• November 2016. In recent weeks, the contractors, BAM, have started demolition work on key parts of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery (see below). They have confirmed that archaeological surveys will be carried out at the site, and it seems likely that these will reveal much of importance concerning the medieval origins of the city.
  • The monograph, Archaeological excavations at South Main Street [Cork] 2003-2005,  was published in 2014.  It is edited by Maurice Hurley and Ciara Brett.  Section 3, which is written by the editor, deals with the medieval reclamation in the southeast quarter of Cork [Reference].
  • A third radiocarbon date
  • The oldest plan of Cork?

    Demolition work in progress at the Beamish and Crawford site. Picture by Denis Minihane, Evening Echo.

The Story of Cork

View of the South Channel from the west with St Fin Barre's Cathedral in the foreground (Aerofilms Ltd. 1949).  English Heritage Permit No. 3658.
View of the South Channel from the west with St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in the foreground (Aerofilms Ltd. 1949). English Heritage Permit No. 3658.

Here is an introduction to the story of Cork’s landscapes. Glimpses of the past.  Amazing changes have occurred in the Lee valley since the last glaciation ended 11,600 years ago. Ice, river and estuary. Cork before Cork.

And then Cork.  Archaeologists have discovered that, about nine hundered years ago, Hiberno-Norse people established the beginnings of the city by undertaking a major programme of land-claim, which consisted of filling the estuary with locally sourced silt.  They began this task by diverting the South Channel and forming a new settlement near  South Gate Bridge, as it is now.

South Gate Bridge

The video shows the South Channel as it roars over South Gate Weir; the powerful flow was observed on February 25th, 2014 and includes water released by the ESB at the Inniscarra Dam after the prolonged wet weather of last winter (Donal Lehane, personal communication). The estimated discharge flow of about 70 m3/s could be considered to be representative of a typical river flood, of which there were probably many that swept down the South Channel during the medieval period; scouring mudbanks and undermining any timber structures that were in its path.

View of the North Channel at St Patrick's Bridge on the day after the river flood of November 20th, 2009, estimated toh ave been a 1 in 100 or 500 year event. Photograph: A. Beese
The North Channel at St Patrick’s Bridge                                                  Photograph: A. Beese

The image shows the residual flow in the North Channel at St Patrick’s Bridge on November 21st, 2009, one day after the infamous flood that caused extensive damage to the city.  During the flood, a peak discharge flow of more than 800 m3/s is estimated. If such an extreme event had occurred in the eleventh or twelfth centuries, it seems unlikely that the early settlement of timber houses would have survived. Perhaps, earlier attempts to develop the wetland at Cork had already been postponed?

The Editor

Anthony Beese is a consultant geologist with Carraigex GeoServices, who provide services in geoarchaeology and engineering geology.  He is also author of many articles on the themes of geology, archaeology and historical landscapes.

View Anthony Beese's profile on LinkedIn

CHAS_logoA grant towards the construction of this website was provided by Cork Historical & Archaeological Society.  The research findings presented are based partly on multidisciplinary studies that required the assistance of many people, to whom I am grateful.  I would also like to acknowledge the grants that were given by Heritage Council towards the research work, and financial support provided by my aunt, Mrs Jill Wood.

Comments to the editor (editor@corkorigins.ie) are welcome.