Latitude: 52º 16' North, Longitude 7º 7' West
The rocks which form the base
of the City all belong to the Palaeozoic Group: principally Ordovician
Shales, underlying some Sandstone on the North West, and crossed - East
of the centre of the City - by an Alluvial bank running N.E./S.W. At the cliffs on the North and
South banks of the River Suir, above Rice Bridge, inter-stratification
of sharply-folded Ordovician Slates and Sandstone conglomerates may be
city is situated on the river Suir [pronounced Shure] about seventeen miles from where the
enters the sea. The only thing that distinguishes this first abatement
is the inadequacy of the word 'situated'.
In design almost fanlike, practically the entire
city is built on the
bank of the river. The
town", now the business centre, clusters
behind the broad quay-front on a low-lying strip of land left behind by
a gentle loop of the river at this point. From this, the land rises sharply to the east and opposite to the
west while remaining level in between. The eastern slopes are almost entirely occupied by private
residential estates, while the western and southwestern prominences are
largely given over to local authority housing development. There are corresponding elevations on the north bank eastwards
towards Christendom and westwards towards Mount Misery.
It is from this
latter point—high above the Suir, upstream from the river
bridge—that the city and its setting may best be observed. Here, the heights on both sides of the Suir persist to the very
banks, with the result that the river courses for a short distance
between towering cliffs before emerging to sweep in one majestic reach
past the city. Where it
goes by Waterford, the Suir is as wide as the Thames at Westminster
Bridge, the Vistula at Warsaw or the Neva at St. Petersburg; it is three
times the width of the Tiber at Rome, the Seine at Paris or the
Mansanares at Madrid: and five times the width of the Liffey at
It is not surprising
then that it is from the river that Waterford gets its civic character. From our observation point the spacious mile-long quays extend in
an unbroken line eastwards. The
broad quays of Waterford have attracted attention since they were opened
up to the present length 300 years ago by the Corporation. Behind the tall quayside buildings the city's steeples and
towers rise in picturesque irregularity presenting a picture typical of
the older towns, in which ground contours dictated the layout of the
earlier streets. This
gradually gives way to the more regular development of later years
fringing the city on all sides. Such
are the elements forming a city that the natives are reputed to be slow
to leave without a struggle.
history credits Waterford men with more attributes than a reluctance to
leave their native city. In
the middle of the 15th century the citizens were reported to be 'heedy
and wary in public affairs, slow in determining matters of weight, and
loving to look ere they leap.' The
Irish word 'faid-ceannnac' has been applied to them too. This has been translated ‘long-headed’ with more zeal than
accuracy; it really means far-sighted.' Charles I found the people of Waterford “endowed with good
learning and generous manners." A present day writer found in Waterford "an air of
quiet" and "a sense of proportion" and described the
people as being "undemonstrative" He added "they do
not lack intelligence or amiability, they just have them implicit."
reticence and absence of flamboyance in the Waterford character has been
responsible for the phenomenon perhaps peculiar to Waterford, of the
occasional emergence before the citizenry of vociferous prophets having
their origin outside the bounds of the city.
Their aim has been to insinuate that their superiority over the
natives in all matters is in direct ratio to the relative degree of
clamour created by each; the which of course has no basis in fact and is
merely an optical—or more correctly—an acoustical illusion.
OUTLINE OF DEVELOPMENT.
The foundation of Waterford is claimed in some quarters to have taken
place late in prehistoric times. Other
writers place the event about the middle of the second century. However, it is difficult to go along any distance with either
theory on the strength of the supporting evidence quoted. At any rate the antiquity of the place where Waterford now stands
cannot be traced with any satisfactory degree of certainty beyond about
850 A.D. when the site was occupied and fortified by Sitric the Dane
The inhabitants of this part of Ireland in pre-Danish times were a
pastoral people moving from place to place with their flocks or else
given to hunting. They did
not build towns, unless we admit as towns the settlements that sometimes
sprang up in the neighbourhood of Monasteries.
They certainly did not build sea-ports, and it was as a sea-port
that Waterford had its beginning.
The Ostmen or Danes as they are more commonly called, persuaded by the
rigours of their own inhospitable clime, had taken to the high seas in
search of plunder. During
the first half of the ninth century the shores of south-east Ireland were
ravaged time after time by Danish expeditions, Ardmore and Lismore being
the subjects of a number of raids. At the outset, these bellicose incursions took place only during
the summer months, the raiders returning home with their spoils at the
onset of winter. About 853
A.D., however, Sitric, the Danish chieftain, settled at Waterford and
set up a fortified encampment. A number of factors influenced the choice
of the site. The place
provided a splendid anchorage. It
was the lowest point at which the river could at that time be forded. Above all, the site could easily be defended. It was protected on three sides by water; in front by the
Suir; on the east and at rear by St. John's River and the marshes
flanking it. St. John's
River did not then, as now, flow neatly between regular banks.
