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Kilkenny Marble

The City of Kilkenny is often referred to as "The Marble City". The foothpaths of the city streets were paved with marble flagstones, which, when wet, glistened. On dark, wet, winter evenings the street lights reflected from the foothpath which were highly polished with ware.

Marble, defined as crystalline limestone capable of taking a polish, was quarried just outside Kilkenny City at a place known as The Black Quarry, due to the colour of the final product. Large rough-hewn blocks were transported on horse-drawn drays to the River Nore a short distance away, then onto small river floats or barges and brought about 3 kilometers down-river to Milmount where it was worked. A wier on the river provided water to drive recriprocating, cross-cut type, saws to cut the largr blocks into the finished shapes required for the market. The saws were actually steel bands, about four meters long. Sand was used as an abrasive cutting agent.

The Black Quarry is known to have been in use since the 17th century. The quarry was filled-in in the 1970's, but a cliff face still remains exposed and can be seen from the Bennettsbridge road. Water levels were kept low by two steel 30cm. dia recriprocating pumps, probably driven by steam. A lime kiln was located close by which produced lime from the stone chips and off-cuts. Coal, probably from Castlecomer, twelve kilometers north of Kilkenny, layered with stone and set to smoulder, produced white chunks of lime, which, when powdered was used as an agracultural fertaliser.

Black Kilkenny marble is a finely grained carboniferous limestone that can show fossils.

The quarry was owned by the Colles family, a famous member being Professor Abraham Colles who gave his name to the Colles' fracture.

As well as in several local buildings, Kilkenny Black Marble was used in the Cobh Cathedral in Cobh, Co. Cork. The headstone of Daniel O'Connell in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin is also made of Kilkenny Marble.

From the top of the Black Quarry as it is today, Oliver Cromwell is said to have positioned cannons and fired on the city.


  • Pavía, Sara; and Jason Bolton (2000). Stone, Brick and Mortar: Historical Use, Decay and Conservation of Building Materials in Ireland. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wordwell. ISBN 1-869857-32-1. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Kilkenny_Marble". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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