St. Patrick's Street

Historic Outline

Most authorities agree that St Patrick's Street was formed in 1783. It is not shown on Rocque's map of 1774, but there are entries for the street in Lucas's directory of 1787. During the 1780s many of the streets that now form the city centre of Cork were formed by the spanning of the river channels between the islands of the Lee.

During the late eighteenth century and the opening years of the nineteenth, the North and South Main Streets still formed the commercial hub of Cork city. It wasn't until the 1820's that Saint Patrick's Street began to assume its role as the principal commercial centre of the city. A comparison of directory entries for Saint Patrick's Street for 1810 and 1824 indicates the increasing commercial importance of the street. The opening of the first Saint Patrick's Bridge in 1789 helped the development of the street by providing an approach from the northern suburbs. The revival of trade and commerce in Cork in the eighteenth century provided a great social and commercial boost to the city. The area to the east of the old city walls became increasingly important commercially. The development of the Grand Parade, the South Mall, and the streets running off Saint Patrick's Street, which were much wider and more suitable for commercial development than the narrow lanes adjoining the Main Street, all helped to shift the commercial centre of the city to the east of the areas around the Main Street. Saint Patrick's Street was the natural centre of this development.

Click on the link below to see a map of the street as it is today:


In the late 1990's Cork Corporation (now Cork City Council) was concerned at the amount of vehicular traffic using Saint Patrick's Street and other parts of the city centre. The city centre seemed to cater more for the motorist than for the pedestrian. Having put in place a number of developments to enable many motorists to bypass the city centre, the Council felt that the time was right to redevelop the city centre and to make it a more welcoming place for pedestrians. With this end in view, the Council invited architects to submit plans for a renovation of the city centre, to create a more vibrant, modern, visually attractive space, which would be more accommodating to pedestrians, while still allowing vehicular access vital to the functioning of a commercial city centre.

The design chosen by the Council was that submitted by the distinguished Catalan architect, Beth Gali. Her design emphasised the need to recover the public spaces of the city centre for citizens. Cork City Council and the Government each provided a 50% share of the 13m required to fund the redevelopment of St. Patrick's Street. Between summer 2002 and summer 2004, the entire street was repaved with granite and limestone in a variety of colours. Traffic is now confined to four lanes, two lanes catering for general traffic 3.5 metres wide, and two dedicated service lanes for buses and taxis, each 2.5 metres wide. The design aims to provide for a desirable level of traffic in the city centre rather than maximising the throughput of traffic. The pavements have been widened to create plaza-like effects. The new spacious pavements are now more pedestrian-friendly. To emphasise the sense of space, street furniture has been reduced to a minimum.

Special lamps illuminate the street. These include tall lamps ('Pitmit' and 'Flannery' designs) to produce both diffuse and concentrated lighting, and ground lamps set into the pavement. The designs of the tall lamps are reminiscent of ships' masts, reflecting the city's maritime culture, a vital element in the history of Cork. Commenting on the tall lamps, architect Beth Gali said she 'tried to bring the spirit of the harbour into the city'. Completed in time for the city to celebrate and host the European Capital of Culture in 2005, the street's redevelopment scheme was officially opened by Lord Mayor Seán Martin on the 22nd of September 2004.

St Patrick's Street, affectionately called 'Pana' by older Corkonians, is now the main shopping street in Cork, and the heart of the city. Since its redevelopment, it has twice won the award as Ireland's best shopping street.

previousPrevious - St. Patrick's Bridge
Next - Cash & Co. Department Storenext