One of the jewels of Cork city centre is the English Market. Recently, it was chosen by the Observer Food Magazine among the ten best food markets in Europe.
The market has a long history. It dates back to 1788. A nineteenth century map refers to the Princes Street section of the market as the English Market, while the rest of the market is referred to as the Grand Parade Market. Nowadays the entire complex is popularly known as the English Market.
The Princes Street Market was reconstructed to a design of Sir John Benson's in 1862. A fire almost completely destroyed this section of the market on 19 June 1980. Coincidentally, Cork Corporation was working on the refurbishment of the market at the time, after the deteriorating condition of the market had given cause for concern, resulting in a Market Redevelopment Plan, which was approved in 1977. Refurbishment work had commenced in 1979.
After the 1980 fire, the Corporation began rebuilding the damaged portion of the market and went to great lengths to preserve as much of the original design of the market as possible. The efforts of Cork Corporation were rewarded when it won a Europa Nostra award for architectural conservation. The market was again considerably damaged by fire on 6 January 1986, however, necessitating another major reconstruction scheme.
In 1992, the day-to-day running of the market was contracted to Irish Estates Management, a company which also administered the Ilac Centre in Dublin. Improvements in hygiene and in the appearance of stalls soon became apparent. After further refurbishment work on the Grand Parade section of the market in 1993-4, its popularity increased among all sections of Cork society. Traditionally the market had been regarded as a place frequented by the less well off citizens of Cork, until stalls selling more exotic fare than the traditional meat, tripe, drisheen and fish began to make their appearances in the market. Today, it has one of the most cosmopolitan atmospheres to be found in Cork and sells a wide array of foodstuffs from all over the world. The market, however, still manages to retain its uniquely Cork character, with tripe and drisheen still available alongside Greek olives and Indian spices. The English Market offers the visitor a vibrant, rich shopping experience, contrasting with the typically bland uniformity of shopping malls.
On 20 May 2011, the English Market was the focus of international media attention when Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and her husband visited the market for more than 20 minutes, chatting with traders about their merchandise, while they were escorted by Lord Mayor Councillor Michael O’Connell.
The English Market / An Margadh Sasanach (nó) An Margadh Gallda
Tom Durcan, Chairperson Market Traders Association in conversation with Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the company of the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Michael O'Connell and Lady Mayoress, Catherine O'Connell