Waterford (from the Old Norse: Vedrarfjord meaning 'windy fjord' or 'haven from the wind-swept sea'; in Irish: Port Láirge) is a city in the Republic of Ireland. It is the primary city of the South East region, and the fifth largest in the country. Founded in 914 AD, by the Vikings, it is Ireland's oldest city. Waterford is the largest city in Ireland to retain its Viking-derived name, Vedrarfjord. Reginald's Tower, named after the city's founder, Regnall, is the oldest urban civic building in Ireland, and the oldest monument to retain its Viking name. It is to this day Waterford's most recognisable landmark.
Town: Waterford City
Scene: Town Hall and Fire Engine station
Date: circa 1910 (estimate)
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Read about Waterford City below
Waterford (from the Old Norse: Vedrarfjord meaning 'windy fjord' or 'haven from the wind-swept sea'; in Irish: Port Láirge) is a city in the Republic of Ireland. It is the primary city of the South East region, and the fifth largest in the country. Founded in 914 AD, by the Vikings, it is Ireland's oldest city
Waterford is the largest city in Ireland to retain its Viking-derived name, Vedrarfjord. Reginald's Tower, named after the city's founder, Regnall, is the oldest urban civic building in Ireland, and the oldest monument to retain its Viking name. It is to this day Waterford's most recognisable landmark.
The population of the city in 2006 was 49,240; of which 45,775 lived within the city limits, and 3,465 lived in the city's suburbs in County Kilkenny.
The River Suir flows through Waterford city and has provided the basis for Waterford's long maritime history. Waterford Port has been one of Ireland's major ports for over a millennium. In the 19th century shipbuilding was a major industry in the city. The owners of the Neptune Shipyard, the Malcomson family, built and operated the largest fleet of iron steamers in the world between the mid-1850s and the late-1860s, including five trans-atlantic passenger liners. Today, Waterford is synonymous with Waterford Crystal the world over, a legacy of one of the city's most successful and enduring industries, glass making. Glass, or crystal, has been manufactured in the city since 1783
Viking raiders first established a settlement at Waterford in 853. Waterford and all the other longphorts were vacated in 902, the Vikings having being driven out by the native Irish. The Vikings re-established themselves in Ireland at Waterford in 914 and built what would be Ireland's first city. A list of the city's rulers from this date to the mayors of the present day can be found in Rulers of Waterford.
In 1137, Diarmuid MacMorrough, King of Leinster, failed in an attempt to take Waterford. He returned in 1170 with Norman mercenaries under Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (Strongbow); together they besieged and took Waterford after a desperate defence. This was the introduction of the Anglo-Normans into Ireland. In 1171, Henry II of England landed at Waterford. Waterford and then Dublin were declared royal cities, Dublin was declared capital of Ireland.
Throughout the medieval period, Waterford was Ireland's second city after Dublin. In the 15th century Waterford repelled two pretenders to the English throne: Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. As a result, King Henry VII gave the city its motto: Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia (Waterford remains the untaken city).
After the Protestant Reformation, Waterford remained a Catholic city and participated in the confederation of Kilkenny - an independent Catholic government from 1642-49. This was ended abruptly by Oliver Cromwell, who brought the country back firmly under English rule; his nephew Henry Ireton finally took Waterford in 1650 after a major siege.
The 18th century was a period of huge prosperity for Waterford. Most of the city's best architecture appeared during this time. In the 19th century, great industries such as glass making and ship building thrived in the city.
In July 1922, Waterford was the scene of fighting between Irish Free State and Irish Republican troops during the Irish Civil War.
Places of interest
A view from The Quays: 'The Three Sisters' mix near the city before flowing into the harbour.
The old city of Waterford consists of various cultural quarters. The oldest is what has been referred to as the Viking triangle. This is the part of the city surrounded by the original 10th century fortifications, which is triangular in shape with its apex at Reginald's tower. Though this was once the site of a thriving Viking town, the city centre has shifted to the west over the years, and it is now a quiet and tranquil area, dominated by narrow streets, medieval architecture, and civic spaces. Over the past decade, a number of restaurants have opened in High Street and Henrietta Street, taking advantage of the charming character of the area. Much of Waterford's impressive architecture is to be found in the Viking triangle.
In the 15th century, the city was enlarged with the building of an outer wall on the west side. Today Waterford retains more of its city walls than any other city in Ireland with the exception of Derry (in Northern Ireland), whose walls were built much later. Tours of Waterford's city walls are conducted daily.
The Quay, once termed by historian Mark Girouard 'the noblest quay in Europe', is a mile long from Grattan Quay to Adelphi Quay, though Adelphi Quay is now a residential area. It is still a major focal point for Waterford, commercially and socially, and the face that Waterford presents to those traveling into the city from the north. Near Reginald's Tower is the William Vincent Wallace Plaza, a monument and amenity built around the time of the millennium that commemorates the Waterford born composer
It was named after the city's most celebrated architect, John Roberts, and was formed from the junction of Barronstrand Street, Broad Street and George's Street. It is often referred to locally as Red Square, due to the red paving that was used when the area was first pedestrianised. A short distance to the east of John Roberts Square is Arundel Square, another square with a fine commercial tradition, which the City Square shopping centre opens onto.
Ballybricken, in the west, just outside the city walls, is thought to have been Waterford's Irishtown, a type of settlement that often formed outside Irish cities to house the Vikings and Irish that had been expelled during the Norman conquest of Ireland. Ballybricken is an inner city neighbourhood with a long tradition, centred around Ballybricken hill, which was a large, open market-square. Today it has been converted into a green, civic space, but the Bull Post, where livestock was once bought and sold, still stands as a remnant of the hill's past.
