No stalling its success: Cork's English market through the decades

No stalling its success: Cork's English market through the decades
Interior of Cork's English Market, looking towards Grand Parade.

Earlier this month, RTÉ Archives surfaced a report that was published on January 18, 1974, looking at plans to develop the English Market, including building a multi-story car park above it.

Stallholders at the time were vehemently opposed to the developments and wanted the traditional market to remain untouched.

Christmas shopping in Cork at English Market, 1958. 
Christmas shopping in Cork at English Market, 1958. 

One trader told the National Broadcaster:

"I would be totally against it. I think it would completely alter the character of the place and a lot of these businesses, they're very old businesses, they couldn't take the disruption that would be caused by such a development."

The Market had been modernised and upgraded during the 1960s, which corresponded with a general upturn in Irish economic fortunes, but the attempts by the Corporation to demolish the English Market and replace it with a multi-storey block overhead, with retention of a Market space on the ground floor was met with much opposition.

Pat and Paul O'Connell with a 110KG shark, 1999. Picture: Mark Kelleher
Pat and Paul O'Connell with a 110KG shark, 1999. Picture: Mark Kelleher

It took intensive lobbying of city councillors and the Corporation to eventually see the plans dropped and the Market surviving.

By the 1970s, the Market was in need of refurbishment, however, and works began to improve its structural integrity. 

The roof and floor were replaced, along with improvement works to stalls. 

At this time new trading arrangements were also explored.

Turkeys for sale at the English Market. 
Turkeys for sale at the English Market. 

Market traders, who were unhappy with the vulnerability of weekly tenancies, negotiated improved security of tenure in a new system of granting each stallholder a 21-year lease, with rent reviews every five years. 

Each stallholder would be charged an annual rent, together with a service charge and rates.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern chats with Patrick McDonnell in the English Market in 2002. Picture: Gerard McCarthy
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern chats with Patrick McDonnell in the English Market in 2002. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

Throughout the decades, the Market has been met with many challenges - plagued by serious flooding and ravaged by fire.

In June 1980, a gas explosion in the Princes Street Market caused a fire to engulf the building.

Whilst the Grand Parade side was not affected, the Princes Street Market was in ruins and had to be restored.

Just after the Market had recovered from this, the economic recession of the 1980s hit and the effects were profoundly felt by traders.

The number of vacant stalls increased and to make matters worse, another fire in 1986 damaged the Princes Street Market once again.

Burning of English Market, June 20th 1980. 
Burning of English Market, June 20th 1980. 

The development proposal which was overturned by stallholders and the public back in 1974 was briefly entertained again in 1988.

For the second time, it was vehemently opposed and the Market remained unchanged.

During the 1990s, the economy picked up and the Market profited from this upturn.

Queen Elizabeth II meeting fishmonger Pat O'Connell at The English Market in Cork City on her State Visit to Ireland in 2011. Photo credit: Maxwells/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II meeting fishmonger Pat O'Connell at The English Market in Cork City on her State Visit to Ireland in 2011. Photo credit: Maxwells/PA Wire

In the years since it has continued to prosper and maintain a special place in the hearts of both Cork residents and tourists alike.

The English Market has seen many a famous face meander through its diverse stalls - most notably HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh during their landmark visit to the City on Friday, May 20, 2011.

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