Re: Re: Developments in Cork
The Firkin Crane was built on the site of the former Shandon Castle (Sean, old; dun, fort/castle). The name Firkin Crane refers to it’s part in the butter trade. A firkin (Danish word) was a standard measure of butter (approx 80 lbs or half a barrel. It was here that the Firkins were unloaded by crane (hence the name).
The Firkin Crane building was opened in August 1855. It was designed by Sir John Benson to meet the need for increased space for the Butter Exchange.
The building is on the site of a 1784 Dominican chapel which was built on the site of Shandon Castle, a 16th century building which was, for a time, the seat of Tudor power in Munster. The castle was not rebuilt after the siege. Local tradition has it that stone from the castle was used in the building of nearby church of St Anne’s Shandon. The Butter Exchange acquired the building in 1852 and the Dominicans built a new church and priory in Pope’s Quay.
A contemporary account from the Cork Examiner explains the building’s unusual shape:
“It is completely circular, and has a diameter of about a hundred feet. By a most ingenious arrangement the entire rafters of the immense roof converge upon one large center pillar, like the ribs of an umbrella upon the handle, and thus instead of having the space, the great object, interfered with by numerous pillars, the whole support does not occupy the room of more that three or four feet. The roof meets in a circular ridge, and the rain falling on the inside descends into the center pillar, which is hollowed, and conveys it to the reservoir. Around the outer edge of the roof a chute runs, which conveys the water by several pipes into the same receptacle, and so preserves for the purposes of cleaning firkins, and the many other uses for which it was required. Amongst the many advantages of this ingenious arrangement, one not the least important is the saving of the walls from damp. The entire cost of the building has been about Â£1,500.”
When their Butter Market closed in 1924 James Daly & Sons occupied the building until the 1970’s when the manufacture of margarine carried on by them were transferred to new premises. (The same Daly was later to gift a pedestrian bridge to the city: Daly’s Bridge or the ‘Shakey Bridge).
The deserted building was completely destroyed by fire on 6th July, 1980. Thanks to the efforts of a group of businessmen under the Chairmanship of former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch the building was restored and taken over by Cork Corporation. For a while the building housed the now defunct Irish National Ballet. It is now the home of the Institute for Choreography and Dance.
The building is associated with the Butter exchange building and the Butter Museum nearby. There are plans to dramatically improve public access to the Butter exchange and concentrate the buildings uses on tourism.