Picture special: Another twist in the Queen’s Old Castle tale

Picture special: Another twist in the Queen’s Old Castle tale
The Queens Old Castle Shopping Centre pictured from Daunt Square in 1996.

THERE was sadness in Cork city centre this week when the news broke that Argos on Grand Parade was closing.

Interior of Queens Old Castle, Grand Parade in January 1949.
Interior of Queens Old Castle, Grand Parade in January 1949.

The outlet is to close by November, with staff to be offered redeployment to the retailer’s other Cork stores in Blackpool and Mahon.

It brings to a close more than two decades of trading at that location for Argos, who moved into the store in February 1998. But it is just the latest twist in the tale of Queen’s Old Castle, a building that has been part of the city centre for centuries.

The Queens Old Castle in its heyday.	Picture: Dan Linehan/’The Echo’ archive
The Queens Old Castle in its heyday. Picture: Dan Linehan/’The Echo’ archive

According to the website http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie, the location has been the site of everything from a jail to a courthouse - with a history that stretches back to medieval times.

It was originally the site of one of the fortresses that guarded the entrance to the medieval port of Cork, which was actually called King’s Castle. There are also reports of it being used as a jail before it fell into disrepair and was rebuilt in the early 1600s as a courthouse.

Queens Old Castle department store, Grand Parade, Cork pictured in 1934 Ref. 570B old black and white
Queens Old Castle department store, Grand Parade, Cork pictured in 1934 Ref. 570B old black and white

It was rebuilt later that century but remained a courthouse until a new courthouse was established on Washington Street (then Great George’s Street).

That move led to the building’s use switching to trade, which is how it has been known to generations of Corkonians since then.

The Queens Old Castle in its heyday.	Picture: Dan Linehan/’The Echo’ archive
The Queens Old Castle in its heyday. Picture: Dan Linehan/’The Echo’ archive

The Queen’s Old Castle was in operation as a department store, one of the most popular in Cork right through from the 1840s to the 1970s. It survived the Burning of Cork in 1920 and ownership changed hands a number of times over the decades.

A change was made after it was purchased by Power Securities Ltd, who made the change from department store to shopping centre.

The former Virgin Megastore at the centre. 	Picture Mark Kelleher
The former Virgin Megastore at the centre. Picture Mark Kelleher

The Queen’s Old Castle Shopping Centre was opened by former Taoiseach and beloved Cork icon on 7 May 1980.

There were dozens of individual shops, cafes and restaurants in the centre, with men’s and women’s clothing stores joined by jewellers, bookshops, galleries and more.

There was further change in 1996 when Clarendon Properties bought the building. It closed for refurbishment and when it re-opened it was with two large tenants rather than many small stores.

Robert Lowe Stopford's watercolour of the interior of the Queen's Old Castle, Cork in 1848.
Robert Lowe Stopford's watercolour of the interior of the Queen's Old Castle, Cork in 1848.

The Virgin Megastore was opened by Roy Keane in December 1997, followed two month later by Argos. Virgin closed in 2009 and that store, which changed hands a number of times in the last decade, is currently a Dealz.

Cork shoppers will be waiting to see what’s next for the venerable old building.

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