Bessborough in the Twentieth Century

The census for both 1901 and 1911 gives us a glimpse of life at Bessborough House in the early part of the twentieth century. The two elderly Pike women were to be the last generation of Pikes to live at Bessborough. The census reveals that Ann Emily Pike and her sister Florence Lilas Pike had ten servants to care for them. They had a visitor who also was being attended to by the servants. The census tells us  that all the servants and owners of the Bessborough House were literate and all of the servants were single persons. This was considered very unusual, especially when most of them were over thirty. This would possibly be as a result of the fact that Ann Emily Pike and Florence Lilas Pike were spinsters, and that Bessborough House was a spinsters' residence.

Of principal interest is the religion of the various inhabitants. In past years most of the Pike Family had been devoted Quakers, but by 1911 only one member of the family, Florence Pike, was still a member of this faith. In 1911 members of the household either belonged to the Church of Ireland, Methodist or the Catholic Faith. Servants listed in the census included a butler, a cook, two housemaids and a kitchen maid. There was also a sewing maid and a ladies maid, a footman and groom in the house at the time, which indicated that horses were also kept on the grounds of Bessborough.

Florence Pike died in 1917 and her sister Ann Emily Pike died in 1920. With that, the connection of the Pike family with the estate came to an end. In 1922 the house was sold to the Sacred Heart Nuns.

Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

The order of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary was founded in France in 1851. Within twenty years the order had established itself in England, and arrived in Ireland by the early twentieth century.

It was at the invitation of the Cork Bishop, Rev. Dr. Cohalan, that the Sisters of the Sacred Heart came to Cork in 1922, and took up residence in Bessborough House. A chapel, maternity hospital and dormitory were added which reflected the work done by the Order after coming to the city. These services included an adoption service and a service for unmarried mothers over a number of decades.

Since the early 1990's the Sacred Heart Order has created the Cork Heritage Park on the grounds of the estate. Much of the land and buildings were under-utilised and the Order, with the support of a local committee, created a Heritage Park, which transformed the old estate, including many of the old farm buildings. The Park encompasses five separate sections illustrating essential aspects of the local environment and maritime history, the activities of the Pike family, a fire museum and local railway history.

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