The Little Book of Waterford is a compendium of fascinating, obscure, strange and entertaining facts about County Waterford. Here you will find out about Waterford’s industrial past, its proud sporting heritage, its arts and culture and its famous (and occasionally infamous) men and women. Through quaint villages and bustling towns, this book takes the reader on a journey through County Waterford and its vibrant past. A reliable reference book and a quirky guide, this can be dipped into time and time again to reveal something new about the people, the heritage and the secrets of this varied county.
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The Little Book of Waterford
By Tom Hunt
The History PressCopyright © 2017 Tom Hunt
All rights reserved.
c. 430: St Declan introduced Christianity to Waterford and particularly to Ardmore, where he established a monastery and converted the Déisí. According to the twelfth-century Life of St Declan of Ardmore, Declan predated Patrick and was made a bishop in Rome. He met Patrick, not yet a bishop, on an Italian road as he made his way home.
c. 637: St Carthage was expelled from his monastery at Rahan, County Offaly and arrived on the banks of the River Blackwater, where he was gifted land by the king of the Déisí at Lismore. He died shortly afterwards, on 14 May 637. The monastery he founded at Lismore became a famous abbey and proved to be the origin of the town of Lismore.
833: The Vikings travelled up the River Blackwater and plundered and burned Lismore for the first time. By 1113 it had been attacked seven more times.
853: In the mid-ninth century the Vikings began to winter in Ireland and established temporary settlements known as longphorts. One was established in Waterford in 853 that allowed the Vikings to conduct their raids travelling inland via the Suir, Nore and Barrow rivers. This settlement was abandoned by 900.
914: One of the great Viking adventurers, Ragnall, a grandson of Ivan the Boneless, established a new base in Waterford and began an era of permanent Viking settlement in Ireland. This foundation date makes Waterford the oldest city in Ireland.
1096: Malchus, an Irish monk based at the Benedictine monastery of Winchester, was consecrated the first bishop of Viking Waterford by Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
1170: The English, recruited by Dermot Mac Murrough and commanded by Richard de Clare (more popularly known as Strongbow), landed at Passage, County Waterford and moved inland. With the support of Richard le Gros they captured and destroyed Viking Waterford. After the capture of the city one of the most famous marriages in Irish history was held in Christ Church Cathedral when Strongbow married Dermot Mac Murrough's daughter, Aoife.
1171: Henry II, the first English king to set foot in Ireland, landed at Crooke, close to Passage East, in October and moved inland to Waterford where he received the submission of several Irish chieftains. Henry retained the city of Waterford as his personal possession.
1204: King John granted the citizens of Waterford city the right to hold an annual fair during the last week of August.
1207: In November King John issued a murage grant to the citizens of Waterford that allowed them to retain customs duties levied in the city and invest the revenue in repairing and building city walls.
1215: The first of more than thirty royal charters was granted to Waterford city. Its most important clause granted the citizens of the city the right to hold their property directly from the king and not from any feudal lord. Citizens were entitled to manage their own affairs, to hold their own courts, and to be free of all taxes on goods bought and sold at fairs or transported by land or water anywhere in King John's territory.
1349: Waterford city was ravaged by the Black Death, which wiped out an estimated one-third of the population.
1363: The Diocese of Waterford and Lismore was established with Thomas le Reve as the first bishop of the united diocese.
c. 1373: The economic rivalry between New Ross and Waterford indirectly led to the compilation of the Great Charter Roll, one of the great treasures of medieval Ireland and now on display at the Waterford Medieval Museum. The vellum roll is composed of fifteen separate royal charters and seventeen illustrations. The walled city of Waterford features in the first image and forms the oldest image of an Irish city in existence. The image of the four mayors of the royal cities of Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick are the earliest images of medieval mayors in either Britain or Ireland and those of King Edward III are the only ones in existence created while he was alive. In May 2011 the Great Charter Roll was taken from Waterford to Dublin to enable Queen Elizabeth II to inspect the document on the occasion of her visit to Ireland.
1461: Battles between the citizens of Waterford with the Powers, the most powerful family in rural county Waterford, and their allies the O'Driscolls from Baltimore in Cork were not unusual in medieval Waterford. In 1461 the O'Driscolls landed at Tramore, where they were routed by the mayor and citizens of Waterford.
1495: Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the English throne, and his forces began an eleven-day siege of Waterford city in July. They were eventually repelled by the citizens of the city, led by the mayor, Robert Butler. The siege earned Waterford the distinction of being the first Irish city to experience an artillery attack. It survived to tell the tale chiefly because of strategically placed cannons on Reginald's Tower. Two of Warbeck's ships were sunk and many aboard were drowned in the Suir. Prisoners were beheaded in the Market Square and the ritual display of heads took place.
1497: Warbeck returned for another attack on the city but was chased out to sea by a small Waterford naval fleet. It is believed that Henry VII showed his appreciation of Waterford's loyalty by awarding the city its motto of Urbs Intacta manet Waterfordia (The city of Waterford remains untaken).
