Click on the link for a map of Mitchelstown Historic Trail Mitchelstown_Historic_Trail_Map
Mitchelstown is one of the oldest towns in North Cork and fourished as a centre for markets and fairs; the Thursday markets, re-granted by Royal Charter in 1618, continue to this day. The background history has been synopsised from the booklet entitled Mitchelstown Town Trail (17.1), courtesty of Cork. County Council and Cork/Kerry Tourism.
This walk introduces you to the history and architecture of the town. The town trail can be walked in about 2.5 hrs. The trail starts in New Market Square (1).
At new Market Square, one can see that the square is neatly laid out with rows of houses of uniform height and design. The Market House was built by the King Family and over its central arch is the King coat-of-arms, with the Earl’s coronet, and the inscription ‘Built by George, Earl of Kingston, 1823′.
Opposite the Market House is a statue of John Mandeville, a leader of the local land league in their campaign against unfair rents. At a land league meeting in the square in 1887, police fired into an angry crowd killing three men. The exact positions where these men were shot was recorded by crosses on the pavement, beside the old Co-Operative Stores on Cork Street.
Cross, Cork Street, and walk up the steep hill towards the Catholic Church (2). The crenallated gates at the top lead to the Presentation Convent. Enter through the pedestrian gate on the left and walk to the Church. Looking down over the town from this point, it is easy to appreciate the key position of the Church.
Only the tower and spire of the original church (dated 1847) now remian. The ribbed spire is a clue to the identity of its architects – the brothers James and George Richard Pain, the renowned Cork architects. The new Church of Mary Conceived Without Sin was completed in 1980. It has a wedge shaped plan with colossal girders supporting the roof and clear glass windows directing lights towards the east end. In the sanctuary a concealed window throws a subtle lights onto the tabernacle.
Walk around the northside of the graveyard, through another pair of crenellated gates, and turn down to the square again. Turn right into Lower Cork Street (3). Lower Cork Street has many fine, traditional shopfronts, which should be noted as one walks down the street:-
No. 35 – WJ Ryan, Boots and Shoes
No. 22 – J. Hyland
No. 45 – John M. Houlihan & Sons
W. Murphy Druggist – an old chemist’s hop with brass plates on the window sills was probably decorated by the same craftsman as ‘Mikes’ opposite. ‘Murphy’s’ has a fine attractive interior. Turn left at the traffic lights into Baldwin Street, which is named after a land agent of the Earls of Kingston. Note the limestone flagstones on the pavement.
Walk up the street and you enter the beautiful Kings Square (4), which has one of the finest range of Georgian buldings in Ireland. Kings Square is a fine Georgian Square laid out from 1761 onwards. On the north side is Kingston College, built for elderly Protestants, and endowed by the King family.
Leave the square and walk south down George’s Street, towards the Church of Ireland church at the far end. Halfway down George’s Street, turn left into King Street. On the right hand side of the street is a superb shop front (5). It is brightly painted and perfectly maintained. it dates from the 1830.
Walk back to George’s Street, turn left and continue towards the Church of Ireland church (6). Note the former Kingston School on your right. This is a fine four-bay house of limestone with brick details. The church dominates the vista at the south end of George’s Street. Like the original Catholic Church it was designated by the Pain brothers and is typical of their work – built of limestone, with a tower and ribbed spire. Turn left along Church Street towards its junction with the main Cork road. There you can turn left and return to New Market Square, or go straight ahead across the road to Brigown Church (7). Brigown is one of the oldest sites in the neighbourhood of Mitchelstown. Fanahan founded the Abbey of Brigown in the mid-seventh century. Today only fragmentary-ruins remain.
Kingston College in Mitchelstown
Almost opposte the entrance to Brigown is a nrrow laneway – Mulberry Lane (8). Go up the lane until you reach the signpost pointing to St. Fanahan’s Well. The name Mulberry Lane originates from the efforts of the 3rd Earl of Kingston to establish a silk industry in Mitchelstown. He is said to have planted 400,000 mulberry trees (upon silkworms feed) in the vicinity of the lane. Unfortunately, however, they all died and he abandoned the project.
Walk along the pleasant, tree – lined double ditch on your right to St. Fanahan’s Well (9) The well is dedicated to St Fanahans sometimes known as St. Finnchu, the founder of the abbey at Brigown. It is an excellent example of a holy well associated with the cult of a saint. There was a strong belief in the miraculous properties of the well until the beginning of this century. (An attractive sculpture of the Saint has been erected at the South end of the town’s main street).
From here you can return to your starting point by walking back to Mulberry Lane and turning right, then left back to the Catholic Church and New Market Square.