Waterford, Ireland

It was called Vedrarfjordr by the founding Vikings and later Port Láirge by the Irish. Today, Ireland’s fifth largest yet oldest city offers historic buildings, museums, a waterfront boardwalk, maritime sculptures and tours of the world’s premier name in cut glass: Waterford Crystal.

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1 Clock Tower on Waterfront in Waterford, Ireland

When this granite tower was built in 1863, people called it the Fountain Clock because it had a trough for watering horses. The four-sided, cast-iron clocks within diamond panels had just turned noon when I started photographing. The freestanding, gothic-revival design was by Tarrant. The city’s famous landmark is the demarcation between the Coal and Meagher’s Quays along the waterfront.

76 Meagher's Quay, Waterford, Ireland
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2 Sailing Ship Sculpture in Waterford, Ireland

This sculpture of a tall sailing ship is a beautiful reflection of Waterford’s historic port along the quays. The city was founded by the Vikings in the early 10th century and named Vedrarfjordr. This means “haven from the windy sea.” For centuries, this harbor near the mouth of the Three Sisters (Rivers Nore, Suir and Barrow) was filled with ships from all over the world. That changed in 1992 when the Port of Waterford called Belview was built about 2.5 miles away. However, the city’s waterfront was filled again during the Tall Ships Festival in 2005 and 2011.

108 R680, Waterford, Ireland
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3 William Vincent Wallace Plaza in Waterford, Ireland

A magnificent way to savor the views of the River Suir is walking along the waterfront boardwalk leading to the William Vincent Wallace Plaza. The square’s namesake is a 19th century, locally-born opera and piano composer. It was built on Custom House Quay in 2000 and opened the following year as a tribute to the city’s millennium. The abstract sculpture of ship sails is by artist Liam Lavery. The covered platform in the background is surrounded with wooden thrones.

120 Parade Quay, Waterford, Ireland
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4 Reginald’s Tower in Waterford, Ireland

Ivar of Waterford was the King of Waterford from 969 until he died in 1,000. Reginald’s Round Tower is named after his son and successor, Ragnall ua Ímair. The original Viking citadel was built as part of a defensive wall in 1003. This 54 foot, stone stronghold replaced it in the late 13th century. It was one of three towers forming what is now called Viking Triangle. During its history, it has been a prison and a mint and been attacked several times. Now inside of Ireland’s oldest building is the Waterford Viking Museum. It has exhibits about the Norsemen’s occupation plus archeological artifacts.

2 The Mall, Waterford, X91 W5TX, Ireland
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5 Greyfriars Abbey’s History in Waterford, Ireland

Saint Francis of Assisi founded several Franciscan orders in Italy before his death in 1226. The Greyfriars Abbey was established in 1240 by an Anglo-Norman knight named Sir Hugh Purcell. The friars derived their name from the gray wool robes they wore as a sign of their poverty and humility. The 82 foot tower was added to the French Church during the late 15th century. After the priory and church were confiscated by King Henry VIII in 1540, it became an almshouse called the Holy Ghost Hospital.

4 Bailey's New St, Waterford, Ireland
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6 Greyfriars Abbey’s Chancel in Waterford, Ireland

Not much of the original Greyfriars Abbey remains today; it is mostly in ruins. Yet it is still exciting to view the remnants of the chancel and nave along Bailey’s New Street within the Viking Triangle. Then a few steps away is the Greyfriars Gallery. This museum, housed in a 19th century church, contains over three hundred paintings from Irish artists. The exhibit is part of the Waterford Municipal Art Collection.

4 Bailey's New St, Waterford, Ireland
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7 Bishop’s Palace Museum in Waterford, Ireland

The Bishop of Waterford commissioned architect Richard Castles to build this impressive Georgian structure. It is impossible to miss this 1741 landmark along The Mall. Below the terrace in the foreground is part of the city’s original city wall. In 2011, the historic building opened as the Bishop’s Palace Museum. Inside you will learn the story of Waterford from 1700 through the 1970s. It includes displays of period furniture, artifacts and artwork as if you were walking through an elaborate 18th century townhouse. The museum is part of the trilogy collectively called Waterford Museum of Treasures.

The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
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8 Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford, Ireland

Two prior Catholic churches stood on this site near the Bishop’s Palace. The earliest was from the 11th century. The second was built in 1210. It was ceased in 1534 by King Henry VIII when he claimed supremacy over Catholicism during the Reformation of Ireland. This was in retaliation over Pope Clement VII for not granting an annulment to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, so he could marry the sister of his mistress, Anne Boleyn. This Cathedral of The Holy Trinity was finished in 1779 and serves the Church of Ireland. Commonly called the Christ Church Cathedral, its Georgian design was drawn by John Roberts, a famous local architect.

1 Cathedral Square, Waterford, Ireland
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9 Strongbow Statue and Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford, Ireland

In 1167, Dermot MacMurrough was overthrown as the King of Leinster. In retaliation, he recruited mercenaries to reclaim his title. The leader of the Norman invasion was this distinguished medieval knight wearing a nasal helmet. His name was Richard de Clare, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. He was commonly called Strongbow. This bronze statue, along with one of his wife, was sculpted by Eithne Ring. They sit together on their thrones in front of the Christ Church Cathedral.

