The State will hand the keys of a historic 17th century fort over to a city today which plans to transform it into one of the country’s top tourist attractions.
Brian Hayes, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), will transfer ownership of Elizabeth Fort, originally built in 1603 in the heart of Cork City, to the city council, which aims to have its ramparts open to the public by the end of next month.
It is hoped the fort on Barrack Street, one of the finest existing examples of a 17th century star fort, will host public, theatrical and musical performances.
The possibility of developing a periodic medieval market in its courtyard is also being explored.
The council’s tourism unit, Team, is working with Fáilte Ireland on a three-year strategy to develop an interpretive centre on the site.
Team spokesman Damien O’Mahony said they hope it will become a tourism hub in the city’s ‘cathedral quarter.’ “Situated at the heart of a cluster of existing attractions, which include the Honan Chapel in UCC, St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, the Red Abbey, Christchurch on South Main Street, the remnants of the old city wall in Cork’s Peace Park and the English Market, the fort will act as a hub for this wonderful grouping of tourism attractions,” he said.
After many decades as a police station and a Garda education centre, the transfer of ownership will mark the end of a lengthy campaign by the city authorities to acquire the site and exploit its tourism potential.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Catherine Clancy, said the development of the fort is a key part of the council’s tourism strategy to 2015.
Elizabeth Fort was built in 1601 on a limestone outcrop overlooking the medieval, walled city of Cork by George Carew, the president of Munster during the reign of Elizabeth I.
The star fort, one of three built by Carew alongside James Fort in Kinsale and the third on Haulbowline, was used as an army base to protect the city, but was demolished by the citizens in 1603, who were then compelled to rebuild it at their own expense. It was replaced in 1624 by a stronger fort which had the same basic outline as what survives today.
It was used in 1690 by Williamite forces besieging the city. A cannonball fired from the fort at the old tower of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral was found during the 19th century rebuilding of the cathedral by its architect, William Burges.
The fort is entered from Reeds Place, off Barrack St, through the east wall, which has an arched opening with a square limestone surround. The east wall’s limestone ramparts and corner bastions survive much as they were built in the early 17th century. In 1835 the fort was used as a female prison, then as a military base, and finally as a police barracks.
In August 1922, during the Civil War, the barracks were destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the present form.
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