4c. Making a Streetscape, Late 1700s

As Nano Nagle was consolidating her first school in the 1760s, Cork’s streetscape was undergoing further change. In October 1760, England’s authority over city was signified by the addition of a statue of King George astride his horse. The statue, which was yellow and hollow, was initially placed in the centre of Tuckey’s Bridge, now the site of the Berwick Fountain on the Grand Parade. Vandalised in 1867 by anti-royalists, the only remnants of this statue can be seen in the Cork Public Museum. It is also remembered in the Irish for the Grand Parade, Sráid An Chapaill Buí, or Street of the Yellow Horse.

 

Butts’ Cork:

In the late 1700s Cork was well represented by a series of elaborate paintings and maps. The most detailed of the paintings was John Butt’s Cork (c.1750), which is on display on the second floor of the Crawford Art Gallery. Grogan depicted a myriad of quays and canals in the city, particularly highlighting the former quays and canals that were present on what is now St. Patrick’s Street. He also showed a drawbridge spanning the canal, a distance now measured by Roches Stores on one side and Easons on the other. This explains the street name Drawbridge Street for the alleyway adjacent to Dunne Stores on St. Patrick’s Street. On either side of the canal, merchants built warehouses to hold their goods on the ground floor and their staff on the first floor. The warehouses had outside staircases giving access to the first floor, an example of which can still be seen at the charming Chateau Bar on St. Patrick’s Street. The leases of many of the houses along St. Patrick’s Street still contain clauses protecting the lessee’s right to the use of the quay outside, while others retain the right to use steps or stairs to reach their boats.

 

Grogan highlighted the location of the custom house, now the site of the Crawford Art Gallery, and showed ships tied up in a wide canal, now the site of Emmett Place. The architecture of the buildings Grogan painted betray a high Dutch influence in their brickwork, a characteristic unique to Cork City. In the early 1700s, the first bricks were used in buildings in the city and many were Dutch imports. These were unmarked, yellowish in colour, very chalky in texture and generally used as ballast for ships. The Dutch imports were not used for long, however, as local manufacture soon commenced at the Brickfield Slobs on the northside of the river, now the site of Lower Glanmire Road. By the late 1700s, approximately three million bricks were being manufactured here per annum. Today, slob brick can be seen on the side streets adjoining St Patrick’s Street and Grattan Street.

 

Wide Street Commission:

As the late eighteenth century progressed, the population grew and the Corporation of Cork came under pressure to improve the lot of the citizens. The medieval fabric of the city simply could not cope with the demands of the population. Fines were placed on illegal dumping and scavengers, wheel-barrow men and street sweepers were appointed to keep the streets clean. Many of the buildings in the city were in need of much repair and certain lanes in the old medieval core needed to be reconstructed. In 1765 a commission was established to deal with the problems facing the expanding city, especially in relation to the various health risks posed by inadequate facilities. Known as the Wide Street Commission, it was first set up in Dublin. In Cork, its primary job was to widen the medieval laneways and thereby eradicate some of the health problems stemming from them. They also planned to lay out new, wider streets for the benefit of the citizens.

 

Sixteen commissioners were appointed in 1765, but due to financial restrictions it was the early nineteenth century before they made an impact. At that time, streets such as South Terrace, Dunbar Street and Washington Street, then known as Great Georges Street (opened November 1824), were laid out and streets such as Shandon Street were widened. In 1780, the Corporation decided to fill in the city’s canals by covering them with large culverts, or underground channels. This enabled them to widen the streets and public passages. Wide thoroughfares, based on the European model of the Renaissance style, were created, such as St. Patrick’s Street, Grand Parade and the South Mall.

 

Suburban growth:

There was also an increase in the number of residences built in the suburbs, a clustering recorded on road maps of Ireland drawn up by cartographers Taylor and Skinner in 1777. To the northwest of the city, a large estate named Fair Hill was marked as the property of the Longfield Family. To the northeast, six large houses were shown adjacent to the road to Youghal, all overlooking the River Lee as it entered Cork Harbour. The respective families who lived here were the Lombards, Newenhams, Pembrokes, Corkers, St Ledgers and Rogers. The construction of St. Patrick’s Bridge on the north channel encouraged development to the northeast of the city centre, and new residences appeared on St. Patrick’s Hill, Camden Quay and Sidney Place. Clarke’s Bridge, constructed in 1776, spanned the south channel and was named after the merchant Clarke. The structure of this bridge has remained unaltered since its initial construction.

 

To the southeast of the city centre, in the Blackrock area, numerous estates appeared on the landscape. The most impressive mansions included Bessbora, owned by the Allen Family, and Hettyfield, owned by the Tavis Family. Both Hettyfield and Bessbora are retained in placenames in the Blackrock area. The Douglas area on the south side also boasted large houses and estates, including Donnybrook, Mountpellier, Barnhill, Newberry and Mounthovel. To the southwest of the city, the large mansion and demesne Ballinaspaig is marked as the property of the Protestant Bishop of Cork, Isaac Mann. Other large houses in this area include Chetwynd, Graandarough, Doughcloyne, Wiltown, Summerstown and Glasheen, their names echoing the influences of other cultures, such as Welsh.

 

Export Trade:

In the late 1700s, the city was booming economically. Cork’s export trade comprised 40% of the national total. Just over 70% of all good exported went to the European mainland, to countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, Great Britain and its coastal islands, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Barbados, Turkey and Greenland. Cork held 80% of the total Irish export to England’s American colonies, trading with ports at Carolina, Hudson, Jamaica, Montreal, Quebec, New England, New Foundland, New York, Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and the West Indies. Exports were also sent to New Zealand and the Canary Islands. By 1800, Cork was reputed to be the busiest transatlantic port.

 

In 1788 a new indoor market was established in the city, which sold fresh fruit, meat and vegetables. Still located overlooking the Grand Parade and specialising in the same produce as in 1788, the ‘English Market’ is one of the city’s most vibrant and popular institutions. The origin of the name English Market is unknown, but it is here that you can find a Cork delicacy for the more adventurous diner – tripe and drisheen, or tripe and lamb’s liver.

 

Politics:

In political terms, the country was not prospering. The Roman Catholic population was threatening to rise up against the oppression they were experiencing. There was civil unrest nationwide as, inspired by the American War of Independence and the French Revolution, the notions of freedom and democracy gripped the hearts and minds of the Irish people. In Cork, the mayor and city officials were against any insurrection and wished to remain neutral in order to sustain the city’s growing profits.