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John Roberts

Margaret Aylward Dr Edward Barron Philip Barron Denis Cashman Raymond Chandler Paddy Coad Patrick Comerford Donncha Ruadh Val Doonican Sean Dunne Frank Edwards Alfie Hale John M Hearne William Hobson Dr Thomas Hussey Charles Kean John Keane Edmund Leamy D. P. Moran Gen Dick Mulcahy James Nash Peter O'Connor Jas Louis O'Donnell Pádraig Ó Fainín Gilbert O'Sullivan John Redmond Edmund I Rice James Rice, Mayor Lord Roberts V. C. John Roberts Frank Ryan Thomas Sexton Archbishop Sheehan Susan Smith John Treacy Luke Wadding William V. Wallace Cardinal Wiseman Bullocks Wyse Lucien Bonaparte Wyse



John Roberts was the son of a carpenter and builder and grandson of a Welsh businessman.  He was born in Waterford in 1712 and was baptised in St. Olaf's Church.  John had three sisters and their mother died while they were still young, leaving their rearing to their Aunt Mary.  When he was working as an apprentice architect in London he eloped with Mary Susanna Sautell when he was only seventeen years of age. His wife's father, a  Huguenot, disinherited her because he disapproved of the match.  John and Mary Sautelle returned to Waterford where they lived for a time in Patrick Street.  After some years he obtained a commission to finish the building (started by Richard Castle) of the new residence of Dr. Richard Chevenix, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Waterford & Lismore. The resulting building is the beautiful Bishop's Palace on The Mall.         
Upon completion of the new Bishop's Palace the bishop gave a lease of the old Bishop's Palace to Roberts and his wife.  This building is the current house, Nos.1 & 2, Cathedral Square.  Here Roberts, his wife and their twenty four children, lived for over fifty years.

  After his success with this building other commissions were not hard to obtain and a veritable flood of public buildings came in the ensuing years.  He designed the forecourt of Curraghmore House for the Marquis of Waterford, Newtown House (now Newtown School) for John Wyse and Faithlegg House for the Bolton family.
The Viking's first Christian Church in Waterford was built in 1050 A.D.  This church was deemed unsafe in 1773 by a committee appointed by the Corporation and it was resolved that the old cathedral be taken down a new one built in its place.  Roberts designed this cathedral, (see photo of spire, above) and it is one of his two greatest achievements, the other being the Catholic cathedral.  The Church of Ireland cathedral is a light and beautiful building; the aisles  are divided by a double row of columns (see picture at left).  Click on thumbnails, below, to see details of building.
In 1788 he designed and built the Assembly rooms (now the City Hall) on the Mall.  Its high-ceilinged entrance hall was also an exchange where merchants transacted business.  The main apartments are upstairs; an imposing Council Chamber fronting the mall, the Committee Room and nearby, the Large Room.  This building also houses the Theatre Royal, a Victorian opera house.  

  In 1790 work commenced on Roberts' second masterpiece - The Catholic Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Within at Barronstrand Street.  This was the first post-Reformation Catholic cathedral to be built in Ireland and it was completed in 1796.  It has a beautiful front of hewn stone with Ionic pillars.  The interior has an immense roof supported by a veritable forest of massive Corinthian columns. 

In c.1795 he designed and built the town house for the Morris family in O'Connell Street and this is the present Chamber of Commerce building.  It has a beautiful interior with wonderful plaster work on walls and ceilings.  The oval staircase with it's lofty dome-like ceiling is outstanding.  (See the photograph on left.)

  In the same year he was responsible for the design and building of the Leper hospital on John's Hill, afterwards the County and City Infirmary. Roberts died on May 23rd, 1796.  The Catholic Cathedral was still being built at that time and it was his custom to rise each day at 6.00am and go to the site to supervise the work. One morning he rose at 3.00am, by mistake, and finding no one on the site sat down to rest, fell asleep and caught a chill from which he died.  He is buried in the French Church in the Roberts' family plot.


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