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Waterford City Council Collection

Waterford City was founded in between 853 and 914AD as a Viking settlement. According to Daniel Dowling in his book “Waterford Streets Past and Present”, the Irish annals record that a Longphort was established at Waterford by the year 856 and was used as a raiding base. It was abandoned for a time in 902 and re-established in 914AD. Ragnall, grandson of Ivar the Boneless, set up a base and built the longphort at Waterford in 914.

The river and sea trading were, and are, hugely important to the development of Waterford City. Archaeological investigations in Waterford City have uncovered a rich history of the Viking past of Waterford and the City and County Archive holds records from some of these excavations. The finds themselves and the story of Waterford’s Viking past can be found at Waterford Treasures.

Waterford was captured in 1170 by the forces of Dermot McMurrough and a force of Anglo-Normans and Reginald’s Tower in Waterford was the scene of the wedding of the Anglo-Norman Strongbow and Dermot’s daughter Aoife. Waterford City developed as an Anglo-Norman settlement and was granted a charter by King John in 1215. Successive charters were granted to Waterford enshrining the rights of the City and developing a powerful merchant class that administered to and served the City and its citizens. Trade was hugely important to the development of the City and its powerful merchant class and the charters granted rights to encourage trade and maintain the prosperity of the City, in particular, Waterford claimed that all foreign ships entering Waterford Harbour were required to dock at Waterford and not the port of New Ross. The charters issued to Waterford are on display at Waterford Treasures and those that are not on display at the Museum are held by the City and County Archive.

In addition to its charters Waterford is fortunate to have a record of its medieval administration in the Great Parchment Book of Waterford, the Liber Antiquissimus Civitatis Waterfordiae which is on display at Waterford and details of this great source for Waterford can be found in a publication of the same name edited by Niall J. Byrne.

The City and County Archive holds records of the administration of Waterford City from the Charters to the Minutes, Freedom Rolls and Petitions to Rate Books, leases, maps and plans, photographs and films.

The Minutes of Waterford Corporation, later, City Council date from 1656 with some gaps in the record. They provide an account of the administration of the City and the decisions made which shaped the City over time.

The Corporation was headed by a Mayor and a group of burgesses and elected members. The Corporation and later the City Council were responsible for the administration of the City. In the medieval period this meant collection of taxes on behalf of the Crown, protection of the City and its inhabitants and later the Corporation came to be responsible for the maintenance of the City, providing under the auspices of the Wide Streets Commission changes to the City scape itself. The Waterford Wide Streets Commissioners were established in 1784 under the Waterford City Police Act which contained provisions in relation to the extension and improvement of he legal process in the courts, the introduction of public lighting, the collection of lamp tax and watch money. The Waterford Wide Street Commissioners removed some of the cogested areas in the City, such as, Royal Oak Lane, Garter Lane and Arundel Lane and changed he layout of the Mall and adjacent streets.

There is a record of Freemen of the City dating from 1700. These are a record of those given Freedom of the City, which in the medieval period consisted of freedom from certain taxes and tolls on trade and recognition of your place in civic life in the City. It could be passed from father to son but not to daughter, however, it could be claimed by a son-in-law or by the new husband of the widow of a freeman. Today, the Freedom of the City can be claimed by those with a direct line of descent to a Freeman and it can be granted by the members of the Council in recognition of great achievement or acclaim, however, it no longer comes with any exemption from taxes or charges.

A Burgess originally meant a freeman or inhabitant of a borough but later came to mean an official of a municipality. There are Burgess Lists for Waterford dating from 1879, 1883, 1887, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892 and 1893. Waterford Corporation had a limited franchise with the right to elect members of the Corporation and to elect the parliamentary representatives for Waterford.

Waterford Corporation became responsible for aspects of public health and as a sanitary authority was responsible for drainage and water works in the city, housing for labourers, roads and other municipal developments. The Corporation acted as a landowner and also purchaser and conveyancer of property and these recods of leases and conveyances are held in the City and Couny Archive as are a large selection of maps, plans and engineering records.

Under the Local Government Act, 2001 the Corporation was titled Waterford City Council. The City Council was responsible for housing and community services, roads and transportation, urban planning and development, amenity and culture and environment.