Once a Viking and Anglo-Norman Stronghold, Waterford is a Historic City:
Mention Waterford, and most people would associate the name with Waterford crystal stemware and chandeliers. However, Waterford city, home of the Waterford crystal, is itself a town of significant historic importance.
Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city and it is also one of the oldest cities in the northern European capitals with the exception of London and Paris. In 914, the great Viking adventurer and pirate, Regnall, a grandson of Ivor the Boneless, established a base here and built a ships’ haven, which would in time become a modern city.
The name Waterford is derived from its Viking name Vedrarfjord which has a couple of possible meanings: ‘haven from the windswept sea’ or ‘fjord of the rams’, a place where the sheep or rams could be loaded for export.
In 918, Regnall left Waterford and with a fleet of ships he sailed for York in England. York or Jorvick as it came to be known then, was controlled by the Danish Vikings. It was perhaps the most important city in the Viking world. After some fierce fighting, Regnall and his fleet captured York and he became the first Norse ruler of that City and held the title ‘King of Waterford and York’.
Waterford city was captured by the Anglo-Normans in 1170 and the Vikings were expelled bringing about a dramatic change for the city. Within a few years of being captured, Waterford was escalated to the status of Royal City which owed allegiance to the Anglo-Norman King of England, Henry II.
In Waterford today there are still six towers and long stretches of town walls which remind of Waterford’s Viking and Anglo-Norman past. They also represent the largest collection of medieval defensive towers and walls in Ireland. Visitors to Waterford city can trace the Viking and Medieval walls by following the self-guided walking trails marked on the Waterford city map. Most hotel receptions would have a copy of this map freely available.
There is also a Blue-plaque trail that takes you past various locations in the city commemorating either a famous person or event in the city’s history. The blue plaques provide an explanation of the significance of the monuments and buildings.
Our stop in Waterford city was on a Sunday evening and the City Square Shopping Centre was quite empty and most of the shops were shut. During our walk around the city we noticed a fair number of businesses had shut, including a hotel that looked like the one we stayed in some eight years ago. With the closure of the original Waterford Crystal factory, some 3,000 people lost their jobs and the many closed businesses in town must also be the flow-on effects of the GFC. Hopefully, the new Waterford Crystal factory will bring back some wealth back to this city.