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Irish: Port Láirge
County Waterford
Waterford Skyline by night,
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Reginald's Tower
a piece of Waterford Crystal, Waterford Marina
Location: 52°15’35"N, 7°6’18"W
Dialling code: 051
Local Government
Council: Waterford
Website: www.waterfordcity.ie

Waterford is a city in County Waterford, of which it is the county town, though the latter title is disputed by Dungarvan. It is located on the south coast of Ireland, on the title reach of the River Suir, which gave Waterford its name and which has enabled it to thrive as a port since its foundation by Scandinavian settlers.

Waterford is the oldest[1] and the fifth most populous city in the Irish Republic. It was once the centre of a Viking kingdom, and had a Norse king even up to the coming of the Norman-English conquest of Ireland.


The name of the town is Norse, from Veðrafjǫrðr, meaning "wether fjord". In the Irish language it is known as Port Láirge, meaning "Lárag's port".[2] The latter, Gaelic name bears no relation to the English name.


Waterford Quay at night

Viking]] raiders first established a settlement near Waterford in 853. It fell to an Irish resurgence in 902 (as did even Dublin), but the Norse re-established themselves in Ireland at Waterford in 914, led at first by Jarl Ottar until 917, and after that by Ragnald Ivarsson, and this dynasty, descendants of the famous Ivar the Boneless, built here what would be Ireland's first city. Among the most prominent rulers of Waterford was Ivar of Waterford.

In 1167, Diarmait Mac Murchada, the deposed King of Leinster, failed in an attempt to take Waterford. He returned in 1170 with Cambro-Norman mercenaries under Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (known as Strongbow); together they besieged and took the city after a desperate defence. In furtherance of the Norman invasion of Ireland, King Henry II of England landed at Waterford in 1171. Waterford and then Dublin were declared royal cities, with Dublin also declared capital of Ireland.

Annalistic references

The Annals of Inisfallen say:

  • AI926.2 The fleet of Port Láirge [came] over land, and they settled on Loch Gair.
  • AI927.2 A slaughter of the foreigners of Port Láirge [was inflicted] at Cell Mo-Chellóc by the men of Mumu and by the foreigners of Luimnech.
  • AI984.2 A great naval expedition(?) by the sons of Aralt [Ivar of Limerick] to Port Láirge, and they and the son of Cennétig [Brian Boru] exchanged hostages there as a guarantee of both together providing a hosting to attack Dublin. The men of Mumu assembled and proceeded to Mairg Laigen, and the foreigners overcame the Uí Cheinnselaig and went by sea; and the men of Mumu, moreover, devastated Osraige in the same year, and its churches, and the churches of Laigin, and the fortifications of both were laid waste, and Gilla Pátraic, son of Donnchadh, was released.
  • AI1018.5 Death of Ragnall son of Ímar, king of Port Láirge.
  • AI1031.9 Cell Dara and Port Láirge were burned.

Throughout the Middle Ages, 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 Reformation, Waterford remained nevertheless a predominantly Roman Catholic city and participated in the confederation of Kilkenny – an independent Romanist government from 1642 to 1649. This was ended abruptly by Oliver Cromwell, who brought the country back under English rule; his nephew Henry Ireton finally took Waterford in 1650 after a major siege.[3]

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 the early 19th century, Waterford City was deemed vulnerable and the British government erected three Martello towers on the Hook Peninsula to reinforce the existing Fort at Duncannon.

In July 1922, Waterford was the scene of fighting between Irish Free State and Irish Republican troops during the Irish Civil War.

Notable features

The city is situated at the head of Waterford Harbour (Irish: Loch Dá Chaoch or Cuan Phort Láirge).[1] The city motto Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia ("Waterford remains the untaken city") was granted by King Henry VII of England in 1497 after Waterford refused to recognise the claims of the pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck to the English throne.[1] Waterford was subjected to two sieges in 1649 and 1650, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. It withstood the first siege but surrendered during the second siege to Henry Ireton on 6 August 1650.[3][4]

Reginald's Tower is the oldest urban civic building in Ireland, and the oldest monument to retain its Viking name. To this day, it remains Waterford's most recognisable landmark. It is believed to be the first building in Ireland to use mortar. The River Suir, which flows through Waterford City, has provided a basis for the city's long maritime history. The place downriver from Waterford where the Nore and the Barrow join the River Suir is known in Irish as Cumar na dTrí Uisce ("The confluence of the three waters"). Waterford Port has been one of Ireland's major ports for over a millennium. In the 19th century, shipbuilding was a major industry. 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.[2]

Today, Waterford is known for Waterford Crystal, a legacy of the city's former glass making industry. Glass, or crystal, was manufactured in the city from 1783 until early 2009, when the factory there was shut down after the receivership of Waterford Wedgwood plc.[5] The Waterford Crystal visitor centre in the Viking Quarter opened in June 2010[6] after the intervention of Waterford City Council and Waterford Chamber of Commerce.