1518: Disputes between the ports of Waterford and New Ross for control of the lucrative wine trade, which at times had degenerated into open warfare, finally ended when a force of Waterford merchants accompanied by foreign mercenaries attacked New Ross, sacked the town and confiscated its civic mace. This mace is still in Waterford, displayed in the city's Medieval Museum.
1602: Richard Boyle, later the Great Earl of Cork, purchased the 12,000-acre estate of Sir Walter Raleigh in Cork and Waterford. Boyle arrived in Ireland virtually penniless and died one of the wealthiest men in the United Kingdom. Boyle rebuilt the towns of Lismore and Tallow, developed iron mines, exported timber and refurbished Lismore Cathedral and Castle. He was also one of the driving forces of the Munster Plantation and introduced English Protestant settlers to his estates.
1618: King James I insisted that all urban mayors take the Oath of Supremacy, which recognised the king as head of the Church. Waterford mayors were reluctant to accept this and Waterford Corporation was abolished. For the first time the city was ruled directly from Dublin.
1626: Waterford had its charter restored by King Charles I. A sum of £3,000 changed hands for this privilege and the Great Charter of Charles I provided the principles by which the city was governed until 1848.
1645: The 1641 rebellion virtually destroyed Lismore. The town also saw battles in 1641, 1643 and 1645 when a force of Catholic confederacy, commanded by Lord Castlehaven, destroyed the castle. The town became a neglected village consisting of a few miserable cabins.
1649: Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army began an unsuccessful eight-day siege of Waterford city in November. Bad weather, troops' illnesses and the need to find secure winter quarters forced Cromwell to abandon the siege and earned Waterford the distinction of being the only city that Cromwell besieged and failed to capture.
1650: Although Oliver Cromwell failed to secure the surrender of Waterford, the city remained partly under siege and in August 1650 Cromwell's son-in-law, General Ireton, received the surrender of General Thomas, commander of the city garrison.
1655: Members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) first settled in Waterford, near the parish of St John's, in the mid-1650s. By the early nineteenth-century many Waterford Quaker families were prosperous landowners, millers, farmers, merchants, industrialists, ship-owners and shipbuilders. They formed a powerful business community in Waterford city which extended along the Suir valley as far as Clonmel. Members of the Beale, Gatchell, Grubb, Jacob, Malcomson, Penrorse, Pim, Strangman and White families exercised an influence in industry and commerce disproportionate to their numerical presence.
1690: Coffee house culture was introduced to Ireland in the 1690s and began in Waterford city where it is believed that Ireland's first coffee house was established in 1690. Green coffee was traded at the port, then roasted, brewed and sold at John Akenhead's Coffee House on what became Coffee House Lane in Waterford.
1717: The Beresford dynasty was introduced to Waterford when Sir Marcus Beresford married Lady Catherine Power, heir to the Power estate centred at Curraghmore. Beresford was the wealthy owner of a considerable estate at Coleraine, County Derry. Catherine Power was the only female heir to the vast Curraghmore property in the family's long history and was just four months short of her fifteenth birthday when the marriage took place.
1737: The urban streetscape of Waterford was dramatically changed when a new wide street, The Mall, was laid out.
1742: Highwayman William Crotty was hanged in Waterford on 18 March. Crotty planned his raids from his hideout in the Comeragh Mountains until he was betrayed by an accomplice, David Norris. He was captured in February 1742 and following his hanging his head was placed on a spike at the county jail at Ballybricken.
1748: The Cavendish line was introduced to Lismore when, on 27 March, Charlotte Boyle married William Cavendish, the future 4th Duke of Devonshire and Prime Minister of Great Britain. Lismore Castle and the lands of the Boyle estate passed to the Devonshire family. Today Lismore Castle is the Irish base of the 12th Duke of Devonshire.
1774: The Bishop of Waterford Dr Richard Chenevix and the members of the corporation decided to demolish the city's Christ Church Cathedral, with its unfashionable Gothic architecture. The destruction, at a cost of £150, led to the discovery of a magnificent set of fifteenth-century Benedictine copes and High Mass vestments which are now on display at the Medieval Museum. The vestments, hidden in the cathedral vaults in 1650, to protect them from Cromwell's army, provide a rare example of Renaissance art in Ireland and are the only set of pre-Reformation High Mass vestments to survive in Ireland and the only full set of medieval vestments surviving in northern Europe.
1783: The uncle-and-nephew partnership of George and William Penrose established a glass-manufacturing business in Waterford. The Penroses were one of the first Quaker families to make a significant impact on the economy of Waterford. In October 1783, an advertisement in the Dublin Evening Post stated that they could 'supply all kinds of plain or cut flint glass' for 'ready money'.
c. 1785: Thomas Dunn took possession of a River Mahon-powered oat mill at Kilmacthomas. This began a Flahavan association with the mill that continues to the present day. Dunn was the great-great-great-grandfather of John Flahavan who is the current managing director of the iconic Flahavan Company. In 1935 it was decided to expand the mill and an oat-flaking facility was installed. In 1959 the construction of the current Flahavan six-storey mill building was completed. The company manufactures Flahavan's Progress Oatlets, Ireland's leading porridge oats product, as well as a variety of other healthy cereal products and exports to Britain, the US, South Korea, Russia, India, and Spain.
