Ryland: The History, Topography and Antiquities of the County and City of Waterford

Pdf Ryland, R.H. The history, topography and antiquities of the county and city of Waterford. London: John Murray, 1824.
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The History, Topography and Antiquities Of The County And City Of Waterford by Reverend Richard Hopkins Ryland (1788-1866) was published in 1824. Ryland describes the history of the region from ancient times until the early 19th century, its mountains and coastline, its prehistoric and medieval ruins and the city of Waterford .

County Waterford or Phort Láirge is a southern coastal county bordered by counties Cork , Tipperary , Kilkenny and Wexford, situated between the River Blackwater and Youghal Bay to the west and Waterford Harbour to the east. The Knockmealdown Mountains and the River Suir form the northern boundary while the Comeragh Mountains divide the region roughly into western and eastern portions. The highest peak is the 2,605 ft summit also called Knockmealdown. The region was popular in the early 19th century for its natural beauty and early tourists to the region were the wealthy and middle classes who sought sanctuary from the increasingly industrialised cities of Britain .

The most important towns in County Waterford are Ardmore , Dungarvan, Lismore, Cappoquin, Tramore, Dunmore East and Waterford City . There are numerous beaches along its coastline which was also known as a copper mining region. In the 21st century a small area around Ring remains a Gaeltacht region but the Irish language or Gaelige was spoken more widely throughout County Waterford during the early 19th century.

Stone Age people built tombs at Gaulstown, Knockeen and Matthewstown demonstrating there was a sophisticated civilisation in Waterford for thousands of years before recorded history. Numerous ring forts and ogham stones such as one example at Kiltera are evidence of the presence of Gaelic tribes including the powerful Whelan clan who controlled the region unchallenged until the 8th century. Monastic ruins and a round tower of Ardmore show that Christianity thrived in County Waterford after the arrival of St. Patrick. Monks from Ardmore and other Irish monasteries are credited with converting pagan barbarian tribes who invaded Europe during the collapse of the Roman Empire .

Viking raiders established a series of settlements on the mouth of the Suir which later became the city of Waterford . From the 12th century the Norman conquerors turned the city of Waterford into a fortified medieval town and built castles throughout the county. Reginald's tower is an impressive remnant of these defenses in Waterford city. In time the Gaelic chiefs built their own stone tower houses. The ruins of these fortifications testify to the religious warfare of the 16th and 17th centuries. Power was transferred from the Catholic Gaelic Irish chiefs and Old English descendants of the Norman conquerors to an Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy.

Medieval orders such as the Augustinians, Cistercians, Dominicans and the Knights Templar established monasteries at Dungarvan, Lismore, Molana, Mothel, Mount Melleray , Rincrew and Waterford . They thrived until the 16th century when they were dissolved and destroyed by King Henry VIII, the first Protestant King of England .

By 1824 when Ryland wrote his book, Waterford County was controlled by a series of landowning dynasties such as the Cavendishes who were Dukes of Devonshire and owned Lismore Castle and the Talbots who were Earls of Waterford. They were the ancestors of the Protestant victors in the wars of the 17th century. The majority of the population were Gaelic Irish tenants and peasant farmers who lived in wretched poverty and were dependent on the potato. They paid exorbitant rents to their feudal landlords and tithes to the established Anglican Church.

In 1824 the last vestiges of the Penal Laws were being repealed culminating in Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Tithes would not be abolished until 1863. Twenty years after Ryland wrote his book the Great Irish Potato Famine would claim the lives of about one million Irish, causing a million more to emigrate and the Gaelic language to decline dramatically.

The late 18th century had seen the most prosperous period in the history of the city of Waterford . Medieval streets and buildings were replaced by impressive Georgian architecture as glass making and shipbuilding thrived. However following the Act of Union 1800 and the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Irish economy went into a downward spiral. While British cities industrialised, Ireland remained an agricultural societies while many of the educated Protestant middle classes left. During the Great Irish Famine the population of Waterford surged as the rural poor took refuge in the city.

Reverend Richard Hopkins Ryland was born in 1788 the descendant of 16th Protestant planters who settled in Dungarvan. Generations of the family were Church of Ireland ministers. Rev. Ryland married Isabella Julia Fleury the daughter of the Archdeacon of Waterford and the couple had six sons and two daughters. His best known historical work was The History, Topography and Antiquities Of The County And City Of Waterford which was dedicated to the Duke of Devonshire while he also published religious pamphlets. He died in 1866 and his wife Isabella Julia followed him in 1873.

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