South East Ward History
This section is about a journey in seeking out the sense of history and place in the south east ward. This is a work in process and ties into my fourth aim of my manifesto, the enhancement of heritage. Please come back and visit as the page is added to or even better come walking on one of the ward historical walking tours!
Kieran walking tours of the ward have now been developed for:
- Cork City Hall (history of the building)
- Ballinlough (from ‘Big houses’ to market gardens to Free State housing estates
- St. Finbarr’s Hospital (from workhouse to hospital)
- Old Cork-Blackrock and Passage Rail Line (1850 to present day)
- Douglas Village (from Huguenots to woollen mills) http://kieranmccarthy.ie/wordpress/?p=8429
- Blackrock Village (from big houses to fishermen) http://kieranmccarthy.ie/wordpress/?p=8641
- Views from a Park, A walking tour across the new park on the old Kinsale Road landfill, includes a history of South Douglas Road & its environs, http://kieranmccarthy.ie/wordpress/?p=8969
- Docklands (From Jewtown, to Fords to Kennedy Park) http://kieranmccarthy.ie/wordpress/?p=9077
(Also see www.corkheritage.ie for Kieran’s heritage website and resources on researching Cork’s local history and heritage)
Introduction to the South East Ward:
There are a number of high profile heritage sites within the south east ward such as Blackrock Castle, the Cork Showgrounds and Ringmahon House. However, there are also a number of sites and plaques that remain forgotten, not to mention the limitless oral histories of the ward’s residents, many of which are very relevant in understanding how the ward came into being – in fact I always think that by understanding the past, we can promote and think about the future.
The ward is bordered by the South Link Road on the west , the Kinsale Road Landfill on the south, the River Lee to the north and Mahon estuary to the east. The ward has residences stretching from the late 1700s to the present day. It has a number of historical sites that developed with the emerging City of Cork. The ward is divided into distinct areas;
(1) The Marina
(2) Turners Cross (Tramore)
(1) The Marina Region
Ever since Viking age time over 1,000 years ago, boats of all different shapes and sizes have been coming in and out of Cork’s riverine and harbour region continuing a very long legacy of trade. Port trade was the engine in Cork’s development. One hundred years ago, considerable tonnage could navigate the North Channel, as far as St. Patrick’s Bridge, and on the South Channel as far as Parliament Bridge. St. Patrick’s Bridge and Merchants’ Quay were the busiest areas, being almost lined daily with shipping. Near the extremity of the former on Penrose Quay was situated the splendid building of the Cork Steamship Company, whose boats loaded and discharged their alongside the quay.
In the late 1800s, the port of Cork was the leading commercial port of Ireland. The export of pickled pork, bacon, butter, corn, porter, and spirits was considerable. The manufactures of the city were brewing, distilling and coach-building, which were all carried on extensively. There were many large establishments in the timber trade, also many in which salt provisions were cured, and several tanneries, which produced leather of the choicest quality. There were also some salt, lime and chemical works.
The imports in the late nineteenth century consisted of maize and wheat from various ports of Europe and America; timber, from Canada and the Baltic; fish, from Newfoundland and Labrador regions. Bark, valonia, shumac, brimstone, sweet oil, raisins, currants, lemons, oranges and other fruit, wine, salt, marble were imported from the Mediterranean; tallow, hemp, flaxseed from St. Petersburg, Rig and Archangel; sugar from the West Indies; tea from China and coal and slate from Wales. Of the latter, corn and timber were imported in large numbers. Exports were principally pewter, whiskey, butter provisions, cattle, fowl, and eggs. Butter was the staple trade.
Immortalised by the name Jewtown, Albert Road and the area of the Hibernian Buildings have been imbued by the story of the Jewish community. The Cork Jewish Congregation was founded about the year 1725 with Shocket and cemetery. It comprised Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews engaged in import and export. By 1871, there were nine Jews in Munster. During the Russian oppression which preceded the May Lass of 1881, several Jews of Vilna, Kovno and Ackmeyan, a Lithuanian village, came to live in Cork. A congregation was formed at the close of 1881 and Meyer Elyan of Zagger, Lithuania was appointed Shocket, Reader and Mothel. The community had close links with those of Dublin and Limerick.
