School History

The School of Law

In 1845, Queen’s College Cork opened its doors with seven faculties: Arts and Celtic Studies, Commerce, Engineering, Food Science and Technology, Law, Medicine, and Science. In recent years, the University has been restructured so that it now has four colleges: Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Science; Business and Law; Medicine and Health; and Science, Engineering and Food Science.  Recently, the Faculty and Department of Law were merged and in 2014 became the School of Law, one of two schools making up the College of Business and Law.

In the beginning, the Faculty was located in the West Wing of the Quad along with all of the seven faculties on the main campus (the only campus at that time).

The Quad

Later, as the university expanded, the Faculty of Law moved off campus to a house, “Carrigbawn”, on Donovan’s Road.  


Finally, sometime in late ‘70s, the Faculty and Department of Law moved to Áras na Laoi at Gaol Cross, where it resides today.  In 2014, the Faculty and Department merged and formed the School of Law, UCC.

Áras na Laoi

Some history of the School is to be found in a campus publication called Cork University Record.  Two examples are shown below.

From Issue no. 2, 1944:

The Law School in the 1890’s by J. C. Healy B.L.

"The Law School in the eighteen-nineties consisted merely of half a dozen students, mostly solicitors’ apprentices, and though Bar Students would get credit for one year’s attendance, few of them entered Q.C.C.  The usual thing was to go to the Inns in Dublin, and so the College lost such students from Cork City as Ignatius O’Brien (Lord Shandon, late Lord Chancellor of Ireland), Dick Adams, Q.C., County Court Judge; Judge William O’Brien and many others.  Professor Mills, an old man at this period, lectured in Jurisprudence.  He expounded Maine, Austin and Holland from notes written on blue paper, and read to unappreciative listeners, in the late evenings, by the light of two flickering candles which stood in very large brass candlesticks. ..."

The Law School in the 1890's by J.C. Healy BL (Cork University Record, no. 2 1944)

From issue no. 18, 1949:

Law at U.C.C. 1849-1950 and then... by Ralph G. Sutton, B.A., B.L.

"Queen's College, Cork, had a Faculty of Law from the beginning and the Faculty has survived more or less the same down to the present time.  There have never been more than fifteen students and never fewer than three.  The first Professors of Law in Queen's College were Richard Horner Mills and Francis Walsh.  Professor Walsh was a junior member of the Munster Circuit having been called to the bar in 1836, he died within three years of his appointment and was succeeded by Professor Michael Barry.  The other professor was not a barrister and was given the chair of Political Economy and Jurisprudence.  It is interesting to note that at the time of Professor Mill's appointment there was only one English text book available in Jurisprudence and that was Francis Bacon's Tract on Universal Justice.  It is difficult to imagine how the classes were carried on unless law students were more skilled in Latin and French than they are now. ..."

Law at U.C.C. 1849-1950 and then... (Cork University Record no.18 1949)

Law at U.C.C. 1849-1950 and then... (Cork University Record no.18 1949)

Law at U.C.C. 1849-1950 and then... (Cork University Record no.18 1949)

Law at U.C.C. 1849-1950 and then... (Cork University Record no.18 1949)

With thanks to:

The La Retraite Sisters

Caitríona Mulcahy, UCC archivist

“Official Gazette” of UCC

Áras na Laoi

The School of Law, UCC, is housed, alongside the School of Economics and UCC’s Audio Visual Media Services in Áras na Laoi, a building that dates back to the early part of the 19th century.

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 is believed to have been built originally for the Governor of the County Gaol, which then stood just across the road, and the entrance pillars and gates are still standing as part of the boundary of the main UCC campus.  Lee Cottage remained a private residence 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, and it was known to these students as ‘La Ra’.  Finally, in 1977, it was purchased by UCC for office and teaching accommodation and was renamed Áras na Laoi.

The building has been expanded and changed many times, with an additional floor, several extensions and many internal changes.  The chapel used by the sisters and students is now a lecture room (ALG02) and the first floor dormitories are offices.  But some elements of the original building and lifestyle remain, such as the entrance portico and hall, and the ice house at the back of the building which is a relic of a time when ice was gathered in the winter and stored for later use. And the mature trees dotted around the car park (mainly ash, sycamore and elm) are probably associated with Áras Na Laoi’s earlier existence as a private house.

When the house was sold at auction in 1923, it was described as a “Detached suburban residence, beautifully and conveniently situated, standing in well-enclosed grounds, comprising enclosed fruit gardens, ornamental grounds, tennis lawn and paddock fields, in all about 4 acres, with gate lodge, stabling, garage and offices, one mile from the centre of the city, practically on the tram line.”

Áras na Laoi - Lee House/Cottage (1923) (La Retraite Sisters)

(Image of building as bought in 1923, courtesy of La Retraite Sisters’ archives)

Lee House Chapel (La Retraite Sisters)

(Image of the chapel (now a lecture theatre ALG02), courtesy of La Retraite Sisters’ archives)

During their time in Lee Cottage, the Sisters extended the building to the west and also developed the attic space until the building came more to resemble the space we know today.

The Glass Corridor (La Retraite Sisters) ‌

Then (above) and now (below) – The glass corridor (archive images courtesy of the La Retraite Sisters)

The Glass Corridor

Le Cottage extended (rear) La Retraite Sisters  Lee Cottage extended (aerial) Law Retraite Sisters  Lee Cottage extended (NE) La Retraite Sisters

 Lee Cottage extended (NW)

(Images courtesy of the La Retraite Sisters)

In 1977, when it was taken over by UCC, the pastures and tennis lawns and chicken coops disappeared to be replaced with new buildings and car parks, but the mature trees remain, a legacy of its former uses.

Áras na Laoi front carpark

Áras na Laoi full front

Images author’s own

Ice House

The ice house, no longer in use (image author’s own)

Original entrance hall interior  Tiling detail

The original entrance hall to the building, with its original floor (image author’s own)

Áras na Laoi portico

The original portico (image author’s own)

With thanks to:

The La Retraite Sisters

Caitríona Mulcahy, UCC archivist

“Official Gazette” of UCC

Association with Cork County Gaol

Áras na Laoi was originally built as the residence for the Governor of Cork County Gaol.  The 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 (


This 1945 aerial photo (below) shows both the gaol buildings, still in existence a couple of years before being the start of its transfer to UCC in 1947, and Lee Cottage (bottom left corner) very well.  You can see that by this stage, extensions had been built onto the original residence but the parkland to the front of the building by the river were still lawn.

County Gaol and Áras na Laoi (cork past and


Executions were held at the gates of the gaol, at Gaol Cross, in Victorian times and, according to UCC archives, many students would go to watch these executions and often skipped lectures for fear that they would miss any of the gory details. The executions were halted, however, when lecturers protested that executions should not take place near Gaol Cross as the mass crowds that assembled to witness the hangings were blocking student’s passage to the college and thus deterring them from their lectures.  The last execution in the Gaol was in the early twentieth century.

Cork County Gaol Main Gates

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).  Plaques commemorating these prisoners and executions are still visible at the old gates.

Plaque at Cork County Gaol Rebels

Plaque at Cork County Gaol Civil War

With thanks to:

The La Retraite Sisters

Caitríona Mulcahy, UCC archivist

“Official Gazette” of UCC

School of Law

Scoil an Dlí

Room 1.63, T12 T656