Cork City, Ireland

Cork City, Ireland, in County Cork, was founded in the 7th century by St. Finnbarre who constructed an abbey there. Corcaigh, in Gaelic, means marshy place. For centuries the abbey at Cork flourished and it was well known for learning. The Vikings raided the abbey and the settlement nearby in 820, then built their own town on an island in the River Lee.

In 1172, the Normans invaded Ireland, and Cork was seized for the English King. In 1185, it was given its first charter, followed by the construction of stonewalls around city which was typical for that era.

In the Middle Ages, Cork was a busy port city and an important town even though we would think of it as more of a village. Animal hides and wool fabric were exported from Cork, while wine was imported. The same blacksmiths, potters, shoemakers and other craftsmen would be found there, as were found in any medieval town.

The 13th century brought friars to Cork. They were similar to monks but, instead of a life of seclusion, they preached and reached out to help the poor. The two religious orders in Cork were the Dominican Friars, who wore black robes, and the Franciscan Friars, who wore gray robes.

An Augustinian Abbey was erected in Cork in the 14th century but all that remains today is Red Abbey Tower. In 1349, the Black Death may have killed half the population of the town but Cork recovered from the disaster.

In 1491, Perkin Warbeck arrived in Cork and claimed to be the rightful King of England. The following year he tried to overthrow Henry VII, accompanied by the mayor of Cork and several important citizens. When the rebellion failed they were all captured and executed.

At the end of the 16th century, the English built a fort which was destroyed in 1603. It was rebuilt, but the Elizabethan fort was burned during the civil war in 1922. In 1649, Cork was seized by Oliver Cromwell. The mid 17th century found Cork as a flourishing town of about 5,000. By the standards of the time, Cork was a large and important town.

Because of the 1660's Cattle Acts, the Irish were forbidden to export cattle to England. After that Cork began to export large amounts of butter and beef instead. In 1690, the city underwent a five day siege by the army of William of Orange. Cork was captured and the walls were destroyed.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, French Protestants, called Huguenots, arrived in Cork fleeing from religious persecution. The Huguenot Quarter and French Church Street get their names from them. Many new religious buildings were constructed in Cork in the 18th century. Christ Church was built from 1720-1726, St. Anne's Shandon was erected from 1722 to 1726 and the Shandon bells were installed in 1752. South Chapel went up in 1766 and South Presentation Convent was founded in 1776 by Nano Nangle.

During the 18th century, Cork continued to be a busy port and a Custom House was built in 1724. At this time Cork exported large amounts of butter to Britain, the rest of Europe and North America, and vast quantities of beef were also exported. The Corn Market came along in 1740, followed by the Butter Market in 1750.

The population of Cork exploded in the early 19th century. By mid-century the city had a population of about 80,000. Some of the increase was due to immigration from the countryside as people fled from poverty. There was a great deal of poverty and overcrowding in Cork during this century which was caused by the Great Famine. From the time of the potato famine (1485-1849) onwards, Cork was the main port for emigrants from Ireland to the USA and other countries. It remained the main port for emigrants well into the 20th century as vast numbers of people fled extreme poverty.

In the 19th century, important industries in Cork consisted of brewing, distilling, wool, shipbuilding, plus it was still an important port. During the 19th century, large numbers of Irish people left the city and, in 1852, an Irish Industrial Exhibition was held in Cork. Parliament Bridge was erected in 1806, a new Custom House went up in 1818, Cork County Goal was constructed in 1825, the Court House was built in 1835, Cork Workhouse was erected in 1840, and Cork City Goal was designed in 1867.

There were several improvements in the city during the 19th century. In 1825, Cork gained gas light, The Cork Examiner was first published in 1841, the railway reached Cork in 1849, and University College Cork opened. The first fire brigade was founded in 1877 and the first public library opened in 1892. Mercy Hospital was opened in 1857 and a statue of Father Matthew was built in 1864. St. Mary's and St. Anne's Cathedral was constructed in 1808 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1820. St. Patrick's Church was built in 1836. St. Fin Barre's Cathedral was consecrated in 1870. Some of the worst slums in the city were demolished in 1820, and the inhabitants were forced to find new housing where they could in the city. When the houses were replaced, the former residents of the slums could not afford to live in them.

In the 20th century, the National Monument was erected in 1906 and Honan Chapel was built in 1915. In 1920, several happenings occurred. In March, the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) murdered Tomas MacCurtain, the Lord Mayor of Cork. In October, the next Lord Mayor, a man named Terence MacSwiney, died while on hunger strike in a British prison. The British government formed a para-military organization called the Black and Tans which were sent to Ireland to reinforce the RIC. The city suffered severely because of the Black and Tans and, in December, they burned large parts of the city center including the City Hall, which was rebuilt in 1936. During the Irish civil war, Cork was held temporarily by the anti-treaty forces. Daly's Bridge was constructed in 1926 and Christ the King Church went up in 1937. The 20th century brought the demolition of more slums and, as in the past, the poor could not afford to live in the new buildings.

Henry Ford opened a car factory in Cork in 1917. The lucrative Butter Market closed in 1924. The Cork Public Museum opened in 1945, followed by the airport in 1961. President Kennedy visited in 1963, and the Cork Opera House was erected in 1965. Parnell Bridge was built in 1971, Trinity Bridge in 1977, and the first Cork Jazz Festival was held in 1978, followed by the Triskel Arts Center opening in 1979.
Michael Collins Bridge was erected in 1984 and, the following year, Bishop Lucey Park opened. The Butter Museum in Cork opened in 1985, as did Cork's Neptune Stadium. The National Sculpture Factory entered the scene in 1989, along with the Merchants Quay Shopping Center.

Near the end of the 20th century, the old manufacturing industries in Cork declined. In 1980, the Ford factory closed, as did the Dunlop tire factory, and shipbuilding came to an end resulting in high unemployment. In the 1990's new industries began to spring up. Marina Commercial Park occupied the site of the old Dunlop and Ford plants, and Loughmahon Technology was created. Cork Airport Business Park and the Lee Tunnel opened in 1999. Other new industries include brewing, distilling and food processing. Cork continues to be a busy and important port, and the tourism industry has come alive. Cork City grew from a tiny fishing village to a large city of 136,000 people, and it was chosen as the European City of Culture in 2005.

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