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Huguenot Community in Cork

Today’s ceremony is particularly special for me as Lord Mayor and Cork City Council as we are engaged in a very public policy of restoring and promoting the rich historical legacy of our wonderful City.

The Huguenot Community numbering approximately 300 settled in Cork in the late 17th century from France.
The Edict of Nantes in 1685 withdrew their rights and liberties, causing approximately 5000 to flee France to Ireland because of religious persecution.

By 1712 the community which had become part of the commercial and civic life of Cork built their church in French Church Street, formerly known as Lumley Street.
In 1733 an adjoining almshouse was acquired and a cemetery was opened. Part of which has now been restored at Carey’s Lane by Cork City Council.

The Huguenots became established in business and manufacturing industries
such as linen. Others Huguenots became involved as goldsmiths and silversmiths and were assimilated into the Local Community.
Calvinist or Non Conformist Services were held at French Church Street.

They conformed around 1740 to the established church until 1813 when
Huguenot services ceased and the French Church was used for Methodist services until 1900 after which the Church became used for commercial purposes.

Between 1694 and 1840, eleven members of the community severed as Mayors of Cork, including Joseph and William Lavitt, after whom Lavitt’s Quay is named.    

In 2007 Mr Joe Gavin the City Manager acquired the former Huguenot Cemetery from the former owner John Murphy of Monaca John’s of French Church Street.

He arranged with Cork City Council departments and private consultants for the derelict site to become what is now the restored Huguenot Burial Ground, forming part of the Huguenot Quarter of Cork.

Cork City Council Architects & Archaeology & planning departmentsin conjunction with Frank Murphy architects & engineers, restored the burial ground including structural retaining of the original early 18th century masonry wall with a public viewing gateway and incorporating the Huguenot Cross and entrance from Carey’s Lane.

Archaeological hand excavation uncovered two original lead covered coffins which remain in their original location and are recorded on the wall panels. So also are the remains of a raised tomb and a family vault.

The completed Huguenot burial ground has information panels in English, French and Irish, and wall panels showing the 1759 J.Rocque Map of Cork with cemetery shown and the restored layout plan today.
The original Hardy & Madras family gravestones are in position as found and can be seen from Carey’s Lane.
To visibly show the burial ground to people passing by on Carey’s Lane at night, lighting is operated by sensors at dusk.

The “Friends of the Huguenots “ with Huguenot descendents have after many years of effort finally rescued and restored what is one of only two original Huguenot Burial Grounds still existing worldwide, the other being at Stephens Green Dublin for posterity.

It now forms part of the rich historical tapestry of the city and great credit is due to…

  • The City Manager Joe Gavin for whom I know this was a key project
  • The staff across many of Cork City Council’s departments and Directorates who interacted with each other and external contractors to bring the project to fruition and
  • And of Course to the Friends of the Huguenots for whom this was a labour of love for so many years.

The fact that it is in the heart of the City will ensure that for generations to come Cork people and our many visitors will be reminded of the long established links we have with the Huguenot community.

Corkonians and others will become more aware of the history of the Huguenot Community in France, their Flight, the reasons for same and the issue of Religious freedom.

Corkonians and others will become more aware of the contribution of the Huguenot Community to their City of Cork and the need in welcoming new communities to our City.

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Speech by Councillor Brian Bermingham on the occasion of the Huguenot Cemetery Opening 2009in the presence of the Ambassador de France, Bishops,Distinguished guests,Ladies and Gentlemen,