Public buildings

Christ Church Cathedral
  • Waterford Museum of Treasures, forming the hub of the Viking Triangle, previously housed in the Granary on Merchant's Quay, is now accommodated in two museums on the Mall. The first is housed in the 19th-century Bishop's Palace, on the Mall, which holds items from 1700-1970. This was opened in June 2011. The second museum is located next to Bishop's Palace displaying the Mediæval history of the city as well as the Chorister's Hall.[7]
  • As well as the above, The Mall now contains Reginald's Tower, The House of Waterford Crystal, Christchurch Cathedral, and the Theatre Royal among various other historical landmarks.
  • Reginald's Tower, the oldest urban civic building in the country, is situated on the Quays/The Mall, in Waterford. It has performed numerous functions over the years and today is a civic museum.
  • A museum at Mount Sion (Barrack Street) is dedicated to the story of Brother Edmund Ignatius Rice and the history of the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers. Along with the museum there is a café and a new chapel. The new museum was designed by Janvs Design[8]
  • 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. Garter Lane Arts Centre is located in two separate restored buildings on O'Connell Street. A new contemporary gallery called Soma opened in 2009 on the Mall.
  • The Theatre Royal[9] 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.
  • Garter Lane Arts Centre[10] is housed in two conserved 18th-century buildings on O'Connell Street. Garter Lane Gallery, the 18th-century townhouse of Samuel Barker contains the gallery and the Bausch & Lomb Dance Studio, and Garter Lane Theatre is based in the beautiful Quaker Meeting House, built in 1792. The theatre was renovated and restored in 2006 and now contains a 164-seat auditorium.


Scotch Quay
  • Theatre companies. There are three theatre companies, Red Kettle, Spraoi and Waterford Youth Arts. Red Kettle[11] is a professional theatre company based in Waterford that regularly performs in Garter Lane Theatre. Spraoi[12] is a street theatre company based in Waterford. It produces the Spraoi festival, and has participated regularly in the Waterford and Dublin St Patrick's day parades, often winning best float. In January 2005 the company staged its biggest and most prestigious production to date, "Awakening", the Opening Show for Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture. Waterford Youth Arts (WYA),[13] 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. Notable playwrights include Jim Nolan, who co-founded Red Kettle Theatre Company.[14]
  • Libraries 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 Road; and Brown's Road Library, on Paddy Brown's Road. 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.
  • The Barrack Street Concert Band A band established in 1870 and is one of the only bands in Ireland to have unbroken service through a civil war and two World Wars. They have a long and rich history. In 1982 they changed their name to The Barrack Street Concert Band is famed throughout Waterford and Ireland today. The new name reflected a change in instrumentation including flutes, saxophones, oboes and a full percussion section which led to more members joining and a wider variety of music being played. In 1994 the band won the All Ireland Senior Military Band Championships in Wesley collage Dublin under the Baton of Mr Niall O'Connor and 10 years later, in 2004, the band won the South of Ireland Senior Military band Championships in Clonakilty Co Cork under the Baton of the bands current musical director Mr Mark Fitzgerald.
  • Waterford Film For All (WFFA)[15] is a non-profit film society whose aim is to offer an alternative to the cineplex experience in Waterford. WFFA conducts much of its activities on the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) campus.
  • Cinema - Odeon Cinema in the Railway Square complex.[16]


  • Waterford Music Fest, launched in 2011, is an outdoor, one day music event which takes place in the heart of Waterford City during the summer.
  • Spraoi festival, (pronounced 'Spree')[12] organised by the Spraoi Theatre Company, is a professional festival and street arts organisation which takes over the city centre of Waterford on the August Bank Holiday Weekend. It attracts audiences in excess of 80,000 people to the city.
  • Waterford International Festival of Light Opera[17] is an annual event that has been held in the Theatre Royal since 1959. It has recently been rebranded as the Waterford International Festival of Music and now takes place in November.[18]
  • Tall Ships Festiva], held in Waterford in 2005, marked the start of the Tall Ships race of that year. The Suir river provided the berthing location for the tall ships (up to 90) that lined the north and south quays for almost a week. The festival attracted in the region of 450,000 people to the city. Waterford hosted the start of the Tall Ships race again in 2011,[19]
  • Waterford Harvest Food Festival takes place annually in September along the Quays. The festival offers visitors demonstrations, workshops and tours of local producers, numerous markets, tastings and dinners.
  • St Patrick's day Parade takes place annually on the 17th March.
  • There are two Arts Festivals of note in the city: The Imagine Arts Festival[20] in October and The Fringe Arts Festival[21] in September.
  • Waterford Winterval an annual Christmas festival held in the city centre.[22]