Several of the earliest arrivals from a cluster of shtetls in north-western Lithuania settled in a group of recently constructed dwellings called Hibernian Buildings, Monarea Terrace and Eastville off the Albert Road, c. 1880. Much of the streetscape is as it was more than a century ago when the first Litvaks arrived. Hibernian Buildings was a triangular development of a hundred or so compact and yellow brick on street dwellings. Each unit consisted of four rooms, including a bedroom up in the roof. Seventy Jews prayed in a room in Eastville. About the year 1884, a room was rented in Marlborough Street from the Cork Branch of the National League. A synagogue was fitted up in the offices there. Premises were finally acquired at 24 South Terrace. The number of Jews in the city and county combined rose from twenty-six in the year 1881 to 217 in the year 1891.
The O’Flynn Brothers, based in Blackpool, were responsible for the construction of the Hibernian Buildings as well as the Rathmore Buildings, St. Patrick’s Hospital, The Good Shepherd Convent, Magdalen Asylum, additions to Our Lady’s Hospital, a new presbytery at the North Cathedral, and the Diocesan College at Farranferris.
Contrasting against the residences of the working class were the highly embellished Victorian residences which can be seen on Victoria Road named after Queen Victoria. Mid nineteenth century society was highly status-conscious and nothing displayed your status like your house. House fashions literally started at the dinner table. Most wealthy Victorians spent what would seem to us to be an incredible amount of time socializing: it was not uncommon for them to either attend or host a dinner party 2 to 5 times a week.
In short, your social circle saw your house a lot, so it was important that the house be impressive — that is, designed in the latest fashion. The house of a successful Victorian family was more than merely a home; it was a statement of their taste, wealth, and education. The Victorians drew deeply from history, nature, geometry, theory, and personal inspiration to create their designs. At the top end of the market, builders employed a reputable architect.
The mid to late nineteenth century Victorian buildings were varied and colourful. Architectural embellishment was ever present. Designs sprang from the relationship between social forces, ideals, techniques and individual preference. As the mid to late 1800s ensued, there was increasing interest in foreign styles such as French, Italian Gothic and French Renaissance. In most cases, mixes of medieval styles were reinvented. In the late 1800s, the favoured architectural style in housing was High Victorian Gothic, which provided aristocracy and landed gentry with houses, which were spectacular and richly ornamented. This style harked back to medieval castles and cathedrals. Its growth in popularity came simultaneously with romantic movements in all the arts, that is, simultaneously with the infamous Victorian taste for melodramatic music, plays and novels. The Gothic Revival house is characterized by steeply pitched roofs, pointed-arch windows, elaborate vergeboard trim along roof edges and other Gothic details. The style appears in Cork in the 1870s and 1880s and appears on Victoria Road.
Cork-Blackrock & Passage Railway:
As new residence areas emerged in the developing city of the nineteenth century, new modes of suburban transport were created. County and national rail links were developed. By the late 1800s, there were five county railway lines and one national line, all of which operated in and out of Cork City. Among the first of the suburban railway projects to be completed in Cork was the Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway.
The year 1836 marked the opening of Ireland’s first railway, between Dublin and Kingstown. A year earlier in 1835, the plan for a Cork to Passage railway was first proposed by Cork based merchant, William Parker and Cork solicitor, J.C. Besnard. In that year, Cork Harbour town Passage West had its own dockyard and had become an important port for large deep-sea sailing ships whose cargoes were then transhipped into smaller vessels for the journey up-river to the city. The transhipment would be faster by train. In the summer of 1835 a committee was set up to plan the railway. The Cork Harbour Board, the British Treasury and other bodies were approached for financial support.
Charles Vignoles was appointed engineer of the venture. The proposed line would run close to the south of the Navigation Wall (now the site of the Marina) on reclaimed land and remain close to the river to Passage. Work began in June 1847. Due to the fact that the construction was taking place during the Great Famine, there was no shortage of labour. The entire length of track between Cork and Passage was in place by April 1850 and within two months, the line was opened for passenger traffic.
