Limerick City is almost 1,100 years old. It has been a Viking settlement, a medieval walled town, a Georgian city and is now a modern, vibrant metropolitan area with a rich and historic hinterland.
Limerick was founded by the Vikings around 922 AD. The Vikings were great traders and craftsmen and Limerick had contacts with other Viking towns all over Europe.
St Mary’s Cathedral was founded in the eleventh century and remains the oldest building in Limerick still in use for its original purpose.
The Normans captured Limerick in 1195 and left their stamp on the city. King John’s Castle, the walls of Limerick and the local government system they founded, survive to this day.
In 1413 King Henry V granted a charter which made Limerick an independent city-state. The city even had its own foreign policy. In 1524 Limerick and Galway actually went to war which appears to have ended as a draw and was concluded by a formal peace treaty.
In the 1530s, the Tudors brought major changes to Limerick. King Henry VIII broke from Rome and the Pope. This paved the way for Protestantism in Ireland. Henry abolished the monasteries of Ireland and gave their land to loyal supporters. By 1603 the English crown controlled all of Ireland for the first time. Limerick lost most of its medieval independence.
The seventeenth century was the most violent century in Ireland and Limerick’s history. The city endured four terrible sieges in 1642, 1651, 1690 and 1691 as the city was a central stage in the European wars. After the fourth siege, the Treaty of Limerick was signed. Patrick Sarsfield and the other Catholic leaders left Limerick and Ireland. The Flight of the Wild Geese began.
From the 1760s the walls of Limerick were taken down to allow the city to expand. Local landlord and MP Edmund Sexton Pery decided to build a new city on his land to the south of medieval Limerick. In 1769 Christopher Colles produced a plan for this new city based on a grid like formation. The new city was called Newtown Pery after its founder Edmund Sexton Pery.
The nineteenth century was a period of great change. The fire service, gas supply, water supply, social housing, sewerage, public health and first public library were all introduced. Many fine churches and schools were built at this time, including Mary Immaculate College and Limerick School of Ornamental Art (LIT). Limerick’s most famous traditional industries were established including the four bacon factories; flour mills; dairy products ; lace manufacturers and clothing factories.
Limerick took a major part in the events leading to Irish independence. In 1919, it was the scene of a general strike known as the Limerick Soviet when the strike committee ran the city for two weeks. In 1921, two Mayors of Limerick, O’Callaghan and Clancy were shot dead by the Black and Tans.
In 1922, it was besieged during the Civil War. In the past half century, Limerick has become a modern city. The University of Limerick was established in 1972. From the 1970s , many of the traditional industries were replaced by multi-national companies. In 2014 Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council became a single authority.
County Limerick is a very historic and ancient place, with evidence of human settlement dating back 5,000 years. Lough Gur is one of the most important archaeological sites in Ireland, containing the country’s largest stone circle, a dolmen, and other prehistoric remains.
County Limerick as we know it today was created in the 1250s and has many fine medieval monuments. Magnificent castles and abbeys can be seen in the historic towns of Adare, Askeaton, Kilmallock and Newcastle West. Fine nineteeth-century churches are found in Kilmallock, Rathkeale and Ballingarry. With its splendid manor and elegant thatched cottages, Adare is one of Ireland’s most beautiful villages.
Limerick gives its name to “The limerick” a popular five line humorous poem, thought to be derived from the 18th century, Maigue Poets of Croom, Co. Limerick.