Cork: Merchant City Online Exhibition

Shipping > Cork: Merchant Princes > Cork City & County Archives



about cork


about project



Merchant Princes Brewing & Distilling Shipping Workers Provisions Trade Retail Heritage Sources Gallery

You are here: home > Shipping

Shipping Shipping and maritime trade have always been a vital part of the life of Cork. The city grew up where the River Lee starts to broaden out as it travels to the lower harbour and ultimately to the sea at Roches Point. As the city developed, it created areas where ships could dock safely. Indeed the Cork coat of arms shows a ship between two castles. Trade by sea was essential in the expansion of Cork and by the 18th century regular links had been established with many overseas ports. As well as the long established routes to Britain there were close trading connections with the continent. French ports such as Bordeaux built up profitable associations with Cork, trading wine, brandy and luxury goods for agricultural products. There was also a strong trade with the Baltic from where timber was imported. Some Cork merchants had relations in ports overseas, enabling them to keep a close eye on business matters. For example, members of the Coppinger, Galwey and Lawton families were based in Bordeaux on the west coast of France. The geographical location of Cork enabled it to profit from routes between Britain and North America. The provisions trade was particularly important to the city in the 18th and early 19th centuries, supplying products to ships en route to the West Indies and North America. The outbreak of the American War of Independence in 1775 and the subsequent entry of France into that war on the side of the Americans, meant that shipping on the routes across the Atlantic was vulnerable to enemy attack. One solution was to group large numbers of vessels together in a convoy and escort them to their destination with warships. The large sheltered harbour at Cork was ideal for gathering ships for this purpose during an age when sailing ships often had to wait days or even weeks for a fair wind. The value of the harbour was not forgotten when war broke out in the 1790s against France and again Cork became a busy gathering place for shipping. During this time, much of the main shipping activity took place in the lower harbour as navigation to the city itself was difficult for larger vessels. This was an increasing problem as the size of ships grew during the 19th and 20th centuries. As late as the 1870s, some ships still had to unload their cargo onto lighters (smaller vessels) at Passage West in the harbour to be brought up to the city. The authorities recognised this problem and set about a series of improvements. A new Navigation Wall (now the Marina) was constructed from the mid-18th century to improve the access for shipping as it approached the city. Similarly, over time, the quaysides in the city itself were improved so that ships could more

Revenue Return for Port of Cork, 1762-1768.

Four Masted Sailing Ship Moored at Albert Quay, c.1880-1910.

Paddle Steamer entering the Port of Cork, 1842.

Merchants Quay, Cork, 1870-1890.

R. & H. Hall Ltd., Cargo Book, 1913.

Details about S.S. Kerry, 1919.

ACCESSIBILITY HELP?[12/04/2021 13:48:23]

Powered by