The terminus, designed by Sir John Benson was based on Victoria Road but due to poor press was moved in 1873 to Hibernian Road. In the late 1800s, the Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway also operated a fleet of river steamers in competition with River Steamer Company (R.S.C). The Railway Company expanded its fleet in 1881 but it was only when the service was extended to Aghada that profits grew. By 1932, the increase in the use of motor cars caused a decrease in the use of the line by passenger. Consequently, the railway was forced to close. Much of the traces of the Cork-Blackrock line have been destroyed while the Blackrock-Passage section is now a pedestrian walkway with several platforms and the steel viaduct that crossed the Douglas viaduct still in public view. The site of the second Cork terminus lies opposite the National Sculpture Factory.
Cork Park Racecourse & Fords:
Centre Park Road crosses the new and proposed South Docklands area adjacent the National Sculpture Factory. However at one time racecourse activities and a Ford Factory were in operation here. In March 1869, Cork Corporation leased to Sir John Arnott and others slobland for a term of five years and for the purpose of establishing a race course. There were no systematic attempts at drainage. So races were held in mud and slush on many an occasion. The first races were held on 17 May and 18 May 1869. A total of 30,000 people attended. In 1892, the City and County of Cork Agricultural Society leased a space from Cork Corporation in the eastern section of the Cork Park. That later became the Cork Showgrounds.
In November 1916, Fords made an offer to purchase the freehold of the Cork Park Grounds and considerable land adjoining the river near the Marina. Fords, Cork Corporation and the Harbour Commissioners entered into formal negotiations. The Company acquired approximately 130 acres of land, which also had a river frontage. The factory gave employment to at least 2,000 adult males paid the minimum wage of one shilling per hour.
The plant being laid down by the company was specially designed for the manufacture of an Agricultural Motor Tractor, well known as the ‘fordson’, a 22 horse power, four cylinder tractor, working with kerosene or paraffin, adaptable either for ploughing or as a portable engine arranged for driving machinery by belt drive. The tractor was articulated, i.e. it had no frame giving accessibility to all parts for making adjustments, the motor, transmission and rear axle being assembled in one rigid unit. The casing was of special design and the pistons and gearing were of Vanadium steel. All moving parts were enclosed. The demand for such tractors was universal and great. Large areas could be brought under food production with the minimum of expense and labour. The Cork factory was to provide ‘Fordsons’ to local, regional and national farmers and further afield on the European Continent.
Cork City Hall began its life as the City’s Corn Exchange or Corn market place. The site was further enhanced by two industrial exhibitions, which took place on the site in 1852 and 1883 respectively. These large exhibitions inspired by other national and international exhibitions at the time. They were hallmark events in the development of the cultural life of the city and also put the city on the global map. The ‘brain child’s’ of the social elites in nineteenth century Cork, the exhibitions were marketing strategies where spectacle and culture merged. Aesthetics of architecture, colour, decoration and lighting were all added to the sense of spectacle and in a tone of moral and educational improvement.
Apart from being places of spectacle and even fantasy and entertainment, they enchanted and diverted the masses from more serious matters. The exhibitions were not merchandise marts but promoted ideas about Cork’s relations between nations, the spread of education, the advancement of science, the nature of domestic life and the place of art in Cork society.
Following the success of the 1883 exhibition, the Corn Exchange was converted into Cork City Hall. In December 1920, the premises were burned down by fires attributed to the Black and Tans as retribution for republican attacks. A new City Hall by architects Jones and Kelly was subsequently built. The limestone like for so many of Cork’s buildings is from nearby Little Island. The building is faced with dressed limestone quarried in Little Island and incorporates an elegant concert hall. The foundation stone of Cork City Hall was laid by Eamonn de Valera on 9 July 1932. Some departments of Cork Corporation opened in the new building in March 1935 and on 24 April 1935 Cork Corporation held a meeting in the new hall for the first time. The City Hall was officially opened by Eamonn de Valera on 8 September 1936. Recently Cork City Council opened a new award winning extension to the 1930’s building.
