Tuesday, 26 April 2016

In the Night Mountain

Montenotte - the 'Night Mountain' - is a suburb of Cork City located on the north-east bank of the River Lee. The suburb is situated on a steep hill overlooking the river, and affords very fine views of the port, the city, and the southern slope of the Lee Valley. The suburb was first developed in the 17th century by Italian and Dutch merchants who had grown wealthy through trade in Cork's then bustling international port, and wanted to avoid the stench and squalor of the inner city (as well as keep an eye on their ships as they sailed  into the port!).

The area remained an attractive prospect for wealthy Corkonians throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and many fine houses were built on, and into, the hill. Although not quite as desirable now as it once was - many impressive Georgian terraces have sadly fallen into disrepair or been brutally sub-divided into flats - the area still retains a considerable charm, consisting of large 18th and 19th century properties on narrow, winding roads that snake their way up the hill, leaving little room even for a single car.

A very good way to approach the area on foot is to cross St Patrick's Bridge from St Patrick's Street and turn right onto Sidney Place from Bridge Street. The long, gentle slope of Sidney Place and Wellington Terrace (itself a fascinating street, which deserves a post of its own) takes one to St Luke's Cross, the gateway to Montenotte proper (although technically a part of the larger area). After a quick drink in John Henchy & Sons charming pub, one can walk north up the Ballyhooly Road (incidentally, this blogger spent his earliest years near the village of Ballyhooly - again, a story for another time!) or east along the Middle Glanmire Road.

For those with an interest in historic street furniture, the walk along the Middle Glanmire Road has considerable attractions. First, there is this lovely (I would guess 18th century) 'boundary stone' built into the wall on the northern side of the street:

It is wonderful to see that this ancient stone has been preserved by being built into the wall here, although one does wonder - is its current location where it was originally placed, or has it moved over the years? 

Next, opposite the Montenotte Hotel on the northern side of the street we find this wall-mounted 'EVIIR' (Edward VII, 1901-1910) postbox:

It's a real shame that this box has been allowed to fall into such considerable disrepair. However, it has survived: and although its paint is chipped and its front has been lost, it is still quite beautiful. Here is exactly how it would have looked when it was first installed (this example is from the little village of Beaumaris in Anglesey):

But all is not lost for the historic postboxes of Montenotte: a little further up the road, on the northern side again and opposite the entrance to the winding, twisting, Montenotte Road, sits this fine VR postbox:

The front may be cracked and the paint may be a little faded, but this Victorian postbox - made by W. T. Allen & Co of London between 1881 and 1890 - is still serving the residents of Montenotte over 120 years after its installation. Let's hope it continues to do so for another 120 years.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Dublin by night and by day

On a recent trip to Dublin, I happened to mention the existence of this blog to a friend. Within thirty seconds, he'd spotted this splendid VR Type B, to be found on the east side of St. Stephen's Green. Alas, as you can see, it's no longer in service, which is a shame because despite its age (it dates from between 1887 and 1901) it's in near mint condition.

My friend graciously illuminated it by mobile phone, but it was such a nice specimen that I decided to go back the next day to get a daylight shot. So we see Dublin by night and by day...

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Rail Snail Mail

I'm live-blogging this from the comfort of Irish Rail's Cork-Dublin train service (with free wi-fi) and unlike yesterday's post, I deliberately set out to photograph this beautiful specimen at Cork's Kent station.

It is, apparently, the oldest example of a mailbox still in use in Ireland, dating from 1857. It's an "economy" type, since it lacks any decorative moldings or royal cypher, and it has the unusual feature of the aperture being set into the top.

Since it's indoors, it's beautifully preserved, and still doing its job. I'll be in Dublin by the next time the rail snail mail is collected.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Pleasure of an Accidental Find

There's no greater pleasure than happening upon a lovely old postbox. That was my recent experience on a trip to Dublin's former Royal (later Collins) Barracks, now the National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History (website here).

