The priory has played its part in the history of Waterford since the 12th century. Possibly founded by Prince John, later King John of England, it began life as a Benedictine priory in the 12th century. It was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and the church served the people living in the Johnstown area, which was considered the suburbs of the city in the middle ages.
It flourished until 1537 when King Henry VIII of England decided as part of his reformation of the church to close the monasteries. As with almost all of the closed monasteries, its land and buildings were presented to local loyal supporters of the king. in the case of St Johns Priory the land was given to William Wyse, making him a substantial land owner and the family as the Wyses of the Manor of St. John. This site was the Wyse family’s place of burial for a number of centuries. a number of their headstones remain in good condition and many of these are displayed along the refurbished wall within Wyse Park.
Saint Johns Priory Project
The project in St John's Priory and Wyse Park was started in 2008 funded by Solas and Waterford City Council. Its twin objectives is to train students in heritage stonebuilding and to contibute to the preservation and improvement of our built heritage.
It is managed by WCT and the students who usually undertake a 44 week training programme to learn stone building skills under the tutilage of a Master Stone Mason. As part of this training, work is also completed on heritage projects, such as the repair of the city walls, stone wall reconstruction and other jobs that contribute greatly to the City.
So far, the project has rebuilt walls around Wyse Park, preserved and secured ancient gravestones and laid new paving in that area. Other works have also been undertaken to repair the City walls and the Beech Tower.
The current phase of the project will rebuild the arch in St John's Priory and it will take up to twelve months to complete. The arch which was part of the 12th century Benedictine monastery was removed in the 19th century. Considerable research and planning has gone into the design and detailing of the replacement arch. All this work is done under the direct supervision of a master Stonemason and Conservation Authorities.
Funding of this Local Training Initiative is provided by Waterford Wexford ETB and Waterford City & County Council. The initiative is regularly auditted to ensure that students derive the best outcomes.
Further thanks is due to The Regional Youth Servcie who continue to support our training efforts and in no small way contibute to enhancing Waterford's rich and diverse heritage.
The Stone boat in Passage East was built by the trainees on the St John's Priory project in 2013. The boat was made as a contribution to the local community.