Prior to the English Market’s construction there were several informal places for trading food around Cork City, but there was little regulation. Thus it was thought that a centrally located, regularly-held market best suited the town’s people at that time. Over the past 228 years since, the market has been a reflection of the social, commercial and political development of Cork, housing an ever-changing variety of fishmongers, butchers, shops, cafes and small businesses.
The years of the First World War were a time of spiralling inflation, especially in food prices which, by the end of 1916, were 84% above their pre-war level. This had an obvious effect on the Market, with more vulnerable traders being granted rent reductions due to the fall-off in trade. Improvement works were suspended due to the increased costs of work. The English Market has seen rebellion, economic ups and downs, and famine, but through it all has become a world class market place for the best food and friendly conversation.
The English Market remained open even during years of economic decline and spiraling inflation, changes in the pattern of food buying, and increased demand for naturally and locally produced foods. In the 1970’s refurbishment of the market allowed the traders who were unhappy with the weekly tenancies to negotiate a new tenure of granting each stall-holder a twenty-one-year lease allowing them increased security. In the 1980's it experienced two fires but recovered from these to be awarded a Gold medal for it’s contribution to the enhancement of Europe’s architectural heritage. In the 1990s the market took on the ambitious role of meeting the new culinary tastes of a modern new market in Cork and knowingly married these with the traditional fare.
Even though there have been plans for redevelopment of the market into a multi-story building twice in the 1970s and 80s both of these, due to public pressure, were dropped. The question lies - is the market more robust today as a result?
Today, when entering the market, there is a buzzing metropolis of traders and customers. The market is known for it’s good quality of service & food provided and even though there has been economic downturn in recent years there has been little disruption to trade in the market. The market is a break from walking around a supermarket and here you can talk to the traders and ask them for tips on cooking the meat or fruit and vegetables one purchases. These times have seen a lot of businesses in Cork closing and a common sight around the city centre is vacant buildings where businesses were once run. So it’s a welcome sight to come across the English Market.
Are older businesses more likely to survive changes in economy, trade and time?
Credits: Images by Krzysztof Zielenski. Data linked to sources.