WATERFORD CITY ANTIQUITIES

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

Of the ancient walls of the city, which appear to have enclosed a triangular area of about 15 acres, with a tower at each angle, there are still some interesting remains; they were extended in the reign of Henry II. by a considerable sweep towards the west, and their circuit was farther enlarged in that of Henry VII., when they were repaired. Of the original towers, the only one perfect is Reginald's tower, in old documents frequently called Reynold's tower and the King's tower: it was rebuilt in its original style in 1819, and is now appropriated by the corporation as a barrack for the police establishment. St. Martin's Castle, which was situated at the western angle of the city walls, has been partly preserved by its connection with a private dwelling-house, long called "the Castle."

On the land side the city had five gates, of which St. John's was for a long time used as a county prison. There were also, in addition to the regular fortifications of the city, several private fortresses, called by the names of their respective proprietors, and supposed to have been not less than 20 in number. In Colbeck castle, from which that street took its name, was the Chamber of Green Cloth, or Chamber of Waterford, sometimes used by the mayor as a place of confinement for refractory citizens; and a few years since there were several Danish semilunar towers on the walls, of which only one is now remaining at the extremity of what are called the ramparts.

The palace in which King John resided, during his stay at Waterford, occupied the site on which the Widows' Apartments were built, and on the erection of which the vaults and foundations of that ancient structure were discovered. The most ancient of the religious houses was the priory of St. Catherine, founded by the Ostmen for canons of the order of St. Augustine and of the congregation of St. Victor: its endowment and possessions were confirmed by Pope Innocent III., in 1211; from the terms of that confirmation it appears to have been insulated at that time; in the 31st of Elizabeth, its revenues were granted on lease to Elizabeth Butler, otherwise Sherlock.

The ancient abbey was situated to the south-west of the city, adjoining Lombard's marsh, and a great part of the building remained in tolerable preservation till a few years since, when it was levelled to open a way to the bridge then built over John's river; a vaulted room and a small portion of the foundations are all that now remain. The priory of St. John the Evangelist was founded in the suburbs, in 1185, by John, Earl of Morton, afterwards King of England, for monks of the order of St. Benedict, and made a cell to the abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, in the city of Bath. This establishment received many grants and charters from successive English monarchs, and at the close of the 15th century had vast possessions and enjoyed ample privileges, among which was the right of holding a court baron within the parish of St. John. The manor of St. John, now the property of Thomas Wyse, Esq., was for a long period held under the priors of that house by his ancestors: at the dissolution, in 1537, it continued in the possession of the family, and was subsequently confirmed in capite at two knights' fees, with all tithes, privileges, royalties, and immunities, by royal charter, to Sir William Wyse, then chamberlain to Henry VIII., which grant was more fully confirmed by patent in the 15th of Elizabeth.

A monastery for Dominican or Black Friars, called also Friars Preachers, who were introduced into Ireland in 1226, was founded by the citizens, who for that purpose applied to Henry III. for liberty to erect their house on a piece of ground adjoining Arundel's castle, and on which stood the ruins of an ancient tower. This establishment continued to flourish under the patronage of several monarchs, and at the dissolution the buildings, which were very extensive, but in a ruinous condition, were granted in capite, with some parcels of land, to James White, at an annual rent of 4s. The only existing remains are the chancel of the church and the belfry: the entrance to the former is through an arched doorway, highly ornamented with rope mouldings and surmounted by a spacious window; the interior consists of two apartments, which are low and gloomy, with vaulted roofs supported on groined arches; the belfry is a lofty square tower of massive thickness, having a staircase leading to the summit, from which is obtained an interesting view, especially over the old portion of the city.

A monastery for Franciscan Friars, or Friars minor, was founded in 1240 by Sir Hugh Purcell; at the dissolution it was purchased by Henry Walsh, who established on its site the hospital of the Holy Ghost, before noticed. There are remains of two houses of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, situated respectively at Killure and Kilbarry, near which last is also a cromlech. In Arundel-square was anciently a college of Jesuits, of which there are still some small remains. Of the old parish churches, the only one of which any part remains is that of St. Thomas, supposed to have been erected by Henry II., or by his son and successor, King John, and which was dedicated to St. Thomas a Beckett: part of the entrance is still entire, and displays a beautiful specimen of Norman architecture.

In Her Majesty's State Paper Office is lodged a curious manuscript history, in verse, of the municipality of Waterford, supposed to have been written in the time of Henry VIII., and of which a printed version is given in Ryland's History of Waterford. Among eminent natives may be noticed Gotofield, a learned Dominican friar of the 13th century; William of Waterford, author of a polemical work, published in 1433; Peter White, a celebrated classical teacher, and author of several publications, in the reign of Elizabeth; Nicholas Quemerford, D. D., cotemporary with the above, and author of "Answers to certain Questions propounded by the citizens of Waterford," and other works; Peter Lumbard, R. C. Archbishop of Armagh, and a learned writer, who died in 1625 or 1626; Peter Wadding, a learned Jesuit, highly esteemed for his piety, who died in 1644; John Hartrey, a Cistertian monk, who wrote the history of his order in Ireland; and Luke Wadding, a Franciscan friar, born in 1588, who also compiled the annals of his own order. Waterford gives the title of Marquess to the family of De la Poer Beresford.

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