(2) Turners Cross Parish Section:
South Link Road:
The western boundary of the ward was once part of the old Cork-Bandon & South Coast Rail Line. The Cork Bandon Railway Project was an enormous undertaking in mid nineteenth century Cork. The main parts included; the longest railway tunnel in Ireland at Goggins Hill; The Chetwynd Viaduct; a short tunnel bridge under old Blackrock road near the Albert Quay Terminus; 21 cuttings; 19 embankments and 15 road bridges.
The Cork terminus for the Cork Bandon and South Coast Railway was completed in 1851 at Albert Quay. The old terminus had three passenger platforms, a carriage storage area, and sidings into the Cork Corporation’s stone yard and into the corn market. Between 1851 and 1893, the mileage of the West Cork Line, extended from 20 to 94 miles. Many West Cork Towns attained their own railway stations; Kinsale (1863), Clonakilty (1866), Dunmanway (1866), Skibbereen (1877), Bantry (1881), Timoleague and Courtmacsherry (1890), Bantry Bay (1892), and Baltimore (1893).
In 1898, the Cork and Bandon Railway, the Cork and Kinsale Junction Railway and the West Cork Railway amalgamated together to form the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway. This company further amalgamated with the Great Southern and Western Railway in 1925. The last passenger service to West Cork ceased in 1961. In 1979, the track bed approaching the city was widened for construction of the South Link Road as far as the former Macroom Junction in Ballyphehane.
St. Finbarre’s Hospital:
The site played a key role in the life of the city during the Great Famine. During the autumn of 1846, the effects of the Great Famine took hold. Prices of Indian corn increased considerably. Merchants began to price fix and as a result, the relief committee had great difficulty in keeping ahead of the demand for food. A new Workhouse opened in the Douglas Road in December 1841. Initially, it had 3,000 inmates due mainly to the desperate employment situation. In addition, a large number of non-residents were provided with a breakfast.
By early September 1846, there were 4,256 non-residents. By the start of October, this figure had grown to 11,633 non-residents. By mid October 1846, the number of workhouse inmates had climbed to over 3,500. Five hundred were admitted in one week at the start of November. Overcrowding was a major problem. By this time also, there were ten relief depots dispersed across the city and each day, 25,000 people were supplied with yellow and white meal.
Cross Douglas Road:
What I love here is the architecture of the older residences. The Victorians were highly status-conscious, and in Victorian Cork, nothing displayed your status like your house. House fashions literally started at the dinner table. Most wealthy Victorians spent what would seem to us to be an incredible amount of time socializing: it was not uncommon for them to either attend or host a dinner party 2 to 5 times a week.
In short, your social circle saw your house a lot, so it was important that the house be impressive — that is, designed in the latest fashion. The house of a successful Victorian family was more than merely a home; it was a statement of their taste, wealth, and education. The Victorians drew deeply from history, nature, geometry, theory, and personal inspiration to create their designs. At the top end of the market, builders employed employ a reputable architect.
The mid to late nineteenth century buildings were varied and colourful. Architectural embellishment was ever present. Designs sprang from the relationship between social forces, ideals, techniques and individual preference. Best examples of variety in the mid nineteenth century are those terraces on Summerhill South and semi detached housing in the Cross Douglas Road. Terraces were virtually identical – three storeys. Bands of contrasting coloured brick at the entrance. In the ground floor, a classical porch provided shelter for the front door, which led to the entrance hall and staircase. Bedrooms for the family occupied the upper floors and attics provide bedrooms for the servants.
Long gardens are still present behind some houses on Douglas Road, some incorporated into estates such as Rhodaville.
Kinsale Road Landfill:
It will become a major archaeological site in the years to come but for the moment we can look forward to a “Phoenix Park” type development.
Originally a rough trackway- during the Siege of Cork in 1690 by Williamite forces, the soldiers embarked at passage and made their way into the via the road – see Taylor and Skinner’s Road maps of ireland, the Grand jury Map of 1911 and the first and second ordnance survey maps.
see www.corkheritage.ie for more on Kieran’s heritage work