• Tuesday , 12 December 2017

Vanished Waterford (Part II) – Bishop Foy’s School

Part II of Vanished Waterford continues in a similar vein by focusing on the space of land situated on ‘the Mall’ in the former medieval city. Today we recognise this site as the new home of the Waterford Crystal workshop and showrooms, and as a generably favourable addition amongst the most recent major redevelopments within the city. Throughout the last century this site in particular has undergone many architectural transformations. Due to its situation just outside the medieval walls, the area remained as marshlands until the 17th century when it was infilled. Soil was then introduced to create ground to be used as gardens. It remained like this throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bishop Foy's School 16th June 1910 (Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland).

Bishop Foy’s School 16th June 1910 (Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland).

Bishop Foy’s School was one of the first major developments built on the site at the turn of the 20th century. It moved to the Mall from the outer edges of the city. The school was originally conceived as a Protestant vocational school. The beautiful limestone facade was styled in a unique Neo-Classical form, built by the local firm of Patrick Costen, where it sat proudly amongst its Georgian counterparts.1 The elegant Bishop’s Palace was also acquired by the school as accommodation for boarders. The school eventually closed down in 1967 due to the declining Protestant population and subsequently demolished to make way for state-of-the-art office headquarters for the ESB.

ESB Offices: During its prime (photographer unknown) and later in 2009 before redevelopment (image courtesy of Waterford City Council).

ESB Offices: During its prime (photographer unknown) and later in 2009 before redevelopment (image courtesy of Waterford City Council).

Designed by local firm C. Harvey Jacob & Associates (so local that they only lived next door), the new offices were reminiscent of the international style, the regularly gridded intervals of glass and steel almost imitated a miniature Seagram building. The architecture was a noticeably modern intervention for the time and (as a city-centre, infill office block) followed a similar development pattern as was happening elsewhere in the country during this period.

The offices were eventually vacant by the early 2000s and were left to decay for a number of years. Being on a street which held such prominence in Waterford’s history it became an architectural white elephant. Some colourfully painted hoarding and large trees attempted to hide the worst parts from the general public. The building quickly stagnated by the turn of the new century due to lack of maintenance.

The Menapia Building: March 2015 (photo by author).

The Menapia Building: March 2015 (photo by author).

The final and most recent iteration arrived with the introduction of the Viking Triangle, which brought huge redevelopment to that part of the city, the ESB building included. The demolition of a useable structure was avoided as Waterford City Architects chose to revamp the existing. The building known as “The Menapia” has now become the new home for Waterford Crystal, complete with showrooms and adjoining workshop. Offices for City Council departments occupy the upper levels.

With these changes, the Mall has been given new life, represented now by an additional layer of 21st century design. The Menapia building is an example of a neglected structure adapted to changing needs and environmental measures without resorting to full-scale reconstruction.

 

1 Ó Ceallacháin, D (2007) Decies No. 63; Bishop Foy’s School Waterford, 1707 – 1967, Journal of the Old Waterford Society, pg. 101

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