‘Ye Mayoral Booke of Thomas Pembrock’ has over four hundred pages of hand-written information that gives a remarkable glimpse into the life of a resident of Cork city in the first half of the eighteenth century.
Thomas Pembrock (1683-1754) was active in the civic life of Cork, serving as sheriff, mayor and as Justice of the Peace. He was also a businessman and owned property at a time when eighteenth century Cork was prospering and expanding outside the medieval walls.
His city property included houses in North Main Street and a bowling green beside what is now Pembroke Street, off the South Mall.
Pembrock’s ‘Mayoral Booke’ was a type of commonplace book or scrapbook, a place where he wrote down mainly practical information. The main themes related to his finances, property, family and civic life, but he also included recipes and health cures, as well as historical information about Cork.
Thomas Pembrock died in 1754, but there are some later entries in the book that were probably made by a relative, possibly John Wrixon or David Rochfort whose bookplate is inside the front cover.
The original book consists of a number of different sequences of page numbers. In order to clearly identify pages, only the digital number (shown at the top of the page in the online document and also under the thumbnails) are used as references throughout.
Caulfield, Richard, ed., The Council Book of the Corporation of the City of Cork, from 1609 to 1643 and from 1690 to 1800, 1876.
Crowley, J.S., R.J.N. Devoy, D. Linehan, P. O’Flanagan, eds., Atlas of Cork City, 2005.
Dickson, David, Old World Colony: Cork and South Munster 1630-1830, 2005.
Jefferies, Henry Alan, Cork: Historial Perspectives, 2004.
Johnson, Gina, The Laneways of Medieval Cork, 2002.
Read, Hugo, “The Penroses of Woodhill, Cork: an account of their property in the city”, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1980, Vol. 85, pp.79-98.
Tuckey, Francis, The County and City of Cork remembrancer, 1837.
Thomas was born in 1683, the son of William and Mary Pembrock. He had three sisters: Elizabeth, Bridgett and Mary. He married Sarah Murphy (1691-1750) in 1711. They do not appear to have had any children, but Thomas took a keen interest in his relations, including the Rochford, Winthrop, Ryland and Wrixon families. He was a well-read man, as is seen by the lists of books that he owned.
Thomas Pembrock was admitted as a Freeman of the City of Cork in 1693 and served as Sheriff in 1724, as Mayor in 1733 and was sworn in as a Justice of the Peace in 1735.
He took an active role in the civic life of Cork. Pembrock owned and developed land and houses in several areas of Cork and his book records details about these properties.
Pembrock died on 19 September 1754 and was buried in St. Peter’s Church, North Main Street, Cork. His name is preserved in Pembroke Street, off the South Mall, where he had owned land.
Details from Thomas Pembrock’s book provide glimpses of how Cork city was evolving in the eighteenth century. (More here on eighteenth century Cork)
In medieval times, Cork was centred on the Main Street that ran through the centre of the walled city. Pembrock gave details of property on North Main Street, where he had a house (pages 180-184). He also had stables in nearby Coleman’s Lane (page 74).
However, Pembrock also had other property, including a house and bowling green (pages 96, 131-133, 188-193, 270) in Dunscombe's Marsh (between the present-day Grand Parade and the South Mall).
He owned fields at South Spittle Land (now South Douglas Road, page 104) and had property in Herefordshire, England (pages 113-114).
As the city expanded into the river estuary, lands were drained and the river was confined to routes that ultimately shaped the street pattern of Cork. See 18th century maps here 1726-1801
The corporation attempted to ensure public access to the newly laid-out quays and streets, leading to disputes with landowners at times. Pembrock carefully recorded the dimensions and boundaries of his properties, see for example pages 77, 132, 179.
This is a type of commonplace book and Pembrock is part of a long tradition of authors who gathered information and recorded it for their personal use. Although titled ‘Ye Mayoral Booke of Thomas Pembrock 1733 Mayor of Cork’, it deals with much more than Pembrock’s time as mayor of Cork. His book includes some songs and ballads, but is primarily a record of practical information relating to property, civic life, family, travel, health, food and drink.
This book is a compilation of at least three manuscripts. Much of the book, up to page 288, covers a wide range of themes relating to Pembrock’s life. Page 290 sees the start of a section relating mainly to civic and legal matters, with a final section (from page 346) listing local, national and international events. Most of the book appears to be in Pembrock’s handwriting, with some inscriptions in another, later, hand.
There is a reference to a ‘Memorandum Book of May & June 1722’ (page 24) and ‘my Old Book’ (page 55), suggesting that Pembrock also kept other books and records.
Thomas Pembrock’s book provides fascinating details about life in the 18th century. He covered many themes, ranging from the daily rate for employing a painter in 1728 (page 68), how to make ‘orange wine’ (pages 138, 157), costs and plans for making wheelbarrows (pages 88, 129, 200), to floor plans for Christ Church (pages 38-39).
He lists particulars of his and other property and the names of tradesmen such as carpenters, painters and plumbers. Details of civic life, such as the costs of clothing for mayors and sheriffs, are given, along with legal and financial information.
Pembrock provides birth, marriage and burial records for his extended family and friends, as well as information about churches, particularly St. Peter’s Church and Christ Church. Other themes include the costs of importing products, travel information within Ireland, cures for illnesses and prices for a wide range of goods and services.
Towards the end of the book are valuable lists of civic information, including fees, legal oaths and lists of officials who held office in Cork from the 13th century.