The street was established by the Anglo-Normans as a thoroughfare to give access to North Gate drawbridge, and was originally known as Mallow Lane. Shandon Street locals identify with the special old qualities of the street.
Different architectural styles such reflect not only the street’s long history but also Cork’s past. The foundation stone for the fourth known North Gate bridge was laid in April 1863. The new bridge was to be a cast-iron structure with the ironwork completed by Ranking & Co. of Liverpool.
An ornate Victorian style was incorporated into the new structure with features such as ornamental lampposts and iron medallions depicting Queen Victoria, Albert the Prince Consort, Daniel O' Connell, the ‘Irish Liberator’ and Sir Thomas Moore, designer and Barry McMullen, the contractor. Nearly 100 years later - in 1961, the bridge would have to be reconstructed again due to increased traffic.
The name Shandon comes from the Irish word ‘Sean Dún’, which means old fort and it said to mark the ringfort of the Irish family, MacCarthaigh who lived in the area around 1,000 AD.
The site of this fort is now marked by the Firkin Crane, Cork’s dance development centre. St Anne’s Shandon was built in 1722 to replace the older and local church of St Mary's, Shandon, which was destroyed in the siege of Cork in 1690 by English forces.
In 1750 the firm of Abel Rudhall in Gloucester cast the famous bells of Shandon. On 7 December 1752, the bells were first used and were rung in celebration and recognition of the marriage of Henry Harding to Catherine Dorman. Inscriptions can be found on the bells, which contain messages of joy and death.
In 1748, two English gentlemen touring Ireland noted that 90,000 black cattle were killed for export purposes between August and December in the city’s cattle market near Shandon Street.
In the western hemisphere, the West Indies provided the greatest market for provisions. Other export areas were Barbados, Carolina, Georgia, Jamaica and Newfoundland and Britain. By the mid 1700s, the native butter industry in Cork had grown to such an extent that it was decided among the main city and county butter merchants that an institution be established in the city that would control and develop its potential - the ‘Committee of Butter Merchants’. They located themselves in simple commissioned buildings adjacent to Shandon, the centre of which today is the beautiful old Butter exchange building, the adjacent museum and the Firkin Crane.