The earliest, central portion of this building was built c. 1810 as Lee Cottage, a two-storey nineteenth-century villa in landscaped grounds, with ornamental planting of trees and shrubs, and an ice-house. It may have been built as the residence for the Governor of the County Gaol, which then stood just across the road. Lee Cottage became the home of the Murphy-O’Connor family, until 1923 when it was purchased by the La Retraite Sisters, a French order of nuns, as a hall of residence for Catholic female students. Known to these students as ‘La Ra’ it served as their term-time home until 1977, when it was purchased by UCC for office and teaching accommodation. It was at this time that it was re-named Áras na Laoi.
The building has been expanded and changed many times in the past, with an additional floor, several extensions and many internal changes. Of particular interest are the surviving ‘gothick’ style windows at the back, and the ice-house near there, which is a relic of a time when ice was gathered in the winter and stored for later use. In the grounds, mature trees (mainly ash, sycamore and elm) are probably associated with Áras Na Laoi’s earlier existence as a private house.
Brookfield House was built c. 1865, and is a detached five-bay three-storey house over a basement, using mostly Staffordshire brick on a Cork limestone plinth. It is a significant and unusual example of a late-nineteenth-century domestic villa within a partially surviving planned landscape (a ‘pocket park’), with mature ornamental trees and a gate lodge.
The house is unique and of national significance. It was built using advanced industrial materials and techniques of its time, and has been described as an industrial structure built in a domestic style. It is the earliest known house in Ireland to incorporate iron framed construction and jack arched floors. Brookfield House was built for Thomas Jennings who had great concerns regarding fire and flooding and had his house strikingly engineered to deal with these concerns.
His first concern was of a fire, and so the house was built of fire-proof materials, with yellow fire-brick used in the structure, iron girders, heavy fire-doors, fire-proof staircases and floors and other measures to prevent or contain any significant fire in the building. This is what gives the house its peculiarly solid appearance and design.
His second and more bizarre concern was of The Flood – that is, a second Flood of biblical scale. To counter this threat, he had a roof gallery built and a row-boat placed in it, allowing him to row safely away when the waters rose to drown Cork!
The Jennings family had considerable business interests and land holdings in the south west area of the city in Bishops-Mills-Lands and Farranmacteigue. They manufactured vinegar and bleach in Brown Street, Cork and established the Brookfield chemical works on the Glasheen river adjacent to the Sadlier Brothers’ cotton spinning mill.
UCC commissioned professional conservation advice on the house and grounds and as a result was able to design the Brookfield Health Sciences Complex around the original building, also protecting the significant surviving elements of the landscape. Great care was taken to protect the existing building fabric during works, and to incorporate it into the re-developed building.
The specimen trees in the surrounding landscape include Irish yews, Monteray pines and western red cedars. The South Channel of the River Lee, adjoining the Brookfield site, is home to a great diversity of plant, animal and aquatic life.
Cork County Gaol (built 1818-23) was designed and built by the brothers James and George Pain, architects and builders. Earlier buildings on the site had been built in the 1790s.
The Gaol was designed in the Greek Revival style, with a monumental Doric entrance portico. Inside there was a central building with radiating cell-block wings, a governor’s house, a chapel and a series of other buildings and yards, including homes for the families of some prison officials.
Cork County Gaol served the county area outside of Cork city, which had its own City Gaol nearby at Sundays’ Well. During the first half of the nineteenth century the County Gaol also served as a temporary prison for convicts who had been sentenced to be transported to Australia. From the 1870s, the gaol was only used for male prisoners, female prisoners being accommodated in the former City Gaol.
The County Gaol was the scene of executions by hanging, which took place in public outside the Gaol until the 1860s. The last execution in the Gaol was in the early twentieth century.
During the War of Independence (1919-22), the Gaol was used for republican prisoners during the struggle for independence from Britain. Republican prisoners were also held here during and after the Civil War (1922-23) that followed and later again during 'The Emergency' (World War II, 1939-45).
In 1921, a number of republican prisoners from the Gaol were executed in Cork and some were buried here. Their burial plot - part of a former exercise yard of the Gaol - is marked by a carved stone memorial erected by their former comrades. Other patriots of that time, buried elsewhere, are also remembered on this memorial and on the Gaol façade (nearby on Gaol Walk).
By the late 1940s the Gaol was in poor condition and being used to detain only boys. Alfred O' Rahilly, President of UCC in 1943, succeeded in getting the site transferred to UCC. The southern part was transferred in 1947 and on this area are to be found the Electrical Engineering Building (built 1954) and the burial plot with the Memorial (unveiled 1948). The entrance from College Road was also opened at that time.
The Gaol was finally closed and the remainder transferred to UCC in 1957, the remaining buildings being demolished (the chapel was kept for a while for use by the Department of Biochemistry). The 'New Science Building' [now the Sir Robert Kane Building] was built in 1971.
The Observatory was officially opened in 1880. It was designed and equipped by the firm of Grubb in Dublin, then a world leader in the design and manufacture of observatory scientific instruments, and to this day Ireland’s greatest maker of scientific instruments.
The instruments within the Observatory include an equatorial telescope, which won the Gold Medal at the Paris International Exhibition of 1878, and was later adapted to take part in an ambitious international project to photograph the entire sky. It sits atop a brick pier, beneath the dome overhead. Other Grubb instruments are still present, including a revolutionary transit circle, which could be used to measure accurate star positions and the local time. Grubb’s third telescope for the Observatory was a unique siderostatic telescope, which could track the motion of the stars whilst itself remaining fixed.
The Observatory and the instruments it contains are a fitting tribute to the genius of Howard Grubb, one of Ireland’s earliest, and most important, technological entrepreneurs.
