Saturday 22 February 2020

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Cork Independent

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Cork Heritage Open Day promises so much!

Wednesday, 7th August, 2019 4:44pm

Cork Heritage Open Day and Heritage Week are looming – a kind of Christmas week – for a heritage fanatic like me.

It is great to see the city’s local history and natural heritage being focussed on. Indeed as a city, we need to celebrate it more publicly and more regularly.

For one day only, nearly 40 buildings open their doors free of charge for this special event. On Saturday 17 August, 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 2018 with an estimated circa 24,000 people participating in the day.

The event showcases the many elements of Cork city’s rich heritage in a fun, family friendly way. The event is organised by Cork City Council as part of Heritage Week in partnership with the Heritage Council.

This event is organised almost entirely on a voluntary basis with building owners, local historians and communities giving their time free of charge. The success of the event lies with the people behind the buildings who open their doors willingly every year to allow the public a glimpse of the amazing and unique built heritage of Cork city. Without the generosity of the building owners, this event would not happen.

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

Much of its architecture is also inspired by international styles – the British style of artwork 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(.ie) is 15 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 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 the city’s past is, how the city has been blessed to have many scholars contributing to its development and ambition in a variety of ways and how the way of life in Cork is intertwined with a strong sense of place.

The trail Life and Learning is a very apt way to describe an important aspect of the city’s built architecture. The trail encompasses not only some of the amazing buildings on the western of the city, but also some of the most spectacular views. Admire the quadrangle of University College Cork, re-examine the Glucksman Gallery, gorge on the multitude of objects in Cork City Museum, and re-imagine life within the old Cork waterworks on the Lee Road.

The origins of University College Cork dates to the early half of the 1800s. UCC was founded under the provisions made by Queen Victoria to endow new colleges in Ireland for the advancement of learning in Ireland. Under the powers given by this act, the three colleges of Belfast, Cork and Galway were incorporated on the 30 December 1845.

Architects Bengamin Woodward and Sir Thomas Deane adopted a perpendicular Gothic style. The main buildings were arranged around three sides of a quadrangle, with the lecture rooms on the west while the towered entrance, examination hall - Aula Maxima, and library were located in the north-east range. The college opened on 7 November 1849.

Sir Robert Kane became the first president of the college (1845-1873). His open-minded attitude took a stand against the traditionalist view that a university should be solely dedicated to the pursuit of liberal arts. He also had strong contacts with and beliefs in the importance of the social, industrial and economic life in the city.

One of the buildings on the campus open on Heritage Open Day is the Crawford Observatory which dates from 1880. The university attained the observatory through the donations of several benefactors.

One of them, William Crawford, contributed £1,000 towards its construction and the acquisition of astronomical instruments. William Crawford was also to donate to the buildings of Berkeley Hall, known as the Honan Hostel. He also gave a large sum towards the building of the entrance on Western Road.

The observatory houses an equatorial telescope, one for which Howard Grubb, who created it, obtained a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The observatory also hosts a Ciderostatic telescope and Spectroscope.

See for more details.

Kieran’s upcoming Heritage Week tours:

Saturday 17 August: Historical walking tour of Cork City Hall at 11am. Ticketed (free, part of Cork Heritage Open Day; details at

Sunday 18 August, Cork Through the Ages: Meet at the National Monument, Grand Parade, at 6.45pm (free, two hours).

Monday 19 August, Shandon Historical walking tour: meet at North Gate Bridge, Shandon Street at 6.45pm (free, two hours).

Tuesday 20 August, The Victorian Quarter: Meet on the green at Audley Place, top of St Patrick’s Hill at 6.45pm (free, two hours).

Thursday 22 August, The Lough and its curiosities: Meet at green area at northern green of The Lough, entrance of Lough Road to The Lough at 6.45pm (free, two hours).

Friday 23 August, Douglas and its history, in association with Douglas Tidy Towns: Meet in the carpark of Douglas Community Centre at 6.45pm (free, two hours).

Saturday 24 August, Park Stories, explore the history of Cork’s Mardyke: Meet at band stand in park, opposite Cork City Museum in Fitzgerald’s Park at 11am (free, two hours).

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