Historic city fort set to reopen

A historic fort in the heart of Cork City is finally poised to open to the public after years of campaigning.

Engineering consultants are working on the final stages of a safety audit on Elizabeth Fort, off Barrack St, which is due to be completed before the end of the month.

City officials are also working on plans to relocate the Garda barracks, based in the Office of Public Works-controlled fort.

Barring any last-minute hitches, junior minister Brian Hayes, who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works, said he hopes to issue a licence to the city council to open the 17th century fort to the public before the summer.

He visited the fort on Monday and walked its rampart, which provides spectacular views of the city. He was also briefed on the final stages of the reopening plans.

Fine Gael Cllr Emmet O’Halloran said the minister was impressed. “Everything is almost in place for the fort to reopen. Its development as a tourist attraction will sit very well with the regeneration of Barrack St, drawing more people up into the area.”

The fort was built on a limestone outcrop overlooking the medieval, walled city in 1601 by George Carew, the president of Munster during the reign of Elizabeth I.

It was used as an army base to protect the city, but was demolished by the citizens in 1603. They were 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, and a cannonball fired from the fort at the old tower of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral was found during the 19th century rebuilding by the cathedral’s architect, William Burges.

The fort is entered from Fort St, off Barracks 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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