1789: Dr Francis Barker acquired a house on John's Hill in Waterford city and converted it to the Waterford Fever Hospital; this hospital is regarded as the first of its kind in Ireland and only the second such institution to be opened in the British Empire.
1794: Waterford's links with the outside world were significantly improved when the first bridge across the River Suir, affectionately known as Timbertoes, was built. This privately funded timber toll bridge, supported by forty sets of oak piers, was built by the American builder Lemuel Cox at a cost of £14,000; another £13,000 was paid to the ferrymen to buy out their rights. Timbertoes continued as a toll bridge until 1907.
1798: Education in Waterford city received a significant boost when three Presentation Sisters arrived in Waterford and set up the city's first school for the education of poor Catholic girls. Newtown School for the education of members of the Society of Friends was also established the same year, opening in August.
1806: Charles Bianconi arrived in Waterford and set up a shop in George's Street. He later moved to Clonmel and began his coach-transport company. In 1832 Bianconi purchased the house of Thomas Meagher, located on the Quay, and this became the terminus of the Bianconi transport network in Waterford. Today it trades as the Granville Hotel.
1816: The greatest shipping tragedy off the coast of County Waterford happened on 31 January, when the Seahorse, carrying the soldiers and families of the 2nd Battalion, 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire) Regiment, who were returning to Ireland after the Battle of Waterloo, was wrecked in Tramore Bay. Of the 394 people on board only 30 – all men, including the ship's master and two seamen – survived.
1816: Education for the wealthy young girls of Waterford was provided with the arrival of the nuns of the Ursuline Order, who established their first convent in the city at Waterpark.
1816: Gas lighting, using gas manufactured by the firm of B & J Graham, was introduced to Waterford, the first Irish city to benefit from the facility. In October, Timbertoes was illuminated at night.
1825: In April David Malcomson, a sixty-one-year-old industrialist and member of the Society of Friends, leased 19 acres of land at Mayfield, Portlaw, where he built a cotton mill for spinning, weaving and dyeing cloth, and the new industrial town of Portlaw developed. In 1828 Malcomson estimated that £60,000 had been invested on construction and by 1846 an additional £40,000 had been spent.
1826: A major step on the road to Catholic emancipation was achieved with the victory of Henry Villiers-Stuart, a liberal Protestant landlord, over the sitting MP Lord George Thomas Beresford, a member of one of the most powerful political dynasties in the United Kingdom, in the Waterford constituency in the 1826 General Election. The Dublin Evening Post explained the significance of the election: 'It will be a battle ... which will decide the Catholic question ... The election of Mr Stuart must be considered as the harbinger of civil freedom in Ireland.'
1832: Trappist monks, expelled from their monastery at Mellary, near Nantes in France, established a monastery at Scrahan, close to Cappoquin in the Knockmealdown Mountains, in an abandoned cottage on 600 acres of marginal land donated rent-free by Sir Richard Keane. The monks' new headquarters was renamed Mount Mellary in memory of their former French base.
1832: An outbreak of cholera, which ravaged the poor of Waterford city, began in July and was responsible for close to 300 deaths before it finally abated.
1835: The first Theatre Royal, located in Bolton Street, Waterford, opened for business in February with a performance of The Mountaineers.
1839: The Poor Law Act (1838) made the provision of relief for the poor in Ireland compulsory for the first time. Waterford city and county were divided into three Poor Law unions in March 1839: Dungarvan, Waterford city and Lismore. The Lismore workhouse, with accommodation for 600, opened in April 1841, followed by Dungarvan workhouse in May 1842 and Waterford workhouse in July 1844.
1843: Daniel O'Connell's campaign for repeal was founded on a series of nationwide mass meetings addressed by the great orator who believed that mass mobilisation was the only means of convincing the British Government to grant political independence. The greatest mass meeting held in Waterford was staged in Ballybricken on 8 July 1843 and was attended by an estimated, but surely exaggerated, 300,000 people.
1845: Frederick Douglass, an escaped American slave and anti-slavery crusader, published the Narrative of Frederick Douglass – An American Slave in 1845 and arrived in Ireland for a four-month lecture tour. On 9 October, at the City Hall, he addressed the people of Waterford on the evils of slavery.
1845: The first official recorded reference to the Great Famine in the county was made in October when the Dungarvan Resident Magistrate G. Fitzgerald wrote to the under secretary that 'the potatoe [sic] crops appears to be universally blighted'. The arrival of the blight in Waterford was first reported in the Cork Examiner in September 1845. During the decade of the great famine (1841–51) the population of the city and county declined by 32,136 between 1841 and 1851.
Excerpted from The Little Book of Waterford by Tom Hunt. Copyright © 2017 Tom Hunt. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents
1. Waterford Timeline,
2. Waterford: Ireland's Oldest City,
3. Small Town Waterford,
4. Royal Visits,
5. Waterford's Built Heritage,
6. Waterford Notables,
7. Waterford: The City of Crystal,
8. Waterford's Decade of Revolution, 1914-24,
10. Sporting Waterford,