Rather, its tortuous and uncontained stream meandered over much
of the ground now occupied by Lombard Street, William Street, the
People's Park, Catherine Street, and Parnell Street, turning this entire
area into viscous
marshland. These marshes
also extended westwards round the back of the site of the old town. Only on the west itself were substantial fortifications
This was Waterford in its infancy, a Danish stronghold, subject to
constant harassment by the Irish outside the walls, who broke in on more
than one occasion to lay waste the foreign colony.
The next phase in the life of Waterford began on August 25th,
1170 when the town was taken by the Normans under Strongbow. The Normans had been casting eyes in this direction for some time
prior, until MacMurrough’s invitation gave them cause for coming. Henry II arrived in Waterford the following year to keep the
expeditionary chiefs in line and receive their homage. The next royal visitor, in 1185, was
prince John, who granted the city's first Charter in 1205 thus starting
in Waterford. He revisited the city as king in 1211.
Richard II, too, visited Waterford twice, first in 1394 and again
In l487 the city refused to obey the
direction of the Earl of Kildare to recognise Lambert Simnel as king and
ten years later repulsed a second pretender, Perkin Warbeck. It was as a result of this latter engagement that Waterford
became known as the Urbs Intacta a title conferred by Henry II. Printing was introduced into Waterford in 1550, the first book
being printed in the city five years later.
was in 1588 that Duncannon was fortified as a precaution against Spanish
attacks along the coast, which were being experienced at the time
Waterford was occupied by Mountjoy in 1603 and visited by Rinuccini in
1648. The latter, in his
Report on the Affairs of Ireland sent to Pope Innocent X,
described Waterford as being "one of the only two Irish cities he would
place in the front rank for reverence to the Holy See." In l649, the
city was unsuccessfully besieged by Cromwell, but
was forced to surrender to his Deputy, Ireton, in the summer of the
following year. After the
Battle of the Boyne, both James and William came by Waterford, James on
his way to France and William returning to England. It was soon after this, about 1700, that the Huguenots came to
was no armed uprising in the neighbourhood as part of the 1798
rebellion, the probability of such being set aside by the defeat at
Wexford. There was,
however, considerable United Ireland activity in the city and district,
where secret recruitment had been going on apace. Among those arraigned for seditious activity at the time was the
toll collector of the then five-year-old wooden bridge.
In l826, Waterford returned Villiers Stuart to
parliament against the
opposition of Lord George Beresford, the outgoing candidate and powerful
landowner in the district. Stuart
was put forward by Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association and O'Connell
personally led his campaign here. Though
not a Catholic himself, Stuart was a man of liberal views and his
election was an important step in the way to Catholic Emancipation which
came three years later.
The Great Faminc of 1846-48 made
itself felt in the city and the Corporation records of the period refer
to several money grants to relieve the distress of the people.
The fact that there were large quantities of rice in Waterford, saved
the city from the worst effects of disastrous shortage in their normal
AND EXTENT: THE CITY WALLS.
There is no record of the extent of any settlement that may have existed
at Waterford prior to the middle of the 9th century. The Danish colony founded about that time (853 A.D.) was
triangular in shape and contained 15 acres approximately. This area was
enclosed by stout ramparts linking Reginald's Tower with St. Martin's
Castle (site in Spring Garden Alley); from thence running to Turgesius'
Tower, which stood in the immediate vicinity of the Allied Irish Bank
(corner of Barronstrand St.) and returning along the river-front to
Substantial remains of the wall in the 500 metre stretch between
Reginald's Tower and St. Martin's Castle still exist, except where
broken by the erection of the City Hall and the opening of Colbeck
Street (former (Colbeck Gate). These
traces may be observed between the houses of the Mall and Bailey's New
Street and, further up, between Spring Garden Alley and Lady Lane, about
12 metres back from the northern frontage of the former. In the old
handball alley, some four metres of the Wall—in places
six metres high—stand exposed. Also,
parts of the breastwork of St. Martin's Castle have been incorporated in
the foundations and lower courses of the buildings that now stand on its
a few traces at the wall linking St. Martin's Castle with
Turgesius' Tower, and which followed the line of Michael Street and
Broad Street, about sixteen to twenty metres back from the present eastern
frontage of these streets.
The wall fronting the Quay has completely disappeared. It was demolished and the material thrown down to form the
foundation of the present Quays, partly under the Cromwellian
Commissioners in 1650 and totally by the Corporation of 1705, which
improved and enlarged the Quays.
Waterford, A Municipal Directory.