The Mall is a fine Georgian thoroughfare, built by the Wide Streets Commission in order to extend the city southwards. It contains some of the city's finest Georgian architecture. The People's Park, Waterford's largest and finest park, is located nearby.
Ferrybank is Waterford city's only suburb north of the river. It contains a village centre of its own, and is often perceived as being somewhat isolated from the city, probably due to the wide expanse of the Suir, and the lack of convenient access between north and south of the river.
In April 2003 an important site combining a 5th century Iron Age and 9th century Viking settlement was discovered at Woodstown near the city, which appears to have been a Viking town that predates all such settlements in Ireland.
Waterford Museum of Treasures
Waterford Museum of Treasures, in the Granary on Merchant's Quay, is the city's foremost museum, housing a collection spanning over 1,000 years of the city's history.
Reginald's Tower, the oldest urban civic building in the country, has performed numerous functions over the years. Today it is a civic museum.
Art galleries Waterford Municipal Art Gallery
The Waterford Municipal Art Gallery has been housed in Greyfriars since 2001. It is the permanent home for the Municipal Art Collection, 'A Gem Among Municipal Collections', over 200 paintings by Irish and International artists, including pieces from renowned artists such as Jack B Yeats, Paul Henry, Charles Lamb and Louis Le Brocquy.
See below. Art exhibitions are often held here.
Situated in Dyehouse Lane, the Dyehouse Gallery is the home of an art gallery and pottery works operated by the renowned Waterford potter Liz McKay.
Manifesto Gallery & Retail Emporium
Located in the historic 'Port of Waterford' building in Georges Street. This landmark building was finished at the end of the 18th century for William Morris and was designed by celebrated local architect John Roberts. Manifesto occupies the ground floor of the building and features original work from national and international artists, sculptors, jewellers, ceramacists & wood turners.
Waterford has two theatres: the Theatre Royal and Garter Lane.
The Theatre Royal
The Theatre Royal, on The Mall, was built in 1876, as part of a remodelled section of City Hall. It is a U-shaped, Victorian theatre, seating about 600 people.
The Garter Lane Arts Centre, on O'Connell St., is housed in a Quaker meeting house that was built in 1792. The old meeting hall has been converted into a 200 seat theatre.
Waterford has three theatre companies: Red Kettle, Spraoi and Waterford Youth Arts.
Red Kettle is a professional theatre company based in Waterford that regularly performs in Garter Lane.
Spraoi is a street theatre company based in Waterford. It produces the Spraoi festival (see below), and has participated regularly in the Waterford and Dublin St. Patrick's day parades, often winning best float. In January 2005 the company staged it's biggest and most prestigious production to date, 'Awakening', the Opening Show for Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture. Spraoi's 'Spraoi Drummers' have become renowned for the performances of Fergal Kelly as a soloist.
Waterford Youth Arts
Waterford Youth Arts (WYA) , formerly known as Waterford Youth Drama, was established in August 1985. WYA has grown from the voluntary efforts of two individuals and 25 young people, to a fully-structured youth arts organisation with a paid staff and 400 young people taking part each week
The Spraoi festival, organised by the Spraoi theatre company, is held in Waterford during the summer each year. It attracts crowds in the region of anywhere up to 80,000 people. It is also usually more successful than the annual St. Patricks Day Parade
Waterford International Festival of Light Opera
The Waterford International Festival of Light Opera is an annual event that has been held in the Theatre Royal since 1959.
The Tall Ships
The Tall Ships festival, held in Waterford in 2005, marked the start of the Tall Ships race of that year. The Suir river provided a perfect berthing location for the numerous tall ships that lined the north and south quays, for almost a week. The festival attracted in the region of 450,000 people to the city in what was the biggest event ever held in Waterford or the south east. On the 27th of March, 2007, it was confirmed that Waterford will host the start of the Tall Ships race again in 2011.
Cinema Waterford Cineplex
The cineplex is the only cinema in the city. (Although a new Multiplex cinema is set to open in the Railway Sq. complex in the summer of 2007.)
Waterford Film For All
Waterford Film For All (WFFA) is a non-profit film society whose aim is to offer an alternative to the cineplex experience in Waterford. WFFA conduct much of the their activities on the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) campus.
There are three public libraries in the city, all operated by Waterford City Council: Central Library, in Lady Lane; Ardkeen Library, in the Ardkeen shopping centre on the Dunmore Rd.; and Brown's Road Library, on Paddy Brown's Rd.
Central Library, or Waterford City Library, opened in 1905. It was the first of many Irish libraries funded by businessman Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie funded 2,509 libraries across the world). It was renovated in 2004 for its centenary.
Waterford City has 15 elected representives (councillors) who sit on Waterford City Council. The city is divided into 3 'wards' (or areas) and residents in these areas are restricted to voting for candidates located in their ward for local elections. A mayor is then elected by the councillors every year.
For general elections, Waterford has been allocated 4 Dáil seats. There are no such ward restrictions for these elections and voters are entitled to vote for any candidate throughout the city and county.
Media Radio Waterford Local Radio (WLR)
Available on 97.5fm in the city, 95.1 in the county and 94.8fm on the coast, WLR is Waterford's local radio station. It serves a potential audience of 170,000 people, and 75 of all adults in Waterford tune in weekly.
Beat 102-103 is the regional radio station for the south east of Ireland, based in Waterford. It serves a population of about 450,000, and in August 2006 it had a 49 share of the south east market.