Blog 3- Material Culture in the City: Water Troughs in Cork City. (Conor Hornibrook, 113454658)

You could easily walk past it, ignoring the delicately carved exterior for the more attractive assemblage of blooming flowers that line its crown, but it is indeed there, a reused relic of an older age. Once an integral part of an interconnected transport network, critical to the movement of people and goods in and out of Cork city, water troughs now stand out dotted among the modern cityscape, functioning as a home for plants and rogue cigarette butts.

 

Map

Fig 1: Map showing location of water troughs in Cork city in relation to a map printed in 1852 prior to the Cork Exhibition. Image Source

Equivalent to petrol stations that accompany motorways, these infrastructural features kept Cork flowing in the late 19th Century, allowing horses to rest and drink before moving on. Today there are 4 remaining examples in the city and at face value they appear to be nothing more than components of an outdated infrastructure, hardly worth a second glance. Within these hollowed limestone vessels however exists the essence of the new modern city,  controlled, rational and ordered. Though many of these troughs did not survive the subsequent expansion of the city, those still standing are a testament to the concept of modernity, strategically placed on important route ways as part of a wider network.

Fig. 2: Water trough on Ship St. with a view of St. Patrick's Church in the background. (Author's Photograph)

Fig. 2: Water trough on Ship St. with a view of St. Patrick’s Church in the background. (Author’s Photograph)

 

 

Fig. 3: Water Trough at Parnell Place. Nowadays the trough has been superseded by the bus station, positioned just beyond the feature. (Author’s photograph)

 

 

Fig. 4: View of water trough at junction of Douglas St. and Langford Row. (Author’s Photograph)

This highly functional feature contains more surprises however. Each example is decorated with identical Gothic design, and “displays evidence of fine stone crafting and carving and is of well-executed design”, surely an unnecessary addition for the object to be practical but an aesthetically appeasing inclusion such as this is an insight into the deeper ambitions of modernity in Cork city, promoting aesthetic beauty through rational functionality.

The implication of this is best realized via the trough at St. Lukes.

Fig. 5: Trough at St. Lukes, with a view of the toll booth and St Luke's Church in the background. (Author's Photograph)

Fig. 5: Trough at St. Lukes, with a view of the toll booth and St Luke’s Church in the background. (Author’s Photograph)

The trough is located adjacent to a toll booth, set to tax farmers and traders on the value of their goods upon entry to the city. Here we see the meshing of administrative and infrastructural architecture into the cityscape and the structured layout of modernity being implemented.

 

Data Sources [Accessed 16th November 2015]:

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