1214a. Former Cork Savings Bank, Lapp’s Quay. (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Cork Heritage Open Day promises so much

Another Cork Heritage Open Day is looming. The 2023 event will take place on Saturday 12 August.

For one day only, over 40 buildings open their doors free of charge for this special event.

Members of the public are allowed a glimpse of some of Cork's most fascinating buildings ranging from the medieval to the military, the civic to the commercial and the educational to the ecclesiastical.

This event was greeted with great enthusiasm by building owners and members of the public alike in 2022 with an estimated 23,000 people participating on the day.

It is always a great opportunity to explore behind some of Cork’s grandest buildings. With the past as a port city, Cork architecture has a personality that varied and much is hidden amongst the city’s narrow streets and laneways.

It is a photogenic city, which lights up with sunshine as it hits the limestone buildings. Much of its architecture is also inspired by international styles – the British style of artwork and nineteenth century brick pervading in most cases – but it’s always pays to look up in Cork and marvel at the Amsterdamesque-style of our eighteenth century structures on streets such as Oliver Plunkett Street or at the gorgeous tall spires of the city’s nineteenth-century churches.

Cork Heritage Open Day is 18 years in the making and with 40 buildings it is almost impossible to visit them all in one day. It takes a few goes to get to them all and spend time appreciating their physical presence in our city but also the often hidden context of why such buildings and their communities came together and their contribution to the modern day picture of the city.

The team behind the Open Day, Cork City Council, do group the buildings into general themes: Steps and Steeples, Customs and Commerce, Medieval to Modern, Saints and Scholars and Life and Learning.

One can walk the five trails to discover a number of buildings within these general themes. These themes remind the participant to remember how our city spreads from the marsh to the undulating hills surrounding it, how layered and storied the city’s past is, how the city has been blessed to have many scholars contributing to its development in a variety of ways and how the way of life in Cork is intertwined with a strong sense of place and ambition. For a small city, it packs a punch in its approaches to national and international interests.

For example, the trail Customs and Commerce is a very apt way to describe the layers of our city. The trail walk encompasses some of the amazing buildings in the city centre, but also some where you come away going, ‘why haven’t I seen this hidden gem before?’. Such buildings track the commercial history of Cork city and highlight its many industries over time.

For the more energetic walker this route can be combined with the Medieval to Modern walking route. Re-imagine the turning of the wheels of the trams at the National Sculpture Factory, learn about local government in the City Hall, think highly of the multiple stories of the city’s masons and carpenters at the Carpenter’s Hall, and look at the fine details on the pillars within the Old Cork Savings Bank on the South Mall.

The Cork Savings Bank was established in 1817 following the passing of a law to encourage the establishment of savings banks across England and Ireland.

In November 1839, the design submitted by the architectural practice of Thomas and Kearns Deane was chosen for the new Cork Savings Bank, to be located on the corner of Lapp’s Quay and Warren’s Place (now Parnell Place).

The building was opened for business in 1842 and a plaque above the doorway to the banking hall commemorates the date and those responsible for designing and building the bank. It continued to operate as a bank until 2012, when owners Trustee Savings Bank closed a number of branches, including Lapps Quay.

In 2015, UCC made a decision to locate their Centre for Executive Education in a city centre location, and entered into an agreement with Cork City Council to re-use the former savings bank on Lapp’s Quay for this. To facilitate this, a new extension was constructed within the enclosed yard to the east.

The new accommodation is hidden from view from the exterior of the landmark historic building, but is designed to read clearly as a modern addition from within the building.

See www.corkheritageopenday.ie for more information on the city’s great Heritage Open Day and then the day is followed by National Heritage Week.

The full set of Kieran’s upcoming National Heritage Week tours are at www.corkheritage.ie under Kieran’s heritage tours.