A castle has stood on this site since the medieval period. The owners, the Fitzgeralds were a Norman aristocratic family, and had arrived in Ireland as part of the Norman conquest of the twelfth century. A small Norman style keep was built on the island, but this was abandoned by the sixteenth century. It seems it remained in a state dereliction until the nineteenth century, when the castle we now have today took its form. The then owner, John Fitzgerald, carried out the initial restoration in 1849, which was enhanced in the 1870s and 90s by Gerald Purcell-Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald employed the English architect W.H. Romaine-Walker (1854-1940) to oversee the restoration.
The image above shows the castle as it essentially looks today. The wings to the east and west of the central section were added as part of the nineteenth century restoration. The central section contained the remaining traces of the original Norman keep, which were harmoniously adapted with the new designs. The 'new' castle did not have a polished stone exterior like many of the neo-Gothic buildings erected in the period, but rather an unrefined stone finish, giving it more of a 'medieval' feeling than many of its contemporaries enjoyed. Battlements, crenelations, and even gargoyles were included to add 'authenticity'.
Waterford Castle sits peacefully on Little Island. The island measures just over 400 acres, and is located on the River Suir, less than five kilometers downstream from the city's bustling quays. The island remained in the hands of the Fitzgeralds for centuries, until the twentieth century, when it was bought by a family from Rhodesia, the Igos in 1958. They transformed the island into a horticultural centre, erecting large glass houses, growing flowers and crops. The island then became a dairy farm before eventually being turned into a luxury hotel in 1987. Much of the island is now in use as an eighteen hole golf course.
The Fitzgerald family at the castle's main entrance
The image above shows a small steamboat transporting the family to the island. In more recent years a car ferry now brings residents and golfers across the channel.