About Heritage Services
To care for, exhibit and promote UCC’s collections, thus contributing to the University’s ability to educate, innovate and communicate.
The University Heritage Services provides collections management services in respect of the curatorial collections of Queen's College/University College Cork, consisting of:
- Museum & Teaching Collections
- University Memorabilia
The curatorial collections correspond to the broad range of disciplines and activities of the University, from archaeology to zoology.
The University Heritage Services supports the work of the Buildings and Estates Office towards the achievement of our strategic aims and in respect of the architectural, landscape, natural and historic inheritance of UCC.
Heritage Services provides advice, information and specialist support on heritage topics to the academic and administrative units of the University.
In addition, the Curator provides curatorial services to The Honan Trust in respect of the Honan Chapel.
If you are interested in UCC's heritage click here Heritage Displays on UCC Campus [PDF].
Enquiries into any aspect of the University's heritage are welcome.
Contact: Michael Holland, University Curator
Tel: +353 (0)21 490 3554
History of QCC / UCC
UCC was established in 1845 as one of three Queen’s Colleges - at Cork, Galway and Belfast. These new colleges were established in the reign of Queen Victoria, and named after her.
Queen's College, Cork (QCC) was established to provide access to higher education in the Irish province of Munster. Cork was chosen for the new college due to its place at the centre of transatlantic trade at the time and the presence of existing educational initiatives such as the Royal Cork Institution and a number of private medical schools.
The site chosen for the new college was dramatic and picturesque, on the edge of a limestone bluff overlooking the River Lee. It is associated with the educational activities of a local early Christian saint, Finbarr. It is believed that his monastery and school stood nearby, and his legend inspired UCC’s motto: ‘Where Finbarr Taught, let Munster Learn.’
On 7 November 1849, QCC opened its doors to a small group of students (only 115 students in that first session, 1849-1850) after a glittering inaugural ceremony in the Aula Maxima (Great Hall), which is still the symbolic and ceremonial heart of the University.
The limestone buildings of the Main Quadrangle (as it is now known) are built in a style inspired by the great universities of the Middle Ages, and were designed by the gifted architectural partnership of Thomas Deane and Benjamin Woodward. The iconic image of UCC, it is set in landscaped gardens and surrounds the green lawn known to all as the Quad.
From 1850, QCC was part of the Queen's University of Ireland and, from the 1880s, of the Royal University of Ireland. QCC grew during that that time, adding land and buildings, increasing student numbers and developing deep links throughout Munster and into the world beyond. By the beginning the twentieth century however, it was clear that higher education in Ireland required a new arrangement to permit the next stages of development. That change came in 1908 through the National University of Ireland (NUI), of which the former QCC, now University College Cork (UCC) is a founding member.
With the NUI came conferring ceremonies held in UCC for the first time (previously they were all held in Dublin). These are days of ceremony and celebration, connecting our graduates and their families to the great tradition of European scholarship that goes back a thousand years.
Student superstition has it that to cross the Quad before graduation, or even to set foot on the grass, is to risk bad luck and failure in exams. On conferring days, graduates gather to cross the Quad together, and get their photograph taken there.
Since 1908, UCC has grown - from 115 students to over 20,000, from one building to dozens, from less than 20 staff to more than 1,600 today. Since 1997, we have become a university in our own right within the NUI, but we retain the UCC name as part of our heritage of learning since 1845.
History and Heritage
Professor George Boole F.R.S (1815-1864)
The inventor of Boolean logic (foundation of the Digital Age) and first Professor of Mathematics, QCC, 1849-1864
George Boole was born in Lincoln, England. From the age of two he showed extraordinary talent and by 19 he was running his own school.
Almost entirely self taught, Boole is best known for his invention of Boolean Algebra in 1854. This work forms the basis of modern high-speed computing.
George Boole met his premature death through pneumonia after walking to UCC in a December rainstorm from his home in Ballintemple. He is buried in Blackrock, Cork. After his death his many admirers commissioned a magnificent stained glass window to commemorate him, in UCC’s Aula Maxima.
The Boole Library in UCC holds a very extensive and important collection of his letters, manuscripts, books and papers.
President of UCC (1943-1954)
Alfred O’Rahilly (1884-1969) was Professor of Mathematical Physics (1917-1943) and Registrar (1920-1943) and was the dominant college figure from 1920 to 1954. Prolific scholar, polymath, controversialist and public figure, his UCC initiatives included improvements in the library of which he was the effective director, the institution of student health and restaurant services, and the acquisition of the extensive former County Gaol site which made significant building expansion possible. Other innovations included the foundation of the Department of Electrical Engineering, and of Cork University Press.
