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Work of the Week | 10 April 2023

CAG.2107 Arthur Hill, View of Old Custom House, 1862, watercolour on paper, 52.5 x 84 cm.

This WORK OF THE WEEK is a real time portal!

View of Old Custom House (1862) by Arthur Hill takes us back to a time when our landmark building in the heart of Cork was quite a bit smaller.

Hill depicts a part of our building that dates to 1724 but, by the time he painted this view, it had already changed function from Custom House to School of Art. It was also very familiar to him as he had attended classes there with his mother, Margaret Hill, while only a teenager.

Recognisable features include the external clock flanked by limestone pineapples, but the roof lantern is something of the past. This was likely added some time after 1832 when the collection of Canova Casts were placed on the top floor by the Royal Cork Institution.

The building also functioned as a Government School of Design from 1850 but, after 1854, this support from London was withdrawn. Afterwards, the School was funded by local taxation (rates) and voluntary donations. 100 male and 60 female students attended.

Following many of his family into the profession, Arthur Hill (1846-1921) was an Irish architect of some note. He and his son, Henry Houghton Hill, designed the Munster and Leinster Bank (now AIB) at 66 South Mall, Cork, while his granddaughter, Myrtle Allen (1924-2018), was to become the doyenne of Irish food.

View of Old Custom House (1862) by Arthur Hill is featured in SITE OF CHANGE: Evolution of a Building until 12 November 2023.

The Arts House: Conor Tallon chats with curator Michael Waldron about a work from the Collection every Sunday morning on Cork’s 96FM and C103 Cork. You can listen back to this week’s chat here:


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