Constructed through the generous support of William Horatio Crawford, brewer and merchant of Cork, it was restored and re-opened in 2006 with the generous support of Alumni and Friends of UCC, through Cork University Foundation.
Observatory access is by arrangement with the UCC Visitors’ Centre or the Department of Physics.
The buildings that are now called the Lee Maltings form one of the most significant surviving industrial complexes in Cork city. They incorporate the sites of a flour mills, a brewery, a maltings, and their storage, residential and other facilities.
On this site were Hayes’ Lee Mills (the Lee Mills, later called the Lee Tide Watermills), founded 1787; the River Lee Porter Brewery, built 1796-97; and the Nile Street Maltings (the Lee Maltings), founded 1813.
The Lee Mills were water-powered flour and corn mills sited at the junction of a small watercourse with the river Lee. These mills were the largest water-powered flour-milling premises on the north channel of the river Lee, and the last such in the city. The eighteenth-century Lee Mills House, the Miller’s house (also known as the Steward’s House), still survives here beside Prospect Row. The 6- and 7-storey mill buildings here were built between 1825 and 1831.
The River Lee Porter Brewery operated from 1797 until 1813. Porter is a dark beer, also called stout, which derives its colour, creamy head and distinctive taste from the use of more heavily roasted (‘malted’) barley in the brewing process. The Brewery was built around a four-sided courtyard, which still exists here.
The Brewery was acquired in 1813 by the brewing firm of Beamish and Crawford, who converted the premises for use as a maltings and storage. They later also acquired and converted the adjoining Lee Mills for the same purposes. The resulting complex is what we now call the Lee Maltings.
The Lee Maltings were used by Beamish and Crawford to provide their brewing business with malted barley. The complex contained all of the spaces and machinery for storage and bulk handling of grain during the process, as well as the kilns, offices, coal and barrel stores and all of the other spaces a working maltings needed, including in 1881 a gatekeeper’s house and dormitories for the maltmen.
Barley was dried and allowed to germinate, then at the critical moment it was roasted in a kiln to stop germination. This preserved the natural sugars in the grain which were used in the brewing process to create alcohol. The malted barley was allowed to mature for a while before being transported to the Beamish and Crawford brewery elsewhere in the city to be turned into porter. Cheers!
The combined Lee Maltings site was sold by Beamish and Crawford to UCC in 1968. Since then it has at different times provided the home for a number of academic departments, an indoor sports centre, the university theatre, and, since 1981, leading researchers in the fields of information and communications technology.
The Main Quadrangle was built for Queen’s College Cork, which was established in 1845 to provide third-level education in the province of Munster. Building works began in early 1847 and it opened on 7 November 1849. 'The Quad' is built of distinctive Cork limestone, quarried locally and known for its very light colour.
The architects were Sir Thomas Deane (1782-1871), and Benjamin Woodward (1819-1861). They were amongst the leading architects of their day in the Gothic style and are particularly known for two university museum buildings, in Dublin and in Oxford.
The Gothic style was considered the most suitable one for colleges at that time, being inspired by the great medieval colleges in England. This style of Victorian architecture revived the forms and decoration of medieval buildings.
Deane and Woodward became particularly noted for their use of decorative carvings of plants, especially around doors and windows. These motifs are found here with heraldic devices, coats of arms, gargoyles and symbols of wisdom and renewal. They were carved by James and John O’Shea, highly skilled Irish stone carvers.
The term 'Quadrangle' refers to both the four-sided space enclosed, and to the buildings that enclose it. Built of only three wings set around the lawn, the original organisation was as follows:
- the West Wing contained the lecture rooms and the professors’ rooms
- the North Wing contained the offices and support facilities – including the library, a museum and an examination hall (the Aula Maxima)
- the East Wing contained the residences of the President and the Vice-President of the College.
A corridor or cloister walk, now called the Stone Corridor, links the West and North wings at ground floor level. This provided staff and students with shelter in bad weather.
The building has the open side facing south, into the sunlight (and the prevailing wind with generous Cork rainfall!). The open side appears to have been an aesthetic choice, but it may also have been to create a brighter, fresher, and thus healthier environment in the College.
The building, with its interiors, gates, gate-lodges and associated grounds, is a protected structure. The nineteenth-century grounds, though extended and modified since then, are a notable example of Victorian landscaping containing important plants and trees.
St Vincent's, a protected structure, was formerly part of the complex in Sunday’s Well belonging to the Congregation of the Mission (generally called The Vincentians). Designed by architect George Goldie (1828-87) in a Gothic style, it was built in 1873 as a residence and retreat house attached to the west side of the earlier St Vincent's Church (c. 1853).
The complex is built on a steeply sloping site, but successfully deals with both the problems and opportunities that this offers. Overlooking the valley of the river Lee it has magnificent views and is visible from much of the city.
George Goldie specialised in churches and church buildings. Using the distinctive mixture of local red sandstone and white limestone, he built the residence around a small plaza, created a south-facing vaulted hall beside the terraced gardens and topped the building with a dramatic turret at the western corner, thus creating an impressive addition to Cork’s architectural heritage.
The residence portion of the complex was acquired by UCC from the Vincentian Fathers and, following extensive refurbishment, it became the home of the School of Music and Theatre Studies in May 2000.
The adjoining St Vincent’s Church, retained by the Vincentians as a parish church, was designed by Sir John Benson (1811-62), the City architect. He is best known in Cork for public buildings such as Cork Butter Market, Shandon, and Cork Central Market (known as The English Market) on Grand Parade, but also for the fountain on Grand Parade, for several bridges, quay walls and the old City Waterworks on the Lee Road.
Music has been taught in UCC since 1903. Many prominent musicians and composers have been associated with this department, including Sir Arnold Bax, Aloys Fleischmann, Seán Ó Riada, Tomás Ó Canainn and Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin.