My house in history, 1882-1945

For the past number of years, I have lived on Friar Street in Cork. The row of houses, according to a foundation stone near my door, were built in 1882. Inspired a little by the MyHomesPast project in Britain, I decided to take a look at the history of my particular house since it was first built. Using old street directories and the online censuses of 1901 and 1911, I found an interesting story of several different families.

One of the earliest mentions I can find of my current house comes from the Guy’s Cork Directory for 1893, which lists a man by the name of John Driscoll as the occupant, making him more than likely the first resident of the house. It is difficult to be sure just who John Driscoll was, since by 1901, he had moved, and in the immediate vicinity there were three John Driscolls living on James Square, St. Finbarr’s Terrace and Tower Street.


According to the 1901 census the family living in my house were the Pollocks. The head of the family, William, was then 40 years old. Originally from Newry, Co. Antrim, William was a book binder by trade and at that time he was one of about roughly forty or so  people plying their trade with the bookbinders in the city. He was a member of the Cork Typographical Society and later the Cork Trades Council.

His wife, Kate, who was nine years younger than her husband, was originally from London. They married some time in 1892.There were then four children in the family – one girl and three boys. Jane, the eldest of the children was then 6; William, the next child was 4, with the two younger boys, John and James, aged just 2 and 1 years old respectively. William’s religion was listed as being Church of Ireland, although his wife Kate was listed as being a Catholic. As a result, all four children were also being raised as Catholics, as was the custom then in Ireland.


Ten years later, there were new residents in the house.  This time, the residents were the Hawkes family. In 1901, the Hawkes had been the next door neighbours of the Pollock family. In 1901, Richard Hawke, an iron moulder, was forty-three, just three years older than his neighbour William Pollock. The changeover had taken place some time between 1901 and 1907, since according to the Guy’s Cork Directory for 1907, Richard Hawkes and his family had already made the move next door. Richard’s wife was Catherine, then 36 years old. They had two children, two daughters: Annie who was twelve and Gertrude who was just six, the same age as neighbouring Jane Pollock. Some time in the interim, tragedy struck the Hawkes family, and Catherine had passed away. Interestingly, in the new segment on Return Form ‘A’, where the details of the length of the marriage and the details of the children produced by the marriage could be entered, the figures seem to have been entered initially, only to have then been scratched over so as to be illegible.

Richard’s two daughters still lived with him and Annie, now 22, was apparently unemployed, although her younger sister Gertrude was working as a dress maker, while Richard (now apparently 56 – possibly to avail sooner of the new pension which had been introduced in 1908) was still working as an iron moulder.

The Pollock family had moved only a number of streets away, to a house on Mary Street. Intriguingly, William Pollock was now listed not as a member of the Church of Ireland, but rather as a Presbyterian. By 1911, their had been an addition to the Pollock family, four-year-old Gerard. The two eldest children, Jane and William, were working by then. Jane, 16, is listed as being a draper’s shop girl, while young William, just 14, was also apprenticed to a draper.

Future Years

Richard Hawkes was still living in the house on Friar Street in 1925, according to Guy’s Cork Directory for that year, and the house was valued at £6. His old neighbour, William Pollock, was also still living at his house in Mary Street, a house according to the same directory valued at some £19, although this house was in fact one house split into two, an early sign of its later life as a tenement building in the 1940s. By 1930, however the house on Friar Street was in the hands of one of Richard Hawkes’ daughters, since Guy’s Cork Directory for that year lists the occupant as Mrs. Hawkes, who was still residing in the house by 1945. As for the house in Mary Street, William was still listed as the principal occupant in 1930 although the house was in the hands of William’s daughter Jane by 1935, suggesting that like his old neighbour Richard, he too had passed away and a chapter of the history of my house on Friar Street had come to an end.



Filed under Irish History, Nineteenth Century, Social History, Twentieth Century

4 responses to “My house in history, 1882-1945

  1. A fascinating read. Thank you!

  2. Hi David,
    Was delighted to read this piece, William pollock was my great granddad!! I knew they lived in Mary st, but the other details really brought their story to life for me, thanks again dee

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