Congregational Chapel

Assembly House
Upper storey of limestone-fronted 19th-century Congregational Chapel, behind 20th-century retail area at 74A Oliver Plunkett Street

Congregational/Independent Chapel (1830s-1920s)
One of the most historic buildings on Oliver Plunkett Street is at the site currently occupied by the Euro Giant store. During the 1800s and into the twentieth century this was the site of the Congregational Chapel. The Congregationalists emerged as a separate movement from the Anglican Church during the English Civil War. They believed in ‘the liberty of conscience and the independence of each congregation’ (PRONI: Congregational Union of Ireland, 2007). For this reason they were also known as Independents. They arrived in Ireland during the Cromwellian Plantation and survived as a minor sect following the restoration of the monarchy in Britain. During the 1800 the Congregationalists experienced a revival in Ireland.

Independent Chapel 1897The Congregationalists had a presence in Cork ‌since 1769, with a chapel firstly on the Coal Quay, and then a chapel in Cook Street that was transformed into the premises of the Mechanics Institute in 1824 (Cooke, 1999, pp. 113 and 116).  Between 1829 and 1831 a Congregational Church was built on George’s Street [Oliver Plunkett Street] on the site of the Old Assembly House (Windele, 1839, p. 28). The church was also known as Independent Chapel. The chapel is shown on the Goad insurance plans of Cork city, versions 1897 to 1915.

After the church was closed in the early 1920s, the premises were occupied by C.A.B. hackney and motor vehicle company, which used the premises for offices and as a showroom for motor vehicles. In the 1960s it was used as an extra display area by Casey’s Furniture whose main premises were across the street at no. 65. The site is currently occupied by retailers Euro Giant. Today, the historical facade showing the fine cut limestone and late Georgian architectural style of the original chapel can be clearly seen above the ground-floor shop front.

Assembly House (demolished c. 1831)
Assembly House 1773 Prior to the construction of the Congregational Chapel this location was the site of an Assembly House in the eighteenth century. These premises grew from the increased affluence in Cork during the 1700s. This Assembly House hosted concerts and dances, providing Cork’s upper classes with an opportunity to mix and enjoy themselves — important aspects of the ascendancy’s social lives. T‌he letters of Irish writer Samuel Derrick from 1767 provide an insight to the atmosphere at dances in assembly houses. He described how once a fortnight "a very large and brilliant assembly of fine girls" graced the ballroom, a hall as spacious "as one of the long rooms at Bath", with "white walls badly lighted and not unencumbered with ornament" (Clark,1965, p. 79). The location of the Assembly House is shown in John Roque’s 1773 Map of Cork City. 'The Mall' on the left of this map detail, now the east side of the Grand Parade, shows a partially-exposed waterway, while near the base of the map another waterway runs the length of the South Mall.

The Assembly House was demolished around 1830, and the Congregational Church was constructed on this site.

(Clark, William Smith, The Irish stage in the county towns 1720-1800. Oxford, 1965).

Cooke, Richard. T., My home by the Lee (Cork, 1999).

Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Introduction: Congregational Union of Ireland (2007).

Windele, John, Historical and descriptive notices of the city of Cork and its vicinity (1839).

Cork City Libraries, Grand Parade, Cork, Ireland.
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