Bid for Unesco recognition of Cork harbour sites

The pier at Fort Camden, Crosshaven. Picture: Tom Swanton

Forts and Martello towers dotted around Cork Harbour and what was once the biggest gunpowder factory in the British empire could soon be designated as Unesco World Heritage sites.

The Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht will be asked to back a bid to have a number of these sites added to the prestigious Unesco list.

Cork county councillors are expected to unanimously endorse a motion from Independent councillor Marcia D’Alton for theirofficials to prepare a submission for inclusion on the list when they meet to debate the issue in a fortnight.

The buildings she is seeking to have recognised by Unesco have a combined history of in excess of 4,000 years.

Ms D’Alton said she wants Unesco to acknowledge the importance of Fort Westmoreland/Mitchell on Spike Island, Fort Camden/Meagher, Crosshaven, and Fort Carlisle/Davis, Whitegate.

The last remaining 6in gun overlooking cork harbour at Fort Davis near Whitegate, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
The last remaining 6in gun overlooking cork harbour at Fort Davis near Whitegate, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

Military historians have acknowledged these as some of the most impressive coastal fortifications in the world.

Ms D’Alton said she wants Napoleonic-era Martello towers at Haulbowline Island, Belvelly, Rossleague, and Monning added to the list.

The submission will include historic buildings at the Naval Service’s headquarters on Haulbowline Island, Collins Barracks, and Ballincollig Powder Mills.

Collins Barracks, built between 1801 and 1806, played a significant role as a staging post for soldiers going to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War, Zulu War, Boer War, and the First World War.

Ballincollig Royal Gunpowder Mills, built in 1794 and encompassing 435 acres, was the biggest manufacturing site for gunpowder in the British empire.

The mill wheel at the Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills, which was built in 1794. Picture: Cork Film Archive
The mill wheel at the Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills, which was built in 1794. Picture: Cork Film Archive

Haulbowline Island was fortified by the British in 1602 and is home to a number of historic sites.

The world’s first yacht club, Royal Cork Yacht Club, was founded there in 1720, before moving its headquarters across the harbour to Crosshaven.

The Unesco World Heritage list currently consists of 1,037 sites in 167 countries.

Only two of these are located here: Brú na Bóinne, added in 1993, and Skellig Michael, in 1996.

A report compiled by Conor Nelligan, the county council’s heritage officer, says that the State had drawn up a tentative list to have other sites added.

These include the Burren, Céide Fields, Rock of Cashel, and the Hill of Uisneach in Co Westmeath.

Ringaskiddy Martello tower should join the Unesco World Heritage sites list, believes Marcia D’Alton.
Ringaskiddy Martello tower should join the Unesco World Heritage sites list, believes Marcia D’Alton.

Mr Nelligan said Unesco encourages countries to re-examine and resubmit their tentative lists at least every 10 years.

Ms D’Alton said she believes that putting forward an extensive list, which would also include the 1,300-year-old heritage of Spike Island, “would surely clinch” Unesco designation for the Cork sites.

She pointed out that Spike Island won second place in the World Travel Awards last year.

It was competing with such sites as the Great Wall of China (a World Heritage site since 1987), Kilimanjaro (the Kilimanjaro National Park is a World Heritage site since 1987), and Machu Picchu, the Peruvian Inca citadel which became a World Heritage site in 1983.


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