The Exchange was built in 1769 as a single-storey, arcaded Market House funded by a donation of £4000 from the Earl of Donegall as a celebration of the birth of his son, George Augustus. 

In 1776, again at the request of the Earl, an upper storey which became known as the Assembly Rooms was added.

The building was listed in 1975 and is currently a Grade B1 listed building. The building is currently vacant.

The building has been the scene for much of Belfast’s history. In 1786, a meeting was held in the building to set up a “Belfast Slave Ship Company” by a group of Belfast merchants lead by Waddell Cunningham. Thomas McCabe, a watchmaker and staunch Presbyterian, denounced this vile idea and the proposition was defeated. Six years later, the famous Belfast Harp festival was held in the Assembly Rooms. Ten harpists, most of them blind, took part in this celebration of the fall of the Paris Bastille. In 1798, after the failed United Irishmen rebellion, a military court was held in the Assembly Rooms to try leaders of the uprising. Here Henry Joy McCracken was sentenced to death for his part; McCracken was then hung outside the Market House, at the corner of High St. and Cornmarket (present day Dunnes store).