The prosperous years of the 18th century were followed by more mixed fortunes during the Victorian era. The town’s trade began to falter in the face of altered markets and new legislation. Increased competition in grain exports affected that trade, especially after the 1846 repeal of the Corn Laws. Youghal’s wool industry also went through difficult times after the removal of protection for woollen manufacture. The transfer of the military garrison to Fermoy was a significant economic loss to the town.
Youghal Lace: Youghal Needle-lace grew out of the need for employment during the potato famine of 1846.
A piece of lace of Italian origin came into ownership of Mother Mary Ann Smith of the Presentation Convent, Youghal Co Cork. This piece of lace was unraveled by the nun, who carefully examined how the piece had been executed, and then mastered the stitches. Children in the convent who had shown an aptitude for the needlework were then taught by Mother Smith what she herself had learned. This lace is made entirely by the needle, and the thread used is of very fine cotton.
In 1852 the Convent Lace School was opened. The school flourished achieving many noticeable highpoints. In 1863 a shawl of Youghal lace was presented to the Princess of Wales, (later Queen Alexander) on the occasion of her marriage to the future King Edward VII. This was the first of many presentations to the Royal Family of England.
Several medals were awarded to Youghal Lace in international exhibitions over the years including the Vatican Exhibition in 1888, the Chicago World’s Fair 1893, RDS, and Exhibition of British Lace in London 1906.