Fears over revised heritage site plans for former Beamish and Crawford site

Concerns have been expressed about a scaling back of heritage space in a landmark building earmarked for regeneration on a site in the medieval heart of Cork.

Part of a Viking sword found on the Beamish and Crawford site.

It follows the release of a new report on the archaeological excavations at the former Beamish and Crawford site on South Main St which has yielded evidence for the earliest urban layout for the city.

Tree-ring dating from samples in one area of the site have dated the remains of a house to AD1070 — 15 years earlier than the urban layout in Waterford. The foundations of a 12th-century church have also been found.

However, developers and site owners BAM, who are behind the €150m Brewery Quarter regeneration plan — student apartments, offices and the controversial events centre — have lodged a planning application seeking amendments to a previously granted planning permission relating to the site’s historic Counting House brewery building.

The original plan had just over 1,400sq m of heritage space within the building to tell the story of the site. The developers want to reduce it to just over 800sq m.

Cllr Kieran McCarthy, a historian, said he has concerns about this move, especially in the wake of the report which shows that archaeologists have found:

  • Evidence for the earliest urban layout archaeologically proven for Cork;
  • Stone foundations representing about two thirds of St Laurence’s Church. Preservation of the remains in situ is unlikely however due to unfavourable tidal and environmental conditions;
  • Evidence of land claim and reclamation levels dating from AD1120 to AD1150.

It was reported last year that an impressive wooden weaver’s sword, a wooden saddle pommel and a distinctive wooden thread winder, all of which were well-preserved and elaborately decorated, were also found.

The report notes that there is a “willingness” to see some form of cultural heritage exhibition housed in the redeveloped site but discussions on how that will be achieved are still ongoing between BAM and city planners.

Cllr McCarthy said it was vital that the rich history of the site was told — and told properly.

“The material found on this site is the story of all of us. It is the story of the origins of Cork and we need to ensure that the site’s history is told properly,” he said.

“We need to harness this archaeology, and this history, for the city. The events centre controversy must not be allowed affect how we develop the heritage of this site. This is where the city began. For any other city in the world, this would be a huge showcase.”

Maurice Hurley, who led the archaeological investigations on the site, will deliver a public lecture at the Crawford Gallery on February 7.

It is also hoped that an exhibition of some of the material found on the site could be staged later this year — in May at the earliest.

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