• CORK and CAEN together?

    Satellite image of Caen showing the River Orne and associated canals (Google Maps).
  • Recent research by the editor has shown that the medieval canals in the city seem to be closely allied to canals of similar date in Caen in Normandy. This equivalence between the early infrastructure of Cork and Caen also applies in terms function and design. Thus, it appears that the earliest canals in Cork may be an example of Norman influence in Ireland prior to the later Anglo-Norman occupation of the town in the thirteenth century.
  • SUBSURFACE CORK.  Further analysis of the subsurface geology of the City, using the evidence of archaeological excavations and historical engineering boreholes, has provided new information concerning the course of the South Channel prior to its diversion at the end of the eleventh century. Additional information concerning the development of the city’s canals in the early modern period has also come to light.

The Editor

Anthony Beese is trading as a consulting geologist with Carraigex GeoServices, who provide services in geoarchaeology and engineering geology.  He has also written diverse articles on geology, landscape archaeology, the historical environment and natural history.     View Anthony Beese's profile on LinkedIn

CHAS_logoA grant towards the construction of this website was provided by Cork Historical & Archaeological Society.   The initial research on Cork’s former landscapes consisted of a three-year project that was funded  by the  Heritage Council and supported by the Department of Archaeology, University College Cork (2009-2012).

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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 11,700 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?