The first Viking settlement in the Waterford region was at the beginning to mid-ninth century site at Woodstown around five kilometers up stream from the present city. This proto-town did not survive and in 914 Viking explorers set up Ireland’s first permanent city at Waterford – in a zone which is as yet known as the Viking Triangle.
This settlement occupied the site where Reginald’s Tower currently stands and ongoing archeological unearthings have affirmed a mid tenth century date for Viking Waterford. The early settlement was anything but difficult to guard as two sides were encompassed by water while the landward side was ensured by an earthen bank and dump. This was supplanted by a stone wall by the mid-twelfth century.
After the capture of Waterford by the Anglo Normans in 1170 the city flourished and a major wall building program was started. Lord Henry II of England made Waterford an illustrious city and amid the rule of his child John (1199-1216) the old Viking town was refortified. Reginald’s Tower which was mentioned by Gerald of Wales in his record of the fall of the city to the Anglo Normans was additionally reconstructed during this time.
As the populace increased from the 1200s a substantial suburb was enclosed by an earthen bank and ditch. Over the next hundreds of years these guards were redesigned and replaced by countless stone walls, gates and towers. The 1373 extravagantly illuminated Great Charter Roll of Waterford (one of the remarkable fortunes of medieval Ireland) incorporates the most punctual perspective of an Irish walled town. The upper section of the scroll includes an illustration of medieval Waterford with all the towers and walls rendered and whitewashed.
The financial downturn of the fourteenth century brought about the slow detachment of Waterford as the Gaelic Irish recaptured control over a great part of the city’s hinterland. Waterford went under assault from the O’Driscolls of Cork and in addition the Powers of Co Waterford.
In 1495, Waterford’s protections were seriously tried when the city was assaulted by Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the position of king of England. For the first time, artilery was used on an Irish city during the eleven-day attack. The defenders of the city won by sinking two of Warbeck’s boats with a canon held up in Reginald’s Tower. In acknowledgment of Waterford’s steadfastness, King Henry VII granted the city its aphorism – Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia – the City of Waterford remains untaken. A cannon taken from one of Warbeck’s sunken ships is currently on display in the city’s medieval historical center.
Today, about two kilometers of city stone wall, alongside Reginald’s Tower and five different towers remain. Together they constitute the biggest accumulation of medieval urban barriers in Ireland.