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Waterford City - History

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History of Waterford

From 795 AD, Vikings had been raiding along the coast of Ireland. Soon the Vikings over-wintered in Ireland at ships' havens called Longphorts. A longphort was established at Waterford in 853. Waterford and all the other longphorts were vacated in 902, the Vikings having being driven out by the native Irish. According to the Irish annals, the Vikings re-established themselves in Ireland at Waterford in 914 and built what would be Ireland's first city.

During the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, the rise of the Brian Boru saw Waterford and a number of other Viking ports, being firmly brought under the control of the Ua Briain dynasty. This was important as it became increasingly obvious that the control of the Viking ports, gave potential Irish High Kings, greater access to international trade, and man power.

In 1137, Diarmuid MacMorrough, king of Leinster, failed in an attempt to take Waterford. He was trying to secure the large centres in order to advance his claim for high king of Ireland. In 1170 MacMorrough allied himself with Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (Strongbow); together they besieged and took Waterford after a desperate defence. This was the introduction of the Anglo-Normans into Ireland. In 1171, Henry II of England became the first English king to set foot in an Irish city, by landing with a large fleet at Waterford; he did so to ensure that Ireland became an English colony and not a rival Norman country. Waterford and Dublin were declared royal cities, and belonged to the king, not Strongbow; Dublin was declared capital of Ireland.

Throughout the medieval period, Waterford was Ireland's second city after Dublin. Waterford's great parchment book (1361-1649) represents the earliest use of the English language in Ireland for official purposes. In the 15th century Waterford repelled two pretenders to the English throne: Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. As a result, King Henry VII gave the city its motto: Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia (Waterford remains the untaken city).

Through the Reformation under King Henry VIII and his successors, Waterford remained loyal to the crown; but upon the coronation of James VI of Scotland as king of England in 1603, the citizens participated in an uprising that was common to the coastal cities of Munster and refused entry to Mountjoy, the king's lord deputy, who had just secured the surrender of Hugh O'Neill. The motivation for Waterford's defiance lay in the people's demand for freedom of religion - they were led by Catholic priests and reconsecrated several churches in the city - although there were also mutterings about the nationality of the new king. In time, Lord Mountjoy was granted entry to the city and the citizens pledged their loyalty anew.

Waterford remained a Catholic city and participated in the confederation of Kilkenny which was an attempt to break away from English rule. This was ended abruptly by Oliver Cromwell, who brought the country back firmly under British rule; his nephew Henry Ireton finally took Waterford in 1651.

The 18th century was a period of huge prosperity for Waterford. Most of the city's best architecture appeared during this time. Trading with Newfoundland brought much wealth into what was then the third largest port.

 

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