O’Rahilly strengthened College links with the city and the province, particularly in pioneering adult education courses. He vigorously promoted a Roman Catholic ethos in the college, and was ordained a priest after his retirement.
Sir Bertram Windle, FRS
President of QCC 1904-1908, and UCC 1908-1919
Born in England, Bertram Alan Coghill Windle (1858-1929) was educated at Trinity College Dublin and became Professor of Anatomy at Birmingham. As President of Queen’s College Cork he presided over its transformation into UCC in 1908-1909. A productive and versatile scholar, he held at different times the chairs of Anatomy and Archaeology. Under his Presidency student numbers expanded considerably and new departments and courses were instituted. The Dental School and a Physics and Chemistry building were opened, and new facilities included the Athletic Grounds at the Mardyke. After his resignation as President, Windle pursued a further career at the University of Toronto as Professor of Philosophy.
Áras Na Laoi
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 Site
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 Crawford Observatory
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 Lee Maltings
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
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, Sunday's Well
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.
The Ogam Stones Collection at UCC
The Ogam (Ogham) Stones Collection in UCC is the largest collection of such inscriptions on open display in Ireland. They are part of an exhibition called 'Stories in Stone' which can be viewed free of charge in the Stone Corridor of the historic Main Quadrangle Building.
- the earliest written source of the Irish language
- the oldest recording of Irish personal names
- the earliest real evidence of Irish scholarship and learning.
Ogam is both a script and an alphabet using strokes cut on, across and either side of a line. It was designed specifically for the Irish language and was originally used to commemorate named persons. The stones may have been used as boundary markers, property markers or burial markers.
The oldest Ogam inscriptions known date from about the fifth- to the seventh-century AD and were written on stone. The Ogam stones in UCC are examples of this. From the seventh century it was mainly used by those studying poetry and grammar. This later form was written on manuscripts and this ensured the survival of ogam into modern times. Inscribed stones bear the oldest known form of Ogam.
The UCC collection was started in 1861 and the last Ogam stone was added by 1945. With a single exception all are from Co. Cork, the exception being from Co. Waterford.
The first six stones were collected by the South Munster School of Antiquaries and given to Queen’s College Cork in 1861. They were originally housed in the Royal Cork Institution, a centre for public education, from 1807 to 1861.
One stone was added around 1907 by Sir Bertram Windle, President of UCC from 1904 to 1919 and the first Professor of Archaeology of the College.
A further six stones were added in 1913, after their removal from the souterrain (underground chamber) in Knockshanawee, Co. Cork. Sir Bertram Windle was involved in the acquisition of these stones too.
12 more were added in 1920 from Ballyknock, Co. Cork and were also originally part of a souterrain. They were given to UCC by the landowner, the Duke of Devonshire.
Of the remaining stones, two were added to the collection before 1932 by Rev. Canon Power, who was Professor of Archaeology here from 1915 to 1932. He published a guide to the ogams of this college in 1932. The last was in place by 1945, when it was published by Professor R.A.S. Macalister in his Corpus of Ogam Inscriptions.
The oldest Ogam alphabet uses a series of 20 characters arranged in four groups with five characters in each. Each group is made up of one to five scored lines or notches which are placed to the left or right of a line (the stemline), or diagonally across it, or cut into it as small notches.
The inscriptions are generally read from bottom left to top right, and the classic inscription records the name of a man, his father and their broader tribal links.
A Guide to the Collection
This text is adapted from a guide to these Ogams by Professor Damian McManus, published by Cork University Press and available from the UCC Visitors’ Centre.
The Statue of Queen Victoria
The statue of Queen Victoria, presently on display in the Graduates’ Room, UCC, was originally carved in 1849 for the pinnacle of the eastern gable of the Aula Maxima, overlooking the President’s Garden. It was unveiled when Queen Victoria visited Cork in 1849.
Made of Cork limestone, the simple design depicts a young Queen Victoria in a medieval (neo-gothic) style. It was carved by a local Cork sculptor and was a personal gift to Queen’s College Cork [QCC] by the architect, Sir Thomas Deane. Working with Benjamin Woodward (later a partner in the firm), he was the architect of the original QCC buildings now known in UCC as 'The Main Quad'.
In 1934 the statue of Queen Victoria was replaced by one of St Finbarr. The removal of a queen and her replacement by a saint took place in the context of the strongly nationalist and Catholic religious atmosphere of the 1930s.
The replacement figure was that of St Finbarr, patron saint of Cork and from whose tradition was derived the motto of QCC/UCC, ‘Where Finbarr Taught, let Munster Learn’. The renowned Cork carver and sculptor, Seamus Murphy, then newly returned to Ireland from his studies in Paris, was given the commission to produce the figure of St Finbarr. His plaster maquette (model) of the Finbarr statue can be seen in the UCC Visitors’ Centre.
