Pevsner’s Cork

Have you heard of the Pevsner Guides? It’s shorthand for a series of books, originally conceived and written in England by Nikolaus Pevsner, about significant buildings. But not just buildings – their context and surroundings, like that of Holy Trinity Church, above.

There’s a Buildings of Ireland series, only half done now – 16 of our 32 counties to date, with more underway and others yet to be started. It’s a monumental achievement and on Saturday we attended the launch of the Cork volume in Nano Nagle Place in Cork.

The Buildings of Ireland, Cork: City and County, was written by Frank Keohane (Above, signing my copy) and it took him ten years. Ten years! Covid restricted his investigations for some of that time, but still. At almost 700 pages, it’s an amazing achievement and we were very glad to be able to attend the symposium to celebrate its publication.

Alistair Rowan, genial author of the first of the Irish series was honoured during the day

The day was full of talks and progress reports on volumes currently underway (Dublin suburbs and country, Leitrim/Sligo/Roscommon and Central Leinster). What I loved about the talks was the descriptions of going out exploring and investigating – it certainly wasn’t all about dry research in dusty archives, although I suppose some of that has to be involved too. The Dublin writers, Brendan and Colm, went around by bike and there was one particularly striking photo of a slavering Rottweiler hot on their heels – or rather, wheels. 

We enjoyed all the talks very much, but perhaps our favourite was the keynote by Bishop Paul Colton (above, showing us the dilapidated state of Desertserges church, which houses a significant Túr Gloine window). Titled A Parson’s Dilemma, it was witty and warm and brought us all back to the sense of buildings that provide the backdrop and context for people’s lives, and all the disparate functions that they serve as well as the emotions we attach to them. His talk also served as a stark reminder that many churches and religiously-administered premises are facing severe challenges as congregations decline and buildings begin to face dereliction.

The Cork volume, as is the pattern with the Pevsner Guides, is laid out as a Gazetteer, arranged alphabetically by town, village or district. I will illustrate (with my own photographs) four entries from the thousands the book contains, just as an example of how this volume has already stoked my interest in things we have seen and motivated me to go back and take another look. (And I only got it yesterday!)

Youghal – a town we have visited and marvelled at (see here and here and here), gets 25 pages, a clear indication of its architectural and historical importance. St Mary’s Church is described in detail, the exterior and interior, with informed comment on the ages of the various parts – not something that an amateur like me could figure out on her own. Here is what Frank has to say about Richard Boyle’s monument.

One of the finest expressions of Jacobean architecture and sculpture in the country, retaining richly painted decoration of a later date. Richard Boyle commissioned it in 1617 from Alexander Hylls of Holborn in London, 24 years before he died. Boyle was acutely aware of the power of funerary monuments in extolling dynastic greatness and this one is only one of four that he commissioned.

Coolkelure Lodge is described, along with its gate lodge (below). 

Wonderful three-bay, two-storey gabled lodge in the same vein, [as Coolkelure House which was built in 1874, architect Henry Hill] with elaborate Bath stone carvings, ornate bargeboards, and a three-stage stair tower with pointed roof.

We stumbled upon Clonmeen House when we were on a North Cork Holy Well Expedition with Amanda and Peter, near Banteer. We were staying in a house on the grounds and when out for a walk in the evening got an intriguing glimpse of the house – I have wondered about it ever since, and here it is in the Guide!

Built by Stephen Grehan, first Catholic Governor of the Bank of Ireland, to designs by George C Ashlin – an obvious choice. Keohane states that Stephen Grehan was the first Catholic Governor of the Bank of Ireland. I can find no information on this – but I know who I can ask!

And finally, a tiny detail that is easy to miss, at the Catholic Church at Kilcoe, just down the road from us. The last sentence of the description points out The Iron Rings fixed in the churchyard wall for tethering worshippers’ horses and donkeys are a happy survival.

The Guide is now in the car, where it will live along with the Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass, as our essential companions on our peregrinations.

