Waterford City Walls
One of the most striking historic features of Waterford City is the historic walls and towers. Founded by the Vikings between 856 and 914, Waterford City is over 1,000 years old. The City was fortified from an early date and historical records in Ireland mention the existence of a dun or fort at Waterford in 1088. The remains of a stone built Viking age gateway that once stood at the top of Peter Street in Waterford was uncovered in 1989 during excavations for the City Square Shopping Centre.
The City’s Hiberno-Norse defences feature prominently in Gerald of Wales’ account of the Anglo-Norman capture of the City in 1170. He tells us that Raymond Le Gros, an Anglo-Norman knight who commanded the besiegers, noticed ‘a small building’ (possibly a look-out tower) ‘overhanging the City wall supported on the outside by a beam’.
Upon attack, the building collapsed and with it a considerable part of the wall. The invaders rushed into the City and won a most bloody victory. Within a few decades of the Anglo-Norman invasion, a major wall building programme had begun.
King John extended the City to the west with at least three new gates being built on the circuit before 1212. During the 13th century, the City Council was given permission to collect special taxes for the building and repair of the City walls. By the end of the middle ages a complete circuit of stone walls and towers existed in the City encompassing the suburbs which were occupied by the Anglo-Normans.
Even when the suburbs were enclosed, the line of wall and gates which divided the old Viking City from the Anglo-Norman suburbs remained intact throughout the medieval period, providing a double line of defence in case of attack. Developments towards the end of the 15th century resulted in the building of additional fortifications and the modification of existing structures to enable them to accommodate cannons which had been recently introduced.
As the use of cannon became more sophisticated, town walls became redundant. In the late 17th and 18th centuries, the medieval gates to the City were seen as a hindrance to development and their destruction began as early as 1695. By 1705, the wall running along the Quays was demolished. celebrity wigsWaterford City is fortunate in that six towers and large sections of the City wall still remain today which can be seen on our map.