1 Cathedral Square, Waterford, Ireland
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10 Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife Statues in Waterford, Ireland

This pair of bronze sculptures celebrates the marriage of Strongbow to Aoife MacMurrough. Do not feel bad if you were not invited. The arranged wedding occurred in 1170. Strongbow was a Norman conqueror of Waterford and other parts of Ireland and she was an Irish Princess, the daughter of King Dermot MacMurrough. The nuptials created a political bond between the Irish Gaelic and the Anglo-Normans. The sculptures by Eithne Ring and Liam Lavery were unveiled in Bishop’s Palace Garden in 2014.

1 Cathedral Square, Waterford, Ireland
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11 Medieval Museum and Theatre Royal in Waterford, Ireland

Side-by-side are two attractions you will want to visit. The beige building houses the Medieval Museum. It tells the story of Waterford during the Middle Ages and includes the Chorister’s Hall, a bishop’s chamber built in 1270. This history facility opened in 2012 and is part of the Waterford Museum of Treasures. On the right is the Theatre Royal. Since its founding in 1876, the “people’s theatre” has been an intimate venue for concerts and plays. A larger performing arts center to consider is the Forum Theatre.

20 The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
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12 Coat of Arms of Waterford, Ireland

The coat of arms for Waterford City features a lion and a dolphin below the twin plumage of a knight’s helmet. The banner contains the motto, “The City of Waterford Remains Untaken.” This was authored by King Henry VII after Waterford repelled an attack by Perkin Warbeck’s army in 1495. He was a pretender to the English throne. This replica marks the location of the former Waterford Arms Hotel.

7 Colbeck St, Waterford, Ireland
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13 Franciscan Friary Church Tower in Waterford, Ireland

Most tourists visit the ruins of the Greyfriar’s French Church (see photos in this gallery) and learn how they were expelled during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid-16th century. Despite hundreds of years of persecution, a community of Franciscans persevered. They built a chapel along Lady Lane in 1830 and then enlarged and renovated it several times during the next one hundred years. This soaring, cut limestone bell tower is a prominent feature in the cityscape.

2 Lady Ln, Waterford, Ireland
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14 Old Stone Home on Little Michael Street in Waterford, Ireland

Similar to many walled-in towns during the Middle Ages, Waterford was a labyrinth of narrow lanes formed by tiny stone buildings. Some like Blacksmith’s, Cook’s and Coffin Lanes were named after local tradesmen. Others were called family names such as Brown’s Lane, Robinsons Lane and this one, Little Michael Street. Although most of the lanes and medieval structures are gone, you can still find a few like this abandoned home on Sráidín Mhichíl. It is hard to fathom how people lived in such cramped quarters without lights or water.

35 Michael St, Waterford, X91 PP76, Ireland
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15 History of the House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland

The House of Waterford Crystal is revered worldwide for the quality of its cut glass. The company was founded as the Waterford Flint Glass Works in 1783 by George and William Penrose. It flourished until a high duty was imposed in the 19th century, forcing it to close in 1851. Charles Bacik reopened the business about 100 years later. During this period, Miroslav Havel created the Lismore pattern. The elegant design is still the company’s top seller. In 1986, the company acquired Wedgwood, the manufacturer of blue and white bone china. Despite its success, it went into receivership in 2009. Fortunately, it began its next beautiful chapter the following year by opening a manufacturing facility and retail store in the center of the city that shares its name. In 2015, Waterford was purchased by the Finnish-based Fiskars Corporation.

28 The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
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16 William Maddock Clock at Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland

You are immediately impressed when walking into the Waterford Crystal showroom to begin your tour. There to greet you is the William Maddock Clock. The grandfather clock’s namesake is the timepiece maker who flourished in Waterford starting in 1766. His family maintained his passion for craftsmanship until 1850. This grandfather clock consists of 48 panels of exquisitely cut glass. Of course it is crowned with a seahorse, Waterford Crystal’s logo.

28 The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
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17 Master Cutter at Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland

During the Waterford Crystal tour, you are mesmerized while watching the various stages of the process – blowing, polishing, marking, cutting, etc. Each master specializes in only one stage. Perhaps the craftsman who had the greatest influence on Waterford Crystal was Jonathan Gatchell. He was a clerk in 1783 when John Hill taught him how to mix, polish and cut glass. Gatchell worked at the plant for forty years, including as co-owner starting in 1799 and then sole proprietor from 1810 until 1823.

28 The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
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18 Gramophone at Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland

A highlight of the Waterford Crystal tour is watching masters create custom designs for current customers while also inspecting replicas of famous pieces. A stunning example is this cut-glass record player. On the needle are the words, “His Master’s Voice.” This slogan, along with the terrier Victor, were the trademarks of an old British record label called the Gramophone Company. It became the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901 before merging with the Radio Corporation of America, better known as RCA.

28 The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
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19 Abstract Maritime Sculpture on Grattan Quay in Waterford, Ireland

This abstract sculpture combines the links of an anchor with lines representing the River Suir and the waves of the open sea. On the top is a 17th century sailing ship. The work by Denis O’Connor is called Turas Seo Caite. This means the Last Trip. The tribute to Waterford’s maritime and industrial heritage was sponsored by the City Council’s Percent for Art Programme. It was erected along Grattan Quay in 2010.

Grattan Quay, Waterford, Ireland
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