The Linen Hall Library is located at 17 Donegall Square North and is the oldest library in Belfast and the last subscribing library in Northern Ireland.
A subscription library (also membership library or independent library) is a library that is financed by private funds either from membership fees or endowments.
The Linen Hall Library was founded in 1788 by a group of artisans as the Belfast Reading Society and, in 1792 became the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge.
It adopted a resolution in 1795 “that the object of this Society is the collection of an extensive Library, philosophical apparatus and such products of nature and art as tend to improve the mind and excite a spirit of general enquiry”.
Erected at the Library is an Ulster History Circle Blue Plaque dedicated to United Irishman Thomas Russell (1767-1803). Russell was Librarian from 1794-1796. By 1796 he was the commander of the United Irishmen in County Down. He was eventually arrested, brought to Downpatrick Gaol and tried for high treason. He was executed for his part in Robert Emmet’s rebellion in 1803.