History of Waterford

Waterford Image 2

 County Waterford is positioned on the central south coast of Ireland, flanked by Co. Wexford to the east, and Co. Cork to the west, in the province of Munster. Its name comes from the Old Norse language, but it is known locally as 'The Déise' – pronounced day-sha – after the Déisi tribe that first settled in the region. Co. Waterford is characterised by its relatively long coastline for the size of the rest of the county, which is made up of particularly soft sandy beaches, and its two mountain ranges, the Comeragh and the Knockmealdown Mountains. The county capital is Waterford City.

It is unclear when Co. Waterford was first settled. Some say as early as the second century AD, while the eight century 'Expulsion of the Déisi' narration says the Déisi tribe were driven from southern Meath and north Kildare in the fourth century AD, before conquering what would become Co. Waterford and settling there. What is known is that Viking encampments appeared in 860, 892 and 914 AD. The founding of Waterford City is dated at 914, which makes it Ireland's oldest city, out of the original seaport that the Norse settlers built.

After the Norman conquest of England, the invaders turned to Ireland and took Waterford in 1170 after King of Leinster, Diarmuid MacMorrough, allied with Richard 'Strongbow' de Clare, the 2nd Earl of Pembrooke, in an effort to bolster his claim as High King of Ireland. The very next year, Henry II of England became the first English monarch to set foot on Irish soil when he landed in Waterford City. Waterford remained the second city of Ireland, after Dublin until the seventeenth century.

During the Nine Years War, the people of Co. Waterford remained on the side of the English, but the coronation of James VI of Scotland as King of England spurred the largely Roman Catholic people into revolt on the grounds of religious freedom. Although they reverted back to being loyal subjects soon after, the population became increasingly disillusioned with English rule as time marched on. The Irish Rebellion of 1641 saw Waterford City become the centre of support for the Confederate Catholics of Ireland.

The eighteenth century saw the fortunes of Co. Waterford grow enormously, as it's the city's elevation in status to third largest port in the country, along with the founding of the Penrose's glass factory, Waterford Crystal. Over the next century, moving into the industrial revolution, ship building and glass making thrived in the city, and Co. Waterford was considered a key point for victory in the Irish Civil War. National Army troops were sent in to retake Waterford City for the Republicans, and did so with only minor loss of life.

Waterford City's importance as a port and centre for local industry has always underlined its value to independent Ireland, and today the county enjoys a long and rich heritage and is amongst the most lively and vibrant places in Ireland, which keeps visitors coming back again and again.




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