Five years later the then Registrar of UCC, Alfred O’Rahilly, would cite the removal of Queen Victoria as an example of peaceful nationalist action, to which our own students replied, anonymously, through the Cork Examiner: '… the dear old lady is still tucked away intact'!
Following her removal, the statue was placed in a room in the East Wing of the Main Quad. From 1934 to 1946 it remained there until the weight began to prove too much for the floorboards, and the decision was made to bury it in the President’s Garden nearby. Lowered into a pit lined with straw and buried by college gardeners, this protected it from the destructive impulses of iconoclastic nationalists and the effects of atmospheric pollution for nearly 50 years. It remained hidden, and nearly forgotten, until preparations began in 1994 for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the college.
In preparation for an exhibition called ‘Universitas’, dealing with the history of Queen’s/University College Cork, the statue of Queen Victoria was located and dug up, cleaned and placed on display in the former Council Room, now the Graduates Room. Since then, the figure of Queen Victoria in this room has become a generally accepted fixture of the college and an interesting reminder of the long and varied history of UCC.
In 2011 the statue was moved temporarily to UCC Lee Maltings to be viewed by Queen Elizabeth II during her historic visit to Ireland.
The statue may be viewed by arrangement with UCC Visitors’ Centre.
The College – A History of Queens/University College Cork by Prof. J.A. Murphy (Cork University Press, 1995) pp. 233-5, 240 and 244-5.
Cork University Record/University College Cork Record, 1948 (no. 120), 1968 (no. 43) & 1974 (no. 49).
The Architecture of Deane and Woodward by Frederick O’Dwyer (Cork University Press, 1997) pp. 84-86.
The University Mace
The historic mace of UCC is the symbol of the authority of the university.
The shape is derived from the medieval weapon of the same name, a metal version of a wooden club, which has come to be adopted as a symbol of authority and identity by civic and other public bodies, including universities. The mace was commissioned in 1910 by Sir Bertram Windle, President of UCC, as a suitable symbol of UCC as part of the National University Ofof Ireland (founded in 1908).
The mace is of beaten silver, decorated with surface and relief ornament, mounted 'jewels' and enamelled coats of arms. It consists of a hollow ball-shaped head surmounted by a spiked open crown, which is placed on the heads of three seated dog figures, which in turn are placed on the flat disc-shaped top of the mace stem. The stem is essentially a cylindrical tube with knops and an expanded end. The quality of the workmanship, design, construction and decoration is of the highest order.
The enamelled coats of arms are of the principal towns of Munster, with the crest of UCC. The silver is sterling silver, 97.5 % pure, weighing about 150 ounces. The mace is marked with the normal marks of assay (from The Assay Office, Goldsmiths Hall, Dublin), on the head and on the stem, as these are two separate parts that screw together just under the three canine figures supporting the head of the mace.
The makers, Egan’s of Patrick Street and Maylor Street in Cork, made this as their first item in modern times, reviving an industry that had died as a result of cheaper, mass-produced, English imports. The mace is thus the very first item of modern Cork silver. Egan’s silver is highly sought-after today by collectors and connoisseurs.
The stem of the mace is inscribed, in Latin:
Me Socii et Alumni Pii Collegii Universitatis apud Corcagiam Almae Matri Suae Dono Dederunt A.D. MCMX. Bertramo Windle Praeside. Egan et Filii Argentarii Corcagienses me Fecerunt
In English this can be read as:
The pious friends and alumni of University College Cork gave me as a gift to their Alma Mater in [the year of Our Lord] 1910, in the Presidency of Bertram Windle. Egan and Sons, Silversmiths of Cork, made me
Notice how the mace is made to speak of itself. This is typical of ancient inscriptions on precious and important objects. Translation and related notes kindly supplied by Professor Keith Sidwell, Department of Ancient Classics, UCC.
The mace is still used at conferring ceremonies in UCC, being carried in academic procession in front of the President by the Macebearer, and displayed in front of him as he confers degrees on our graduates.
Coakley, D.J. (ed.), Cork: Its Trade and Commerce: Official Handbook of the Cork Chamber of Commerce and Shipping (Guy & Company, Cork, 1919). A useful review of Cork industry and commerce of the day, with an introduction by Sir Bertram Windle in which he describes the commissioning of the UCC Mace.
University College Cork Official Gazette, April 1910.
Airgeadóir – 400 years of Cork Silver and Gold, catalogue of an exhibition held in Crawford Gallery of Art (Cork European City of Culture), by Conor O’Brien and John R. Bowen, 2005.