This week we look back at the history of one Waterford’s oldest streets – John’s Street. This item always proves popular with regular readers and my guide as usual is the wonderful tome by Daniel Dowling of Waterford Streets, Past and Present, one of my favourite books.

Over the past 10 to 20 years the place has developed as Waterford’s entertainment strip with an increasing concentration of the popular pubs and nightclubs there, even though some of these felt the chill winds of the recession in recent times- a whole new meaning to ‘chilling out’ I suppose, not to mention the attendant travails of all these northern winds. Anyway, let’s move on with our story of this ancient way.

It’s located in the centre of the parish of St John’s Within and leads southwards from its junction with Michael Street at the Applemarket and terminates at John’s Bridge. This is a street of great antiquity, probably dating from the early Anglo-Norman period and has been mentioned in the records as early as 1302. For centuries it was one of the principal highways through which travellers entered and left the city and was part of the main route to the Corporation’s out-port at Passage, via Johnstown and John’s Hill. Formerly known as Saint John’s Street, it derived its name from the parish in which it is situated which in turn owes its origin to the Benedictine priory of St John the Evangelist near Closegate. That religious house was endowed by King John in 1185 or Prince John as he then was when he visited Waterford that year. Indeed, this is the origin of all the John associated place names in the area.

In 1641 the largest owner of property in this street was Thomas Wyse and other owners of the time were The Cathedral Dean and Chapter, Sir Thomas Sherlock, John Neale, Peter Dobin, Theo Porter, Thomas Wadding and the Earl of Ormond.

Pigs at Large

In 1663, according to the Civil Survey there was situated on this street seven tanning establishments, four malt houses, a kiln house which was used in the process of tanning. The Applemarket area has been used as a general market area over the years is considered to be within the bounds of this street and indeed has its own story to tell since its establishment in 1824 – like other triangular sites around town this space resulted from clearancess by the Wide Streets Commission of the time.

On the 2nd of February 1788 the following notice appeared in a local newspaper: “ All the inhabitants of St John’s Street) except those who keep pigs) request the Chief Magistrate will by some mode protect them from the danger of their children being devoured by these animal sand themselves from such filthy nuisances as a source of pigs and upwards are prowling in that street every day to the annoyance of decent people, and reproach of the police of so great a city as Waterford”.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries John Street was thickly populated with weavers and their workers – there’s an inspiration for a pub name!. An advertisement in 1807 mentions a Pearson’s machine worsted manufactory here, as well there was basket making and even a clay pipe factory – all adding up to being a hive of activity. Well what’s changed then?

The large house on the east side of John’s Avenue was in the late-18th century the town house of the Congreves of Mount Congreve and later the Morris family. Later this building was to become a classical school founded by Rev. Thomas Flynn PP of St Michael’s. In 1814 it became a boarding school conducted by a Miss Boyle.

Afterwards it was an orphanage run by the Trinitarian Society. In 1860 it was the headquarters of the local CYMS and later a printing works and then an auctioneer’s premises. Into the 20th century it was a polish factory then Irish Radium products. In my time I remember it being an amusement arcade, furniture emporium and currently a big lively pub. In 1850 there were 59 houses in the street- mainly in the parish of St John and a few more in St Michael’s.

The Applemarket

As its name implies it was, for well over a century the market place for apples in the city. Some of the crop was then locally produced including from city orchards. The bulk of the apples came from the Piltown area where numerous orchards at that time. The market area was laid out in 1824 following the demolition of the once teeming buildings there. In 1833/34 the Corporation carried out further works to enhance this new market place. Interestingly to learn that in Leahy’s map and survey 1831/2 the are was shown as “The Car Stand” and in the OS map of 1909 was shown as Trinity Square. It was also known as John’s Square.

Today the area is most associated with pulsating nightlife with some of the city’s busiest pubs and various eateries and as such has been naturally dubbed Waterford’s entertainment Strip. Consequently it is a focal point for taxi services, indeed the aforementioned Applemarket now serves as a holding area/ car stand for the taxis especially in the evening and into wee small hours. Speaking of which, taxi services that is, and in accordance with the column’s policy of supporting local business a word of praise for newcomers on the block Ardkeen Taxis who aim to provide a first class service at very competitive rates with great price deals for the Dunmore Road area in particular but city wide too- The best of luck to Shane and his team.

Go Seachtain Eile, Slan.