Waterford City Council has plans fo the introduction of Green Routes. Here below is their rationale following their research into what they are and why they deem them to be an urgent transport priority.

Waterford City, like most other urban areas, suffers from traffic congestion as a result of our reliance on the motorcar as our primary means of transport. While new roads – such as the Waterford Bypass – will help reduce the problem on some roads, congestion levels will increase again if alternatives are not provided. This is particularly the case for traffic entering the city centre, where additional road capacity cannot be provided and would be unsustainable even if it could.

Traffic congestion in Waterford City currently results in severe delays to buses. When buses are unreliable, passengers switch to other modes of transport such as the car, thus adding to the congestion – resulting in a vicious circle. Waterford City Council wants to break this cycle by improving the reliability of the city’s bus routes by the construction of Green Routes. in Waterford?

Research and experience have shown that existing and potential bus passengers want:

  • Service punctuality and reliability.
  • Quick journeys at peak times.
  • Good quality shelters and safe stops.
  • Accurate information.

Green Routes address these needs by:

  • Providing more bus shelters and improving the location, lighting, drainage and ease of access to and from bus stops.
  • Providing better and more easily understandable information at bus stops.
  • Helping to keep buses running to time by providing a series of bus priority measures including dedicated bus lanes (where there is sufficient road space); priority at traffic signals for late-running buses; allowing buses to make turns that are prohibited to other traffic; and allowing buses to operate through streets prohibited to other traffic.
  • Providing more and/or improved crossing points for pedestrians to get to and from bus stops safely.
  • Where possible, providing enhancements to the general streetscape, such as better paving and street lighting to improve safety/security, together with other improvements that will benefit pedestrians and cyclists in the communities along the Green Route.

Detailed plans for the Dunmore Road( phase one) Route – from Maypark to The Mall are on display in the foyer of Bishop’s Palace until this Friday, April 4.

I intend to deal with the specifics of the plan next week. If you have any views, let me know.

Matters Grey, Past and Present at Greyfriars

Meanwhile, we take a complete break from such mundane matters as roads, routes and traffic to consider aspects of our ‘grey’ past and present. The grey of which I speak is with a capital G as in Greyfriars. A question asked of me as to the history of this place and the area sent me in search of its story.

This is a very ancient part of the oldest city in the country. People have lived here, trodden its ways, traded and prayed and sought alms and refuge here for over 1,200 years. Today it’s a fine open thoroughfare leading from the Quay to Cathedral Square. One of Waterford’s treasures still stands proud here; indeed, it has conferred its name and character on the area. We speak of course, of the French Church – named for the French Huguenots who were invited to the city in 1693.

The street we see today dates from around 1870 following completion of work by the Wide Street Commissioners, which entailed demolition of French Church Street plus Paul’s Square. An older name again for this street was Holy Ghost Lane where the original Holy Ghost Foundation/hospital was established under the grant and patronage of Henry the Eight – a charitable trust that continues its work down to this very day.

The new name of Greyfriars was used in honour of the old Franciscan foundation which was established here in 1240 by an Anglo-Norman Knight, Hugh Purcell. Grey was then the colour of the Franciscan order. (The Dominicans were known as the Blackfriars- which bestows its name elsewhere). The Friary flourished here – the friars are not too far now from this their original location as even after the ‘dissolution’ they stayed among the people of the area. The Friary established a reputation as a holy place and many miracles were associated with it during the medieval period. Again my guide is Daniel Dowling’s wonder book Waterford Streets Past and Present and he tells us that many of the celebrated Waterford families were buried here, including the Waddings, Lombards, Walshs, Whites and Gavles and in later times members of the Roberts family. Indeed Walter Wadding, father of the famous Luke Wadding, is buried here. So it is extremely appropriate that the latter’s statue now graces this venerable and historic site.

Greyfriars continued its spiritual and temporal ministry for 300 years until its surrender tot he crown, and confiscation in 1540.

The Ghost House Story

The Holy Ghost Hospital Foundation was established here and at other nearby locations and incorporated under a Charter in 1544 to its first Master and Waterford merchant, Henry Walsh. It was to provide shelter and sustenance for at least 60 poor people, both men and women, including ‘the sick and infirm found wandering in the city’. The City Corporation/Council played an important supportive role then and ever since over the centuries. The maintenance and support of the House, or the Ghost House as it was known locally, was mainly derived from rents of lands and other properties. The hospital (in the old meaning of that word) continued here at Greyfriars until 1882 when it was replaced by the imposing building built on its lands on the Cork Road.

Meanwhile, as we have previously alluded to, the Huguenots were invited here in 1693 and as many as 50 families settled in Waterford and were granted the freedom of the city. It was that most influential bishop Dr. Nathaniel Foy, Protestant Bishop of Waterford, who secured and had converted part of the old friary into a church for their use. They continued there until 1815 by which time they had merged with other Protestant congregations in the city.

From Chapel to Gallery

Another denomination which began to flourish in the city from the beginning of the 19th century were the Methodists, it being the faith of many of the ships’ masters whose trade brought them to Waterford. Subsequent to this increasing contact with Waterford a goodly number settled here with their families (attracted by the delights of the Sunny South-East, no doubt!) and their industry brought them prosperity and an esteem in the city. In 1812 they had acquired a lease on a site of part of the Holy Ghost Hospital on which to build a chapel.

Their numbers continued to grow during that century and in 1882 they decided to build a new chapel. They acquired a plot of ground between the back of this chapel and the then French Church Street. The new chapel was designed by a relation of the Denny family who later became known as Sir Thomas Drew and it stands today alongside the ruins of the French Church. It was a late Victorian Church in gothic revival style with a fine façade of rough hewn limestone, with granite dressing and curved features. The central composition of windows is particularly striking.

The new chapel opened in 1885, the preacher of the time being John Powell, one of their most senior men in Ireland. Incidentally Tom Fewer’s excellent book tells of John Wesley’s famous visit to Waterford. Valuable services were rendered during the First World War and the chapel continued to serve its own community. With emigration after the Second War numbers declined with the late 50’s seeing great financial difficulty. The situation was never really reversed and by 1979 the congregation had fallen below twenty it was agreed to bring the Methodists and Presbyterians together in an ‘Alternating Ministry based in the then redundant Church of Ireland, St Patricks on Patrick’s Street. The chapel at Greyfriars was eventually sold to Waterford Corporation in 1989 for £55,000 and was adapted for use as a heritage centre.

Following the opening of Waterford Treasures at the Granary in 1999 it was decided to convert the building to provide a permanent home for the Municipal Art Collection. By the way, Dr. Peter Jordan has produced a magnificent book on that august collection. Nowadays Greyfriars is a very attractive and active art gallery and a great focus for other cultural events. For example, this coming weekend it plays host to a variety of poetry and other readings as well as book launches as part of the very successful Sean Dunne Literary Festival.

Go seachtain eile, slan.