Reginald's Tower is a four storey circular tower sitting beside the River Suir in the centre of Waterford. It is reputed to be the oldest civic building in Ireland and was one of the first structures in Ireland to be constructed from brick and mortar. The tower has played a prominent role in Irish history.
The City of Waterford was originally a Viking settlement. Its name derives from the Old Norse word Vedrarfjord meaning 'haven from the wind-swept sea'. It was the Vikings who built the first wall around the town. The Viking ruler Reginald is credited with building the tower here in 1003.
In 1170 Waterford fell to Strongbow (Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke) and his supporters. In 1171 de Clare married Aoife MacMurrough who was the daughter of the Dermot MacMurrough, the deposed King of Leinster.
It was this marriage and Richard de Clare's subsequent position in Ireland that paved the way for Henry II's invasion and seven centuries of English rule.
In 1200 the tower was rebuilt with 3 metre thick walls. The top two storeys have thinner walls and were probably built later. The original entrance was at the second storey level on the west side where there is a spiral staircase.
In 1210 King John I of England visited Reginald's Tower and ordered coins to be struck here. The next royal visit was King Richard II who visited in 1394 and again 1399 shortly before his abdication and capture.
By the middle of the 15th Century the Irish Parliament had established a mint in the tower.
In 1495 Perkin Warbeck and his supporters laid siege to the City of Waterford.
Warbeck was pretending to be Richard of Shrewsbury, son of King Edward IV, and was laying claim to the throne of England. Waterford remained loyal to King Henry VII and repelled the siege. Reginald's Tower was credited with a central role in the defence of the city.
In the 16th Century the tower was converted for use as a munitions store and upgraded with gun embrasures. A door was added on the east side which led to an oval platform or blockhouse with placements for an additional eight guns.
After his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, King James II of England is said to have climbed Reginald's Tower for one last look at his kingdom before heading off for his exile in France.
In the early 19th Century Reginald's Tower was converted again for use as a prison and by the early 20th Century it had been converted again for use as the residence of the Chief Constable of Waterford.
In the 1950s Reginald's Tower was opened to the public for the first time. It is still under the care of Waterford Corporate and the Office of Public Works. Today it functions as a museum and heritage site.
The museum had a range of exhibitions on the history of Waterford and its Viking heritage. Guided tours are available and a typical visit will last about an hour. Also worth a visit is the nearby Medieval Waterford museum which uses live actors to bring Waterford's history to life.
Status: Museum / Heritage Site
Owner: Office of Public Works / Waterford Corporation
Tel: +353 (0) 51 304220
Opening Times: Easter to May Daily 10am-5pm / May to Mid-September Daily 10am-6pm / Mid-September to Easter Wed-Sun 10am-5pm
Looking along the Quay to Reginald's Tower
Close view of the tower