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The Industrial Archaeology of Cork City

Cork’s development as a significant industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries has created an important record of historic archaeological remains still surviving in the contemporary city. Today many of the buildings that housed the industries and the associated warehouses, grain-stores, malt-houses, etc. still survive. 

Shipping and maritime trade have always been a vital part of the life of Cork. The provisions trade was particularly important to the city in the 18th and early 19th centuries, supplying products to ships en route to the West Indies and North America. Throughout the early 1800’s, in order to facilitate access to the city, a number of dredging programmes were undertaken and silt was taken from the river channel and was re-deposited behind the Navigation Wall. Overtime, the quaysides in the city were improved so that ships could more easily discharge directly onto the city docks. The result was greatly expanded shipping operations close to the city centre and near the various industries and trades. 

In the 18th century the Blackpool Valley developed as an industrial suburb with its many streams enabling the development of water powered factories. Its industries included tanning, distilling and various elements of the textile industry. The River Bride, in the Millfield–Kilnap area, was the first tributary of the River Lee on the north side of Cork to be exploited on an industrial scale in the second half of the 18th century.  

Beamish and Crawford Brewery is one of the oldest surviving  industries in the City. There is a long history of brewing in this part of the city from the mid 17th century onwards. Originally the Cork Porter Brewery, Beamish and Crawford took over the company in c.1800. Up to the mid-19th century the brewery was the largest in the country. The remains of the 18th and 19th century brewery buildings form a central block within the site. Within these building s are the remains of important and unique mashing and milling plant. 

Today many industrial buildings are derelict or ruinous. It is possible however to sympathetically converted and refurbished these structures. While intact machinery and fittings rarely survive as a result, many structural elements designed to accommodate machinery may survive and can be extremely informative from an architectural and industrial archaeological viewpoint.