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Woodford Bourne Collection: Home

About the Collection

Collection Ref.:              IE BL/BC/WB
Title:                             Woodford Bourne Collection
Dates:                            1848 - 2005
Level of description:     Item
Extent:                           15 boxes 
Administrative History:

BL/BC/WB is the business archive of Woodford Bourne & Co. Limited, Cork (wine and tea importers). The archive, containing records of the import and sale of exotic and luxury goods was deposited in UCC in 2005 by its owner, Mr David Nicolson.

Biographical History: The company can trace its origins back to a firm of wine merchants named Maziere and Sainthill which was trading in Cork as early as 1750. In the mid nineteenth century, John Woodford had a grocery shop on the Grand Parade. Woodford died during the Famine, and his widow married a Mr Bourne, an employee of Woodford's and thereafter the firm was known as Woodford, Bourne & Co. In 1869, Woodford Bourne bought the stock of the wine merchant Richard Sainthill and expanded the business to include wines. An employee of the firm James Adam Nicholson, an immigrant from England, eventually became sole owner and the firm remained in the hands of the Nicholson family for generations until its eventual sale in the 1980s. Woodford Bourne was for generations one of the icons of business in Cork City, occupying one of the premier sites on the corner of Patrick Street and Grand Parade (currently Macdonald’s). The firm also owned extensive warehouse premises on Sheares Street (currently the Mardyke bar). In the 1980s, the shop was converted to a fast-food outlet named 'Mandy's' and the premises was taken over by Macdonald's in the mid-1980s.


The Woodford Bourne Collection naturally falls into three parts. Firstly, formal records regarding the legal, financial and general administration of this family owned business. Secondly, advertising and visual material showing the varied and unusual products available to the buying public, and lastly, records of associated businesses and families. Collectively, all form a picture of an evolving Cork economy and society over a period of one hundred years. As this is a business collection, there is little insight into the personal lives of the Nicholson family. 

Section A. Legal contains records relating to the change to a registered company in 1905, and how this affected shares distribution, with the original “Articles of Association” of the Limited Company. There are also a number of files on trademarks and the use of product names in the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Section B. Administration gives one an impression of the day-to-day business of the company. Ledgers, customs records (bond books), and account books show the import and sale of wines and spirits, and later teas, coffees and spices giving a unique insight into the tastes of Cork people. Other interesting information can be gleamed from minute books that span continuously eighty decades of business decisions. There are letters from James Bourne showing his influence on staffing and curiously his provision of a boat for use of the staff. For those interested in architecture, there are a number of documents from the architect Henry Hill on the landmark Woodford Bourne building on Patrick Street, and its warehouses. There are also a small number of documents surviving relating to the Limerick branch. 

Section C. Advertising contains a series of miniature almanacs dating from the mid-nineteenth century produced by Woodford Bourne and given to customers at Christmas time. The almanacs contain maps of the city identifying prominent buildings as well as giving details of the amazing array of green and black tea, blends of coffee, cocoa and chocolate available for purchase. There are also a variety of catalogues, labels, pamphlets and flyers for Woodford Bourne products – spirits, teas/coffees, and cakes.

Section D. Pictorial and Printed Material contains photographs of the Nicholson family, award ceremonies, presentations, staff, and interior/exterior shots of the main business premises and warehouses. The printed material is Woodford Bourne or wine-related articles taken from various newspapers and magazines. 

Section E. Associated Businesses are records from businesses that the Nicholson family were involved in. There are very few documents existing per business, but it was decided that they should given separate entries, as they were separate from Woodford Bourne & Co. Limited. These are The Oyster Tavern, a famous restaurant/bar in the heart of the Cork city, and Mandys, Woodford Bourne’s entry into the fast food business. There is also a brochure for the Britannia Motor Cab Company, established in England by Victor and Percy Nicholson in the early twentieth century. 

Section F. Records of Associated Families is a very compact section of records that warranted separate entries from the business records of Woodford Bourne & Co. Limited, though the Nicholson family are involved – trusts relating to the Hornibrook and Maxwell-Nicholson families.

Section G. Miscellaneous covers records that came with the archive but do not seem to have any relation to the running of the business, and research material used for the book The Story of Woodford Bourne by David Nicholson and Philip Mackeown.

An excellent family and business time-line is given in The Story of Woodford Bourne Wine Importers Established 1750, by David Nicholson and Philip Mackeown, published by W.B. Publications, 2005, ISBN 0955120608.

Access & Use

Access: Apply via online Request Form during the opening times of Special Collections and Archives


Finding Aid: Descriptive list (see separate tab above, next to 'Home' tab)

Additional Collection Information

Language: English

Publications: The Story of Woodford Bourne Wine Importers Established 1750, by David Nicholson and Philip Mackeown, published by W.B. Publications, 2005, ISBN 0955120608.

Copyright: UCC Library (in the main). Publications may rest with original copyright holder, please check with Archivist.

Amendments to Listing: In Jan 2020 change to entry for BL/BC/WB/59; opening date changed from 12 Nov 1873 to 14 Nov 1870.

Collection Image

   Woodford Bourne Collection (BL/BC/WB/131)