This week we continue the story of the development of the Grand Quays of Waterford to set the scene for the arrival of the Tall Ships.

We discover that in the medieval period the quays were located only on the south side of the Suir, in the area between Turgesius Tower at the mouth of the present Barronstrand Street and Christ Church Lane, later Goose Gate and now Henrietta Street. This was known as the Great Quay as shown on a map of 1673. When the Franciscan friary at Greyfriars was suppressed in 1540, among its properties was a new quay outside its walls. This along with other local property was granted to one David Bailey – I assume Bailey’s New Street is directly related to this name. The 16th century saw further extension along towards Reginald’s Tower. About 1695 we learn that new area of quay was set aside for the landing of wool timber and faggots.

Things moved apace from 1705 and we learn that the modern quay owes its origins to the major developments initiated during the mayoralty of one David Lewis. In that year the demolition of the city wall along the river frontage was commenced which was responsible for the enlargement of the quay and the opening up of the city to the river and about this time too there were further extensions to the west end of the quay.

Quay to Economic Prosperity

Meanwhile, a Mr Graves was seeking to extend further to the east end, an area where that name traded in one form another for a very long time afterwards.

In 1725 it was decided that no thatched cabins were to be built on any part of the new quays, nor on any of the new streets being laid out. In 1738 an additional pier-head was built to provide shelter for ships in bad weather, at the upper end of the quay and this was to be built opposite the new road or Thomas Street as of now.

We go on to learn of the value of all this work and its vital role in the economic prosperity of Waterford: The development and extension of the quay in the 18th century was a major impetus to the growth and prosperity of the city. This reflected on the part of the merchants of the period to take advantage of the economic prospects which were then beginning to emerge, and which were to enhance the growth in trade, and the consequent increase in shipping and portal facilities. Bacon in particular but also butter trade was huge but also the corn trade. This trade was reflected by the large stores which were erected along the western end and also in King’s Street (O’Connell’s). Close to where the Clock Tower stands today there was a thriving fish market, further up near Hanover Street there was great potato and straw/hay markets. Not to far away was the birthplace of Thomas Francis Meagher at where the Granville Hotel is situated. This property became into the ownership of Charles Bianconi and the terminus for his coaching business.

A Glass Apart

What became the world famous Waterford Crystal can be said to owe its origins to the tradition of glass making here on the Quay(New Quay) of the city as George and William Penrose established their first Glass House there in 1793. It moved to what became Glass House along side Anne Street. Moving on quickly to the 20th century, we see that the first portal development was the construction of a deep water jetty in the late 20’s named in honour of Henry Ford who had been Managing Director of HALLS and Chairman of the Harbour Commissioners. But slowly but surely over the course of the 20th century trade gradually declined and that combined with other events the port had long left behind its halcyon days. The portal trade has long moved from the quayside down stream to the modern facilities at Bellvue which is doing well. The William Vincent Wallace Plaza adorns the east side of the Quay and we all look forward to the much promised boulevard -style development along its mile length. Let not the current ‘odious’ plans for the North Wharf blight that prospect! Meanwhile, Waterford’s Quay is a worthy host to the Tall Ships, Failte!