The plan of the mediaeval centre of Cork reveals a spinal development. Over time the narrow smallholdings that run from each side of the spine were built up. This formed a raised level of secular buildings of similar height and scale representing the general built form of the City. Buildings of greater scale and material quality were built to house centres of communal city life and were naturally positioned to address the larger outside urban spaces.
In 1270, Henry III granted patronage of St. Peter's Church to the Bishop of Cork. In 1380, a parliament sat there to nominate a Governor of Ireland. A previous Gothic church of the 13th or 14th Century was larger than the present church and had side-chapels and oratories. It was replaced by the present single-volume church, completed in 1788, in the character of the London churches of Sir. Christopher Wren.
Many repairs and alterations were carried out over the years. An earlier belfry at the West, Grattan Street side of the site was removed in 1683. The existing East church tower is associated with James Paine, a local architect. The picturesque gothic style is reminiscent of the work of John Nash in England. It once had a zinc spire that was removed due to the pressure of its weight on the foundations.
The adjoining graveyards to the East and West were the burial grounds for many of Cork's early citizens. A monument to Sir Thomas Deane in the North/East chapel is dated 1710.
The church was deconsecrated in 1949 and used as a warehouse. Cork Corporation purchased the site in 1995 under an integrated area plan for Cork's Historic Centre.(Photographer: Kevin Dwyer).