Background Information about Waterford

Waterford background

Background

Early in Irish history, Waterford seemed poised to become the most important city in the country. This was the site of the first city in all of Ireland, founded in this case by Viking traders in the 9th century. They laid the foundations for a city and built fortification to hold their ground against native Irish tribes.

The matter became much more complicated when England’s Henry II crossed the sea and landed at Waterford in the 12th century. At this point, Dublin was well into the mix of Irish cities and was named a ‘royal city’ along with Waterford. During the medieval period, Waterford developed a strong second-city status.
However, the strongest growth was yet to come. The city was referred to as ‘Little Rome’ after the Reformation, due to its strong ties to the papal authorities. To be fair, the Vatican may have been strong, but the Church of England was much closer. When Cromwell’s forces wrought terror through the cities of Ireland, Waterford went under siege.

Another wave of prosperity washed over the city in the 1700s. Much of the historic architecture that stands in the city today was built during that time period, including the city hall building. This is also when Waterford first the entered the world stage in terms of crystal production. In those days, Waterford was also known for ship building. In fact, an iron steam ship that was built here in Waterford became the first of its kind ever to sail to a Russian port. It even carried a gift of fine locally produced crystal to be delivered to the Tsar.

Waterford doesn’t play nearly as strong a role in Irish politics and identity as it did in medieval times. However, this in no way detracts from the important position that the city held when Ireland was still a hotly sought-after land by invading Vikings, warring Anglo-Normans and distant popes. As such, it has a great deal to offer modern-day visitors eager to learn more about Ireland’s roots as a nation. 

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