Into the Blue…

In this series on Ireland’s colourful buildings, we started off with purple and pink and proceeded through the colour wheel to the oranges and yellows and now we have arrived back on the cool side of the spectrum – the blues and greens. The Diva Cafe in Ballinspittle (above) has black trim that does nothing to tone down its exuberance, and it marries beautifully with the purple and pinks beside it, which were highlighted in our first post on this series.

We left off the last post with a couple of lime greens, so here’s another, from Kinsale (above) to get us back in the swing of things.

A bright green and a blue green are a great combination beside the sea – this house is at Dunmanus, on The Mizen

Blues and greens are the colours of the sky and the fields, so they don’t pop as much as the pinks and the oranges. In fact they can be quite subtle, when used in tones that blend in with their surroundings.

I love these two farmhouses, the first near Mount Kidd and the second near Coppeen

But in village streets, and especially when combined with the other colours of the streetscape, they can be as cheerful and arresting as the stronger hues around them.

Eyeries (top) and Kenmare (bottom)

There are shades of blue and green that people argue over – one will call it blue and another green.

The fabulous Bridge House in Skibbereen – blue or green?

Those are the teals, ceruleans and turquoises, and St Patrick’s Blue, which is the colour of the Aer Lingus uniforms.

Finn’s Table in Kinsale, La Jolie Brise in Baltimore and a lovely brick and teal combo in North Cork

O’Sullivan’s butcher shop in Ballydehob has been closed for years, but it still retails its welcoming colours and graphics

True blues vary from the strong dark ultramarines and navy blues through the denims, duck eggs, periwinkles, sky blues and on to the paler shades and baby blues.

The first house is in Baltimore, the one underneath it was glimpsed somewhere on our travels

Blue matches well with other colours and is often used in combination. Some of the nicest buildings we’ve seen use blue with another colour to great effect.

Three wonderful buildings that use blue in combination with orange tones – a bank in Youghal, a hardware store in Bantry and our own Budd’s Restaurant in Ballydehob (with Rosies pub for good measure)

Yellow trim is a tried and true favourite
It might be one of the smallest houses I’ve seen, but it stands out when painted in blue
Blues and greens in Kilbrittain 
This one near Castle Donovan uses a strong blue cleverly as both a main and a trim colour

I’ve decided to end this series with this photograph of two side-by-side buildings in Adrigole on the Beara Peninsula.  The juxtaposition of the strong green and the vivid pink proves that when it comes to colour, anything can work!

Youghal’s Walls

Outside the walls 2

Walled towns are relatively rare in Ireland and it’s even rarer to find substantial sections of wall still standing. But Youghal (pronounced YAWL), in County Cork, miraculously has a significant extent of its medieval wall still in place. 

Mural Tower

Drew’s Tower, one of the mural towers that punctuated  the wall. Some of the others were called Montmorenci, Half-Moon and Banshee Towers

A walking tour of Youghal is a great way to spend a day. Robert is writing about the wondrous Collegiate Church, one of the highlights of the tour but by no means the only stop of interest.

Boyle's Almshouses

Almshouses built by Richard Boyle and still in use today

The history of Youghal is inextricably mixed up with Walter Raleigh, an early resident, and Richard Boyle, the Great Earl of Cork. They lived here in Tudor times, but the town started out as a Viking stronghold. The Norsemen may have built earthen defences, precursors to the later stone walls.

PacataHiberniaYoughalc 1600_800x537

Map of Youghal from the 17th century Pacata Hibernia. The smaller walled section to the left was known as Base Town or Irish Town. It was for the native Irish and the entrance to the main town was through a guarded gate. Note the heavily fortified quay walls

It’s not hard to understand the importance of Youghal if you consider its strategic setting. Situated in an excellent natural harbour, it guarded access to one of the south coast’s longest and most navigable rivers – the Blackwater. The Irish and Norse banded together to defend Youghal against a Norman raiding party that had sacked Lismore in 1173. They were unsuccessful, and from then on Youghal became a Norman town. It was these Normans who built the first sections of the wall, in the 13th century.

