Our History

Bryson Chartiable Group was founded in 1906, and since then we continue in our mission to help those in need and with our committment to Building Better Futures across Northern Ireland and beyond. 

BCOS Founding, 1909

The Beginning

1906, 1909

Belfast Charity Organisation Society (BCOS), forerunner to Bryson Charitable Group is founded and begins operations from Donegall Square East. In the same year, around the corner, Belfast City Hall opens

BCOS Titanic Image

Early Innovation in Tackling Social Issues

1910, 1919

BCOS, in-keeping with its commitment to social innovation begins its 100-year collaboration with Queens University Belfast to train social workers. The decade when the Titanic was launched and lost and the First World War took place.

Belfast City Hall, 1929

First Reshape to Meet Emerging Social Needs

1920, 1929

BCOS evolves into The Belfast Council of Social Welfare (The Council), moves to new premises and develops the concept of a centre for social innovation to address the emerging post war welfare needs. The decade when the first Northern Ireland Parliament was formed, first meeting in Belfast City Hall

Social Housing In Belfast 1939

New Direction in Social Innovation

1930, 1939

The Council pioneers the building of high quality social housing with an investment of £20,000 (equivalent to £1,274,000 in 2016) building properties in North, South and East Belfast. The decade in which the Second World War began.

Belfast 1949 Getting On A Bus

New Centre for Social Services

1940, 1949

The Council establishes the first NI branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau and achieves its ambition to develop a centre for social innovation in the City by acquiring 28 Bedford Street – Bryson House. The decade in which Belfast experienced its own Blitz, but saw the end of the Second World War.

Extra Care Volunteer Service, 1959 Belfast

Leading the Way in Public Service Delivery

1950, 1959

The Council develops Extra Care a Volunteer service to aid the “aged and lonely”, the forerunner to the statutory Home Help service. The decade that seen the festival of Britain and the formation of the European Economic Community.

Belfast's First Adventure Playground

Pioneering Play Therapy

1960, 1969

Concerned about urban housing conditions and its effect on children’s development, the Council pioneers the establishment of the City’s first Adventure Playground, based on a Scandinavian model. During this decade Neil Armstrong becomes the first Man to walk on the Moon

1979, Civil Unrest In Belfast

New Models of Social Innovation

1970, 1979

The beginning of civil unrest in NI, the Charity played a lead role in developing and delivering services to victims. Its continued commitment to social innovation seen the development of NI’s first Playbus, and family support service; focused on building parenting skills. To avoid confusion with Belfast City Council, the Council changed its name to Belfast Voluntary Welfare Society (BVWS). During this decade Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in the UK.

1989, Bryson House Formed

Growing Social Impact

1980, 1989

The Charity changed its name to “Bryson House” to build brand awareness in a decade which saw its most prolific growth in social innovation, with the piloting and development of a range of new services, which included a series of community family centres; Keep Belfast Warm; Care and Home Repair for the Elderly; HomeStart; North City Training and many more.

1999, New Business Model For Social Purpose

New Business Model for Social Purpose

1990, 1999

To build on the significant growth in service provision, in areas such as energy efficiency and recycling, Bryson develops an enterprising business model driven for social purpose and forms Bryson Enterprise Ltd as a wholly owned subsidiary trading company. During this decade the NI Good Friday Agreement is put in place and Bill Clinton wins USA Presidential election.

Bryson Recycling Family 2009

A Century of Social Innovation

2000, 2009

In this decade Bryson celebrates its centenary; 100 years of social innovation and forms into Bryson Charitable Group to support and grow its 7 social business subsidiaries becoming NI’s first major social enterprise. In this decade, Belfast City Hall also celebrates its centenary year.

The Bryson Group Today

Growing Social Enterprise


Bryson Charitable Group grows to over 600 staff and 120 volunteers, enters the top 100 SME’s in NI with turnover growing to over £30m, wins Queens Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development and All Ireland Local Enterprise Award for delivering 24,000 services daily in NI, the Irish Republic and Wales.