1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cork (city)

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CORK, a city, county of a city, parliamentary and municipal borough and seaport of Co. Cork, Ireland, at the head of the magnificent inlet of Cork Harbour, on the river Lee, 165½ m. S.W. of Dublin by the Great Southern & Western railway. Pop. (1901) 76,122. Until the middle of the 19th century it ranked second only to Dublin, but is now surpassed by Belfast in commercial importance. It is the centre of a considerable railway system, including the Great Southern & Western, the Cork, Bandon & South Coast, the Cork & Macroom Direct, the Cork, Blackrock & Passage railways, and the Cork & Muskerry light railway; each of which companies possesses a separate station in the city. The passenger steamers to Great Britain, mainly under the control of the City of Cork Steam Packet Company, serve Fishguard, Glasgow, Liverpool, Plymouth and Southampton, London and other ports, starting from Penrose Quay on the North Channel.

The nucleus of the city occupies an island formed by the North and South Channels, two arms of the river Lee, and in former times no doubt merited its name, which signifies a swamp. In the beginning of the 18th century, indeed, this island was broken up into many parts connected by drawbridges, by numerous small channels navigable at high tide. It now includes most of the principal thoroughfares, which form a notable contrast to many of the smaller streets and alleys, in which good building and cleanliness are lacking. Three bridges cross the North Channel, a footbridge, North Gate bridge and St Patrick’s bridge, the last a handsome three-arch structure leading to St Patrick’s Street, a wide and pleasant thoroughfare, containing a statue of Father Mathew, the celebrated Capuchin advocate of temperance, born in 1790. It communicates with the Grand Parade and this in turn with Great George’s Street, to the west, and the South Mall to the east, the last containing the principal banks, the County Club house, and good commercial buildings. The Clarks, South Gate, Parliament and Parnell bridges cross the South Channel to the southern parts of the city. Public grounds are few, but on the outskirts of the city are a park and race-course, with the fashionable Marina promenade; while the Mardyke walk, on the west of the island, is pleasantly shaded by a fine avenue, and was the site of the International exhibition held in 1902. Electric tramways connect the city and suburbs and traverse the principal streets and the St Patrick’s and Parnell bridges. Both branches of the Lee are lined with fine quays of cut limestone, extending in total length over 4 m.

The principal church is the Protestant cathedral, founded in 1865, and consecrated on St Andrew’s Day 1870; while the central tower was completed in 1879. It is dedicated to St Fin Barre or Finbar, who founded the original cathedral in the 7th century. The present building is in the south-west part of the city, and replaces a somewhat mean structure erected in 1735 on the site of the ancient cathedral, which suffered during the siege of Cork in September 1689. Money for the erection of the building of 1735 was raised by the curious method of a tax on imported coal. The new cathedral is in the Early French (pointed) style, with an eastern apse and a striking west front. Its design was by William Burges (d. 1881), and its erection was due to the indefatigable exertions and munificence of Dr John Gregg, bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross; while the tower and spires were the gift of two merchants of Cork. The other principal Protestant churches are St Luke’s, St Nicholas and St Anne Shandon, with its striking tower of parti-coloured stones; and its peal of bells extolled in Father Prout’s lyric “The Bells of Shandon.” The Roman Catholic cathedral, also dedicated to St Finbar, is conspicuous on the north side of the city; it dates from 1808, but has been since restored. Other fine churches of this faith are St Mary, St Peter and Paul, St Patrick, Holy Trinity and St Vincent de Paul. St Finbar’s cemetery has handsome monuments, and St Joseph’s, founded by Father Mathew in 1830 on the site of the old botanic gardens of the Cork Institution, is beautifully planted. The court house in Great George’s Street has a good Corinthian portico, happily undamaged in a fire which destroyed the rest of the building in 1891. The custom-house commands the river in a fine position at the lower junction of the branches. The usual commercial and public buildings are mainly on the island. The most notable educational establishment is the University College, founded as Queen’s College (1849), with those of the same name at Belfast and Galway, under an Act of 1845. A new charter was granted to it under letters patent pursuant to the Irish Universities Act 1908, when it was given its present name. The building, designed by Sir Thomas Deane, occupies a beautiful site on the river in the west of the city, where Gill Abbey, of the 7th century, formerly stood. It is a fine building in Tudor Style, “worthy,” said Macaulay, “to stand in the High Street of Oxford.” A large library, museum and well-furnished laboratory are here. The Crawford School of Science (1885); and the Munster Dairy and Agricultural School, 1 m. west of the city, also claim notice, while besides parochial and industrial schools several of the religious orders located here devote themselves to education. The Cork library (founded 1790) contains a valuable collection of books. The Royal Cork Institution (1807), in addition to an extensive library and a rare collection of Oriental MSS., possesses a valuable collection of minerals, and the collections of casts from the antique presented by the pope to George IV. There are numerous literary and scientific societies, including the Cork Cuvierian and Archaeological Society. The principal clubs are the County and the Southern in South Mall, and the City in Grand Parade; while for sport there are the Cork Golf Club, Little Island, three rowing clubs, and the Royal Munster and Royal Cork Yacht clubs, the latter located at Queenstown. The theatres are the opera-house in Nelson’s Place, and the Theatre Royal.

