History & Gallery

The Establishment of the English Market

The economic development of Cork in the 18th century was mirrored by the physical development of the city during the same period. After the partial destruction of the city’s walls during the Williamite siege, the city began to expand rapidly in the area outside the walls and began to take on a recognisably modern configuration.

The 18th century saw the reclamation of the Dunscombe and the Reap marshes, creating a land-mass that correlates with the area between Saint Patrick’s Street and the South Mall. Hammond’s marsh to the west was also reclaimed. The river channels between the marshes were infilled to form what are now Saint Patrick’s Street, the Grand Parade, Henry Street, Grattan Street, Cornmarket Street, Sheare’s Street and other streets.

As the 1780’s progressed, the regulation and control of markets was brought a major step forward by the corporation’s decision to establish a new, purpose-built, conjoined covered food market at the core of the new city centre – this was inspired by the trend developing in England of modern covered markets. During 1785 and 1786, the Corporation took a number of dwellings fronting onto the newly created Grand Parade as well as onto Princes Street where the markets were to be built, and so began the establishment of the English Market. 

The foundation for the Market was formally laid on September 29th, 1786 and work proceeded throughout the next two years. Several stalls were completed in July 1788 and offered for rent, paid weekly, for one year (it was specified that they were for the sale of meat only).

The grand opening took place on 1st August 1788. The newly emerging United States of America had not yet elected it’s first President, George Washington. And just months previously the first vessels of the “First Fleet”, under Captain James Cook, had arrived in a far foreign land. These vessels carried the convicts and marines who are now acknowledged as being the “Founders of Australia”. 

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