The Municipal Corporations Act (Ireland) 1840 was passed by the British Parliament on October 10th 1840. The Act set about to reform municipal government, as was previously undertaken in England and Wales. The subsequent elections of October 1841 extended voting rights and saw the return of a Catholic majority in the Corporation, heralding a new era in the political history of Cork.
The new Corporation made the improvement and expansion of markets a priority and in 1842 almost £5,000 was earmarked for the building of new markets and renovation of existing ones. Improvements were made to other existing markets, which, with the exception of the English Market, had been neglected by the previous Corporation.
The building of St Peter’s Market as Cork’s second central indoor food market, at a cost of £3,000 was the major act of the new corporation. With a main entrance on North Main Street, and a rear entrance on Cornmarket Street, this huge building covered half an acre and its hundreds of stalls sold meat, fish, and vegetables to the Cork working class. Rents, prices, and food quality in St Peter’s were lower than in the English Market, and it was the poor man’s market, referred to as the “Irish Market”, most likely to distinguish it from the grander “English Market”.
In 1862, plans were finalised for a new entrance and roofed interior for the Root Market at the Princes Street end of the English Market. The renowned architect, Sir John Benson, prepared plans, including for two houses or shops on either side of the entrance. Work began in May 1862 and was completed eight months later. The new market occupied the same space as the old one, but its design enabled addition of a balcony area allowing for almost double the amount of stalls. This redevelopment also produced the ornamental front and entrance on Princes Street and a new roof to this part of the Market. The new Princes Street Market was officially opened on 19th December 1862.
The acclaimed new Princes Street entrance highlighted the blandness of the Grand Parade entrance and during the 1870’s various options to improve this side of the Market were considered. A Grand Parade Market Front Committee was formed and in 1881 a tender was accepted for the building of the new entrance from Terence O’Flynn, with the clock at the centre of the façade to be supplied by Egan & Sons. A Cork coat of arms was positioned above the clock, and work was completed in July 1881 and officially opened on the 14th July 1881.