Custom House Quay
  • Radio / TV:
    • RTÉ's south eastern studio is in the city
    • Waterford Local Radio
  • Newspapers:
    • The Waterford News & Star
    • The Munster Express
    • Waterford Today
    • Waterford News and Star

Places of interest

Reginald's Tower
The Quays

The City of Waterford consists of various cultural quarters, the oldest of which is known 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 city, the city centre has shifted to the west over the years, and it is now a quiet and tranquil area, dominated by narrow streets, mediæval 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, whose walls were built much later. Tours of Waterford's city walls are conducted daily.

Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity

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 travelling 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.

John Roberts Square is a pedestrianised area that is one of the main focal points of Waterford's modern day commercial centre. 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.

The old Waterford Crystal visitor centre

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 invasion 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 in county Kilkenny is Waterford's only suburb north of the river. It contains a village centre of its own. Waterford City Council have granted permission for a number of major retail developments in Ferrybank. One has been completed and the second is currently under construction and due to be completed in January 2009.

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.[23]

Waterford Crystal is manufactured in Waterford but in early 2009 the company moved it operations to Europe after denying the workforce their entitlements, some workers lost many thousands in pension rights etc. A new Waterford Crystal visitor centre opened on June 22, 2010. Tours are conducted daily. It is the biggest Waterford Crystal store in the world. While on the tour you can see how the glass is manufactured. The centre is open seven days a week.

Waterford's oldest public house (pub) can be found just outside the old 'Viking Triangle'. T & H Doolans, of 31/32 George's Street, has been officially active and open to the public for over three hundred years. The official record of licences dates back to the eighteenth century but the premises is believed to be closer to five hundred years in age. A main element of the structure includes one of the original city walls, almost 1,000 years old, which can be viewed in the lounge area of the building.


  • Footbll: Waterford United
  • Rugby:
    • Waterford City RFC
    • Waterpark RFC
  • Athletics:
    • West Waterford AC
    • Waterford Athletic Club
    • Ferrybank Athletic Club
  • GAA:
    • Mount Sion GAA
    • Erin's Own GAA (Waterford)
    • De La Salle GAA
    • Roanmore GAA
    • Ferrybank GAA
    • Ballygunner GAA
  • Rowing: Waterford Boat Club, the oldest active sports club in Waterford, established in 1878
  • American Football: Waterford Wolves

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Waterford)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Waterford City Council : About Our City. Waterfordcity.ie. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Discover Waterford, by Eamon McEneaney (2001). (ISBN 0-86278-656-8)
  3. 3.0 3.1 A New History of Cromwell's Irish Campaign, by Philip McKeiver (2007). (ISBN 978-0-9554663-0-4)
  4. Discover Waterford, by Eamon McEneaney (2001). (ISBN 0-86278-656-8)
  5. USAtoday.com.
  6. "Waterford Crystal visitor centre opens". Irish Times. 2010-06-06. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0611/1224272270351.html. 
  7. Waterford Treasures Official Site
  8. Janvs.com
  9. The Theatre Royal Official Homepage
  10. The Garter Lane Arts Centre Official Homepage
  11. Red Kettle Official Homepage
  12. 12.0 12.1 Spraoi Official Homepage
  13. Waterford Youth Arts Official Homepage
  14. Jim Nolan - Current Member | Aosdana. Aosdana.artscouncil.ie. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  15. WFFA – Waterford Film For All
  16. "ODEON - Waterford". United Cinemas International (Ireland) Limited. http://www.odeoncinemas.ie/fanatic/film_times/s205/Waterford/. Retrieved 20-0802012. 
  17. Waterford International Festival Of Light Opera Official Homepage
  18. Waterford International Music Festival | May 1st - 13th 2012. Waterfordintlmusicfestival.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  19. Tall Ships Race 2011, Waterford Tall Ships Festival Ireland. Waterfordtallshipsrace.ie (2011-07-03). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  20. Imagine Arts Festival, Waterford Ireland. Discoverwaterfordcity.ie. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  21. Waterford Fringe Festival
  22. http://www.winterval.ie/
  23. 9th Century Settlement found at Woodstown – vikingwaterford.com


Cities in the Republic of Ireland

Cork • Dublin • Galway • Kilkenny • Limerick • Waterford