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1400s – 1700s

The fortunes of Cork City declined during the fifteenth century and did not improve much during the course of the 1500s. One visitor described Cork as having 'but one main street' and estimated the population to be about 800 while the population of Waterford was estimated to be 1,000 at this time (Burke, 2007b).

The economic fortunes of Cork began to improve in the first half of the seventeenth century, after two centuries of relative decline. Indeed during the seventeenth century, Cork grew faster than any other regional centre outside of Dublin. Around this time the city’s port was beginning to serve as an outlet for the agricultural produce of the region, with ships from Cork provisioning the English Army at Gascony and Bayonne. As a result Cork became a major centre for the import and export of goods, with trade with Bristol and European ports, for example Bordeaux, becoming important. By 1672, Cork was recognised as the second port in the land next to Dublin in terms of trade.

The economic development of Cork was mirrored by the physical development of the city during the same period. Historians and geographers using evidence from maps, surveys, and other sources estimate that the population of the city may have trebled from approximately 3,000 in the year 1600 to approximately 9,000 in 1640. The number of streets, lanes, and buildings within the old walled city increased and similar developments took place in the suburbs.