Entrance to the former Royal (Collins) Barracks, Dublin

The Royal Barracks was built from 1701 by Thomas de Burgh, Surveyor General to Queen Anne. de Burgh is also responsible Trinity College's library building, which houses Trinity's famous 'Long Room' reading room (current home to the Book of Kells). Aside from Dublin's Royal Hospital Kilmainham (now housing the Irish Museum of Modern Art), the Barracks is actually Dublin's oldest public building. The complex consists of a number of buildings, the finest of which are the large, elegant, neo-classical blocks which surround the vast parade square:

The Parade Square, former Royal (Collins) Barracks, Dublin

Just off the Parade Sq - directly through the main entrance to the block on the left of the Parade Sq as one enters - I was delighted to find an example of Ireland's (and indeed, the British Isles') oldest pillar boxes, one of only a small number of surviving 'Ashworth' pillar boxes:

Irish Ashworth Pillar Box, former Royal (Collins) Barracks, Dublin

The Ashworth was the first standardised Royal Mail pillar box, and was designed by the House of Lords Committee for Science and Arts in 1857. The original 1857 design was ornate, but unfortunately - in rather a large oversight - did not include an aperture! This meant that the boxes had to modified locally to accept letters. The Ashworth pictured above is a simplified version of the original design, which would date it to roughly 1858-9 (in 1859 a new design was introduced). The box is painted in what was then the standard colour, bronzed green. This was intended to make the boxes relatively unobtrusive, but was later changed to red when they were found to be *too* unobtrusive, and not sufficiently visible. The box is tall and elegant, and unlike later designs, does not include a Royal Cypher; instead, it is topped by a Royal Crown picked out in gold. Notice also that unlike later boxes, the rather awkwardly-placed letter aperture is vertical and not horizontal. It's also very small: definitely not big enough for parcels! It's great to see that the box is out of the weather, relatively freshly painted and in good condition - although it could do with a dust! 

I was unaware that the box was there when I went with my family to visit the former Barracks, and chancing upon it made my visit all the more pleasurable. If you find yourself in Dublin any time soon, then hop on the Luas to the Museum stop and check it out!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

"Queen's College", King's Postbox

Here's a particularly impressive one from the intersection of College Road and Gaol Walk, right at the heart of University College Cork. It's a real whopper; nearly 6ft tall, and proudly encroaching onto the pavement so that it forces students to dance around it on the dash between classes.

 This one is more recent than those of previous postings; it's a GR, so it must have been installed between 1910 (when George V took the throne) and 1922 (following Irish independence when, naturally, they stopped installing "Royal Mail" boxes). UCC was founded -- as "Queen's College Cork" -- in 1845 by Queen Victoria (George V's granny). So one wonders how the first students and staff sent their letters home (or manuscripts to academic journals) before this box's installation. It was the Queen's College, but they had to wait for the King's postbox.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Sick notes

Here's yet another wall-embedded box from the south side of Cork City, this time part of the back wall of the South Infirmary on the Old Blackrock Road. It's an ERVII; things must have been busy for the postal service in this neighbourhood between 1901 and 1910.

Edward visited Ireland in 1903, but didn't come all the way down to the true capital. Even though the hospital is named after his mum (it's also known as the Victoria University hospital), it's Edward's box that allows you to send off your sick notes when you pop out the back for a crafty fag and a pint of Beamish in Paddy the Farmer's pub.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A postbox with a house built on to the back of it.

Here's a lovely wall-embedded ER to be found at the junction of Boreenmanna Road and Rockboro Avenue on the south side of Cork City.

It's temporarily out-of-service, because there's a new house being built there, and the postbox is part of the wall. As you can see, however, the postbox has been preserved, and the new wall was effectively constructed and plastered around it.

I love the fact that, temporally speaking, the postbox is primary. So rather than a "wall embedded" box, this is really a postbox with a house built on to the back of it.