EB1911 Cork and Queenstown map.jpg
Based on information embodied from the Ordnance Survey, by permission of the Controller of H. M. Stationery Office.

The country neighbouring to Cork is highly attractive. The harbour, with the ceaseless activity of shipping, its calm waters, sheltered by many islands, and its well-wooded shores studded with pleasant watering-places, affords a series of charming views, apart from its claim to be considered one of the finest natural harbours in the kingdom. Military depots occupy several of the smaller islets, and three batteries guard the entry. This is about 1 m. wide, but within the width increases to 3 m. while the length is about 10 m. The Atlantic port of Queenstown (q.v.) is on Great Island at the head of the outer harbour. Tivoli (the residence of Sir Walter Raleigh), Fort William, Lota Park, and Blackrock Castle are notable features on the shore; and Passage, Blackrock, Glenbrook and Monkstown are waterside resorts. Inland from Cork runs the picturesque valley of the Lee, and low hills surround the commanding situation of the port.

The harbour is by far the most important on the south coast of Ireland, and dredging operations render the quays approachable for vessels drawing 20 ft. at all states of the tide. Its trade is mainly with Bristol and the ports of South Wales. The imports, exceeding £1,000,000 in annual value, include large quantities of wheat and maize, while the exports (about £9000 annually) are chiefly of cattle, provisions, butter and fish. The Cork Butter Exchange, where classification of the various qualities is carried out by branding under the inspection of experts, was important in the early part of the 17th century, and an unbroken series of accounts dates from 1769 when the present market was founded. There are distilleries, breweries, tanneries and iron foundries in the city; and manufactures of woollen and leather goods, tweeds, friezes, gloves and chemical manure. Nearly six-sevenths of the population are Roman Catholics. The city does not share with the county the rapid decrease of population. It is governed by a lord mayor, 14 aldermen and 42 councillors. The parliamentary borough returns two members.

The original site of Cork seems to have been in the vicinity of the Protestant cathedral; St Finbar’s ecclesiastical foundation attracting many students and votaries. In the 9th century the town was frequently pillaged by the Northmen. According to the Annals of the Four Masters a fleet burned Cork in 821, in 846 the Danes appear to have been in possession of the town, for a force was collected to demolish their fortress; and in 1012 Cork again fell in flames. The Danes then appear to have founded the new city on the banks of the Lee as a trading centre. It was anciently surrounded with a wall, an order for the reparation of which is found so late as 1748 in the city council books (which date from 1610). Submission and homage were made to Henry II. on his arrival in 1172, and subsequently the English held the town for a long period against the Irish, by constant and careful watch. Cork showed favour to Perkin Warbeck in 1492, and its mayor was hanged in consequence. In 1649 it surrendered to Cromwell, and in 1689 to the earl of Marlborough after five days’ siege, when Henry, duke of Grafton, was mortally wounded. Cork was a borough by prescription, and successive charters were granted to it from the reign of Henry II. onward. By a charter of Edward IV. the lord mayor of Cork was created admiral of the port, and this office is manifested in a triennial ceremony in which the mayor throws a dart over the harbour.

See C. Smith, Ancient and Present State of the County and City of Cork (1750), edited by R. Day and W. A. Copinger (Cork, 1893); C. B. Gibson, History of the City and County of Cork (London, 1861); M. F. Cusack, History of the City and County of Cork, 1875.