Reginald’s Tower is Waterford’s landmark monument and Ireland’s oldest civic building. It has been in continuous use for over 800 years. The first tower on the site was built by Vikings after 914 and formed the apex of the triangular settlement, an area known to this day as the Viking Triangle. Re-built by the Anglo Normans in the 12th century the top two floors were added in the 15th century. Until about 1700 the tower was the strongpoint of the medieval defensive walls that enclosed the city. The tower now houses an exhibition on Viking Waterford and is managed by the Office of Public Works.
At various stages in its rich history, Reginald’s Tower has been used as a mint, prison and military store.
When the Anglo-Normans attacked Waterford in 1170, the tower was of strategic importance and its capture heralded the fall of the city. The tower derives its name from the Hiberno-Norse, (Irish-Viking) ruler of the city Ragnall MacGillemaire, who was held prisoner by the Anglo-Normans in the tower.
Reginald’s Tower was also where Strongbow, the leader of the Anglo-Norman invasion force, met Aoife, the daughter of Dermot Mc Murrough, King of Leinster. Their marriage was to change the course of Irish history forever.
In later centuries, the Tower took on the functions of a royal castle. King John visited the tower in 1210 and ordered new coins to be struck here. Richard II visited the tower in 1394 and again in 1399. On 27 July 1399 Richard left Reginald's Tower as King of England and Wales, on his arrival in England he was captured by the future Henry VI and forced to abdicate.
In 1463, the Irish Parliament established a mint in the tower. In 1495, the tower’s cannons successfully deterred the forces of Perkin Warbeck, the pretender to the throne of Henry VII. This act of loyalty earned the city its motto "Urbs Intacta Manet" - "Waterford remains the unconquered city".
In 1690 following his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, King James II of England is alleged to have climbed to the top of the tower to take a last look at his lost kingdom before embarking for exile in France.
During the 17th and 18th centuries the Tower was used as a store for munitions and in the early 19th century it functioned as a prison. In the late 19th and first half of the twentieth century it became the residence of the Chief Constable of Waterford. The Tower was opened to the public for the first time in the 1950s.