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Beach Tower Restoration

The Beach Tower was officially reopened by the President Mary Robinson on the 26th April 1996. The President was Patron of the Waterford Civic Trust since its inception in 1990.

 

The following year the Beach Tower Restoration Project was chosen, in the Heritage/Environment Category, as a Local Awards Winner in the AIB Better Ireland Awards.

 

This project is a good example of how a small group of local enthusiasts can, by working in cooperation with state agencies, local authorities and private sponsors preserve our heritage and enhance the built environment.

Case Study - Beach Tower Restoration

 

During the medieval period, Waterford was Ireland’s chief importer of wine, and the chief exporters of wool and hides.  The enormous wealth generated by the city’s merchant princes during the medieval period ensured the resources were available for the building and maintenance of the city walls.

 

The Beach Tower with its typical 15th century Irish crenellations is one of the finest mural towers in Waterford.  It was built on a rocky outcrop which forms a natural defensive position. The Tower commands a fine view of the River Suir, and in particular it commands a superb view of the up-river approaches to Waterford. From the upper battlements you can see up river to Granagh Castle.

 

Renovation

 

The Waterford Civic Trust was given permission by Waterford City Council to undertake a major restoration of the Beach Tower located in Jenkins Lane. The first step in this project was to employ Archaeologist Ben Murtagh, to conduct a survey of the tower and to put forward a program of works to be followed to restore the tower in line with best practice conservation techniques.

 

To facilitate the survey, certain other works were carried out on the Tower at the same time.  These included the removal of ivy from building, unblocking of original arrow-loops, and a temporary timber floor was inserted into the second floor chamber.

 

The restoration was divided into three areas.  Phase 1 included the repair of masonry inside the Tower, involving the ground, first and second floor chambers, repair of the stone roof, followed by damp-proofing of the roof, rebuilding of two levels of battlements at the top of the Tower and the insertion of oak floor and stairs.

 

Phase 2 of the project included the restoration of the adjoining city walls, which involved two sections of wall.  The removal of 20th century brick was followed by the repair and conservation of the original masonry.

 

The final phase involved the landscaping and railing-off of a plot of ground that is located on the top of the escarpment adjacent to the tower.

 

Features

 

The lower two storeys of the tower are constructed of local slate quarried from the rocky escarpment the tower was built upon.  The remaining two storeys are constructed of a mixture of shale, old red limestone, conglomerate and grey carboniferous limestone.  Dressed grey limestone was used for the construction of the window loops and doorways.

 

 

  • A pointed barrel vault supports the upper floors.  Wicker frames were constructed first, to support the stonework until it set.  This was a common feature in the construction of towers. Impressions of this wicker frame can still be seen on the underside of the vault.

 

  • Arrow-loops – narrow openings which enable defenders to launch arrows at potential attackers from inside the tower.

 

  • Stirrup-loops – on the ground storey is a tall stirrup-loop.  Stirrup-loops resemble arrow-loops, having a round opening added to accommodate firearms after the invention of guns and gunpowder.

       

  • Mural stairway – built into the inner walls of the tower, this stairway gives access to the battlements, thereby strengthening the defences.
     

  • Stepped crenellations – a typical Irish feature of the 15th century, these were restored, and can be seen at the top of the parapets.
     

 

Summary

 

The Beach Tower was officially reopened by President Mary Robinson on the 26th April 1996.  The President was Patron of the Waterford Civic Trust since its inception in 1990.

 

The following year the Beach Tower Restoration Project was chosen, in the Heritage/Environment Category, as a Local Awards Winner in the AIB Better Ireland Awards.

 

This project is a good example of how a small group of local enthusiasts can, by working in cooperation with state agencies, local authorities and private sponsors; preserve our heritage and enhance the built environment.

 

Waterford Civic Trust is most grateful for the grants which enabled the project to be undertaken.  Approximately half of the restoration costs were raised locally.  Through the efforts of the Civic Trust, a number of local firms, merchants and business people rose magnificently to the occasion, and through their sponsorship it was possible to complete the project.