Cork Butter Exchange

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  • Moments in Cork City History

History of Cork Butter Market

Cork Butter Market was an important part of Cork city for 150 years, from 1770 to 1925. It brought much wealth to the city, as Cork butter was very popular in countries such as the West Indies, Spain and Holland.

Cork Butter Market, circa 1900
National Library of Ireland.

The Butter Market opened at 6am every morning. Farmers would bring their butter in wooden barrels, or 'firkins', on horse-drawn carts to be sold. The main routes to the market were called 'butter roads'. Farmers from as far away as Kerry came to sell their butter.

D.L. Kelleher describes the butter merchants in his travel book The Glamour of Cork (1919):

'At 7am, the merchants are up and to their offices in Mallow Lane. They are an easy, oily folk, fair skinned, as though the softness of butter was blended in their faces."

The butter went through a strict process of testing before it was categorised into five types, 'first' being the best and 'bishop' being the worst. This made Cork butter very popular, as the strict quality control meant that people knew exactly what type of butter they were buying. Click here to find out more about the history of Cork's butter trade.