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Built Heritage

The Architecture and Built environment of Cork City tells the story of its commercial and social development over time, documenting the rise and fall of the development of the city and reflecting the lifestyle of the people of Cork throughout the ages. The Built Heritage of the city demonstrates the different building techniques and materials employed and the designs and styles of times gone by.

Much of the attraction of the central parts of Cork City lies in its eighteenth to twentieth century buildings. These range from the villas and country houses on the hills to the north and south of the city, the blocks of terraced Georgian style houses associated with the military, the churches and cathedrals, as well as the more modest single and two-story homes provided for the industrial workers. The mills, warehouses, distilleries and breweries and other industrial and maritime buildings in the city bear witness to the great economic expansion from this time.

Christ the King Church
Christ the King Church

Often dubbed the city of steps and steeples, Cork’s built Heritage owes a lot to its fascinating ecclesiastical buildings which range from the magnificent St Fin Barre’s cathedral to the more modest Honan Chapel. Of particular interest are the early eighteenth century churches e.g. St Peter and Paul’s and Christchurch which were part of an extensive re-building programme after the Siege of Cork (1690), giving the city a unique legacy from this period. Some very fine examples of classical domestic architecture survive from this period too, in the distinctive red-brick Queen Anne style e.g. 50 Pope’s Quay or 11 Emmet Place.

Shandon and Graveyard
Shandon and Graveyard

The distinctive character of the city owes much to the groups of vernacular buildings of the historic areas of the centre, and of the older suburbs such as Shandon Street and Barrack Street. These buildings, sometimes of brick, but more commonly of plastered stone, with great high-pitched slate roofs clearly visible from street level, have distinctive yet subtle features e.g. the bow front, dormer windows with cambered head windows, suggesting closer trading and cultural links with the south of England and America than with Dublin.

The nineteenth century has left a wealth of civic and institutional buildings, the two Cathedrals, the Port of Cork building and bonded warehouse, the striking Waterworks on the Lee Road, the churches, schools, convents and monasteries, epitomized perhaps by St Mary’s on Pope’s Quay or St. Vincent’s overlooking the river from its precipice in Sunday’s Well.

St. Fin Barre's Cathedral
St. Fin Barre's

The internationally renowned Christ the King Church in Turners Cross is a high point of early twentieth century architecture in Cork. Following on from this in the mid twentieth century, Roman Catholic churches were designed and located with the aim of housing God among the people of the new municipal suburbs. Theses churches and the associated and well designed schools, convents and chapels represent a hugely important contribution to the built Heritage of Cork City.

The historic built environment is a key element in giving each local area a certain character and is a physical representation of our local history. It may not just be the buildings but can include features such as bridges or stepped lanes, windows or doorways, stone walls or railings, an old trough or post box and even a plaque or a nameplate. All of these things can give a place a special character, which sets it apart, and links us to the past and people who shaped our city.

97 South Mall


97 South Mall

Many groups of buildings in the city may not be of individual importance but collectively they contribute to the distinctive character of an area. Areas such as Wellington Road/ St Luke’s Cross, The North Main St and Grattan Hill/ Mahony’s Ave are designated Architectural Conservation Areas and are known as Areas of Special Character in the Cork City Development Plan 2004.

There are over 900 buildings and structures in Cork city designated as Protected Structures. This is where a Local Authority considers a structure or building to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical point of view. These buildings are listed on the Record of Protected Structures (RPS). A recent study undertaken in the city centre by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) recommended over 1500 further structures to be included in the RPS. The process of listing these buildings is currently being undertaken on a phased basis.

The Development Plan for Cork City contains policies for the protection of Cork’s architectural and built Heritage. These include a policy to encourage the refurbishment of Historic built environment and a series of measures to protect and preserve buildings on the Record of Protected Structures and Areas of Special Character.

A number of schemes are also currently in operation to enhance the built Heritage of the city. These include Conservation Grants schemes for Protected Structures, painting grant schemes and the waiving of development fees for works carried out on Protected Structures which require planning permission.

Key actions have been identified in the Heritage Plan to build on the body of work already taking place around the city in relation to protecting and enhancing the Architecture and Built Heritage of Cork. A number of Built Heritage Projects are currently underway.