house on the site.
In 1893 the valuation listed Samuel Boyd with a note beside his property saying “licensed”. The North Down Herald of March 1893 contained an advertisement for a seven-day license, applying for a transfer from Samuel Boyd, Ballymagee Street to Samuel Boyd, Quay Street. In 1892 a directory had listed Samuel Boyd as the owner of the International Hotel in Ballymagee Street, but in 1895 he was listed as the owner of the Harbour Bar. This seems to mark the transference of the Quay Street premises from a private house to a public bar. Samuel Boyd only operated the premises for a few years. A photograph of about 1895 showed the sign Harbour Bar on the house next to the newly opened Grand Hotel.
On 6 February 1896 an advertisement appeared in the Belfast Newsletter for the auction of a “very valuable and extensive leasehold retail wine and spirit establishment … known as the Harbour Bar”. The proprietor, Samuel Boyd, was offering it for auction. It was called an old-established business with very extensive premises. This seems strange as it has not proved possible to find evidence that the Harbour Bar existed before 1893. Perhaps the phrase “old-established” business included Mr. Boyd’s running of the business at the International Hotel which he had formerly owned. The advertisement stated that its situation was one of the best in Bangor, opposite the harbour and esplanade. It had a frontage of 33’ on Quay Street and stretched back 319’ to Albert Street. The premises consisted of a large open bar, a bar parlour, kitchen and two large drinking-rooms on the ground floor, capable of accommodating nearly 200 persons. The private part of the premises had six apartments. The whole site was held under two leases: one dating from 1893 for 999 years from Mr. Ward at a rent of £6 7s 6d. The other from 1854 for 60 years at a rent of £6. This could be extended to 999 years at a slightly increased rent. The advertisement concluded by referring to the easy access to Belfast and calling Bangor “the most rising watering-place in the North” and “The Brighton of Ireland”.
The purchaser of the bar was William Heggie, a publican of Bankmore Street in Belfast. He paid £1,420. Mr Heggie already had a link with Bangor. In January 1896 he had married Mrs Anne Jane Barr, the widow of Wilson Barr of Ballymagee Street (See my article on the Star Hotel). A year later he was offering the Princess Bar at the corner of Bankmore Street in Belfast and the Harbour Bar in Bangor for sale by public auction. The part relating to the Harbour Bar was very similar to the details in Samuel Boyd’s advertisement. The reason for the sale becomes apparent in further newspaper entries. In April the Harbour Bar was again advertised, but this time as a “Mortgagees’ sale” by auction (without reserve). The purchaser was William Johnston of the Burlington Restaurant in Belfast and he paid £1,000. About 1900 the original buildings were demolished and the present building erected and named as the Burlington Restaurant.
Meanwhile Mr Heggie had appeared in the Belfast Bankruptcy Court and by November 1897 he was living with his son in Belfast. At the 1901 census he was still living in Belfast with his daughter and son-in-law John and Elizabeth Adair. He died in 1907. In 1901 Mrs Heggie was living in Castle Street, Bangor with her son Robert Barr. Her first husband, Wilson Barr, had owned several houses in the street. The next year she had moved to Bingham Street with her son Robert Miller Barr to a newly-built house they had named “Millerville”. By 1904 they had moved to Windsor Road in Belfast. She did not appear in the 1911 census and I have not yet been able to find her death or her will.
It seems very likely then that the Harbour Bar was only a very short-lived public house. Its main history lies in the twentieth century when it served as a restaurant and later as a hotel. There was even a picture house on the site whose history is described by Patton in his Bangor Gazetteer.