The site that was renamed Greenmount in the 1870s was originally called Gallows Green. It was made available in 1852 at a rent of 30 shillings a year for 500 years to the Bishop of Cork, Dr William Delaney and other Catholic Church dignitaries, including Edmund Paul Townsend, one of the Presentation Brothers. On it they built St Patrick’s Orphanage, a residential home for orphaned and abandoned boys, commencing the building in 1858. The Bishop requested the Presentation Brothers to run the orphanage and they took charge of it in 1862. It soon reached its capacity, and had to be extended in 1866 because of the increasing number of boys needing admission.
Dr William Delaney, the Bishop of Cork, who held that position from 1847 until he died in 1886, was a forceful personality and an advocate of educational reform. He was determined that Cork would be the location of a model industrial school run by a Catholic Order, and he saw it as an important step in overcoming the years of discrimination against Catholics by the governments of those years. It was this ambition that drove him to turn the newly founded St Patrick’s orphanage into an industrial school. He saw the industrial schools system as one that would benefit the children who were being raised in poverty and ignorance in the Cork area. Because of his drive, his ambition was soon achieved: the orphanage acquired the status of Industrial School on 14th March 1871.
Bishop Delaney wanted a model industrial school for the Cork area, and the building matched the grandeur of his conception. It was built to the highest standards, designed to be an institution that the Church and the city could take pride in. This imposing building, unlike many other industrial schools, was located within Cork City, and local townsfolk formed links with the School, providing both charity and, later, social contact for the residents.