Shandon Street, formerly known as Mallow Lane, is a much-used route linking the north-west suburbs to the city centre. Shandon Street was originally developed by the Normans as the primary route to the North Gate Bridge. Between the 1370s and 1400s the north suburbs of the city, including Shandon, were burned by 'Irish enemies and English rebels'1 — enemies of the walled city of Cork. By 1641 the Shandon area had largely been rebuilt. Shandon Street increased in importance due to its location near Shandon Castle, the official administrative centre of Munster. During the Siege of Cork in 1690, Shandon Castle and the nearby Church of St Mary were destroyed. During post-siege reconstruction of the area, the surviving iconic St Anne’s Church was built on the site of a former St Mary's Church.
The site of the former Shandon Castle remained derelict until a Dominican friary was built on the site in 1784. This friary was demolished in the 1850s and the Firkin Crane was built on its site in 1855. The Firkin Crane formed part of a developing butter market around O'Connell Square. This market in turn led to Shandon Street becoming an important international trading area and a focal point for trade for the Cork and Kerry farmers who supplied the butter. The butter trade was established when Mallow Lane became the Catholic trading area of Cork during penal times, when the old Catholic aristocracy, who were prevented from owning land, put their money into trade. This led to the development of the butter market in Shandon.
By the end of the nineteenth century Shandon Street was an area where the wealthier retailers lived over their shops and public houses, while many of the city’s poor lived in slum tenements in the numerous lanes off Shandon Street. During the War of Independednce, British troops burnt some of the houses on Shandon street in response to an attack on British forces in the city. After the closure of the Butter Market in 1924, Shandon Street went into a period of decline. Most of today's buildings on Shandon Street were constructed in the period 1750-1920: some constructed in the period 1750-1780, while most were constructed in the nineteenth century between1800 and 1890, and a small number were constructed in the twentieth century up to 19202. More recently, in 2004, much of Shandon Street was renovated as part of a Shandon area renewal scheme.
Select pages from menu at left of page for more on alleys and lanes off Shandon Street.
Peter Foynes, Walking Shandon: A guide to Cork's historic heart. Cork Butter Museum, 2007, p. 24
Richard T. Cooke, My home by the Lee. Irish Millennium Publications, Cork, 1999, p. 197.
1John Crowley, Robert Devoy, Denis Linehan, Patrick O'Flanagan, Atlas of Cork city. Cork University Press, Cork, 2005, p. 106
2National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, www.buildingsofireland.ie
Evening Echo, 18 March 1974, p. 5