The Earls of Donegall laid out six passes in Belfast from 1660 to 1700. One of these passes led through the dense Cromac Wood and was known as the Pass Loning. Later the name evolved and become Donegall Pass. The street names in the area still contact memories of the Cromac wood, for example, Walnut Street, Elm Street and Pine Way.
In the 18th Century, Donegall Pass became the location of many of Belfast’s most exclusive residents, such as Cromac house and Cromac Lodge. Many of Belfast’s noted citizens resided in the area, such as Alderman Gaffikin, Reverend Hugh Hanna, Erskine Mayne and Mrs Edgar Haines. As Belfast became industrialised, the woods were replaced by housing for the workers and elite middle class moved out of central Belfast.
The Donegall family owned Belfast and much of its surroundings up until the middle of the 19th Century. By late-Victorian times, Donegall Pass was a district of well-paid artisans and small merchants.
“The Pass has a respectable antiquity.” Colin Johnson Robb in his summary of the history of Donegall Pass in the 1991 community festival program.
By the 1960s, however, this once proud district was in rapid decline. To rehabilitate the area and accommodate the need for re-housing, the Housing Executive implemented a strategy of urban renewal.