Walls above graveyard

The great family of Fitzgerald, Earls of Desmond, dominated the town for the next three hundred years. The Desmonds ignored the dictates of Dublin Castle and lived like independent princes – a factor that was to lead to their eventual downfall and along with it the decline of the old Gaelic order and the arrival of a planter class from England that would include Raleigh and Boyle.

View from Walls

Youghal occupied an important position at the mouth of the Blackwater, with a sheltered harbour

But in the early medieval period, before those troubles, Youghal prospered and became the 6th largest port in Ireland and a booming centre of trade.

Portugal sent wine, oil and olives; Spain, iron, lemons, oranges, shumack; France, silk, salt, spirits, vinegar; Amsterdam, paper; Flanders, bark, tapestry and silk; Rotterdam, cider, coffee-mills, corn powder, earthenware; Bremen, iron, oak-boards, and Rjenish window glass; Norway, balks and deals; Drontheim, oars, spars masts etc. Articles of luxury were imported in abundance; amongst other articles of fashion, we have ivory combs, fans, head-rolls, masks and papers of patches.**

Tynte's Castle streetscape

Tynte’s Castle which once overlooked the quay walls and helped to defend the town

To the sea side the main defence consisted on the quay wall, which was strengthened with crenellations and fortified by towers. One of those towers, Tynte’s Castle, is still in use on the main street. It was once the home of Elizabeth Spenser, widow of the poet Edmund Spenser, to whom he wrote the love poem Epithalamion. Spenser was not popular in Ireland – read more about that here

Tynte's Castle

The quays and the walls behind the town were the subject of petitions for ‘murage grants’ over the centuries as they were difficult to maintain and the town itself was subject to attack from the sea by pirates and by the ‘Wild Irish’ from the high land behind the town.

Clock Gate

Access to the walled town was provided by means of guarded gates. While no original gates have survived, the Clock Gate, built in 1777, is located where the original gate was. The current tower functioned as a gaol for many years. It is believed the original gate may have looked like St Laurence’s gate in Drogheda, one of the few town gates surviving in Ireland.

laurencesgate-01

The surviving town gate in Drogheda – St Laurence’s Gate – shows us what Youghal’s gates would have looked like

The town was attacked and devastated by the Desmonds in 1579. Eventually driven out and defeated, the Earl’s lands were forfeited to the crown and granted to Sir Walter Raleigh who came to live in the house called Myrtle Grove. He later sold his lands to Richard Boyle, under whose energetic patronage the town once again prospered and the walls were repaired. Much of what we see now dates to this period.

Model of walls

A model of the town – this section shows the walls in the north-east section, St Mary’s Collegiate Church and Myrtle Grove

Walls were rendered obsolete by the advent of heavy canon and they gradually fell once again into decay by the late 1700s. Meanwhile the prosperous town needed wider streets and gates were removed, although the portion inside the walls kept its medieval layout for the most part.

Through the graveyard

The old graveyard behind the Collegiate Church and within the walls is waiting to be explored

Enough of the town wall survived, however, and the citizens of Youghal are rightly proud of it. They have undertaken an ongoing program of  stabilisation and repair. For one thing, they have removed the ivy that threatens to destroy so much of our medieval heritage.

Wall repairs

Today, you can wander freely around the walls. There are magnificent views from the top, where you can appreciate the strategic importance of the port and admire the formal collegiate gardens preserved as a town park. Take one of the walking tours offered by the Youghal Heritage Centre – in a land steeped in history, this experience ranks as unique!

Wall walk

**This quote and much of the information in this post came from the excellent publication: Youghal Town Wall: Conservation and Management Plan, by Cork County Council. Thanks also to the Youghal Visitor Centre for the walking tour map and the friendly greeting.