The Guns of Grand Parade

3. The Guns of Grand Parade

Grand Parade 8 foot cannon
Perhaps the best-known historical association between guns and the Grand Parade relates to the killing of a British aristocrat. In 1690, during the Williamite wars, the east side of what is now Grand Parade, was little more than a clammy morass. The city was besieged from above by Winston Churchill's ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, and as another English aristocrat led his forces through the mire, he was felled by a shot from the city walls.

This aristocrat was Henry FitzRoy, the Duke of Grafton. He was (one of) Charles II's illegitimate offspring, and a cousin of Louis XVI of France. The small stinky alley east of Grand Parade recalls his passing.

A physical feature linking guns and the street is what, at first glance, appears to be a bollard at the corner of Tuckey's Street and the Grand Parade. It is, in fact, a cannon, buried 5 feet deep, nose-down into the pavement. To set this in context, one must investigate the history of this street a little.

Angelsea Street cannon
Today's Grand Parade, along with Cornmarket Street, was once tidal a waterway and formed the eastern limit of the city of Cork.

A defensive limestone wall lay to the west of these channels. The 1690 siege exposed the inadequacy of the walls to modern artillery, and the walls were substantially razed to ground level by about 1700.

Throughout the 18th century the marshy islands outside the city walls were leased and raised above flood level. By 1729, both sides of the channel had been developed. The eastern part was tree-lined and called, somewhat pretentiously, "The Mall". A bridge spanned the river from Tuckey's St. (then Lane) to where Oliver Plunkett St. is today. The northern end of the channel was covered over by 1773, and by 1801 it was entirely covered.

Some people suggest that the cannon was used as a mooring post, but as it dates from the period 1760-1820, the presence of the bridge downstream of it mentioned above would negate that. It was fairly common after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, to re-use military-surplus cannons as bollards.

However, this was generally done with smaller guns than the piece used in Cork, which is approximately 8 feet long. If you look carefully, you can still find the "touchhole" on the eastern side of the gun. Another, probable, cannon/bollard can be found on Anglesea Terrace.

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Text and Photographs © Tom Spalding, 2009

See also Tom's book, available on the PRoC site, click here

"Cork City: A Field Guide to its Street Furniture"
With thanks to Mr. Chris Williams, the Letter Box Study Group.