During investigations in advance of the N25 Waterford City Bypass in 2003, an archaeological site was discovered just outside Waterford City at Woodstown. Further surveys and targeted excavation revealed the remains to be a Viking settlement known as a longphort, that dates between AD. 850–950.
Though only a small percentage of the site was investigated, archaeologists identified the remains of the large enclosing ditches that once protected the settlement, along with evidence for trade, craft, industry and everyday life. They also found a Viking grave, where a warrior had been laid to rest along with their sword, spear, axe, shield and other high status objects.
Woodstown is one of the most important Viking settlements found outside Scandinavia. Today it is bordered by the popular Waterford Greenway, though as the Vikings built their settlement out of wood rather than stone, there is nothing to be seen now of this important monument above the surface of the ground.
To highlight this nationally important monument, Waterford City and County Council have installed a new panel to mark the site, and to inform those on the Greenway about the incredible story that lies under the quiet pastureland they pass by. The panel was designed by Neil Jackman and Sara Nylund of Abarta Heritage, and it is made from enamelled lava-stone with a weathered cor-ten steel base from Empreinte in France. Funding for the panel was provided through the Creative Ireland programme and the project is an action of the Woodstown Viking Site Conservation Management Plan published in 2020.
The innovative design is inspired by Viking rune stones. The original rune stones are found in Scandinavia, and were usually erected in memory of the dead and recounted their life and deeds. They were often brightly coloured as they were intended to be highly visible. The stones are usually found on busy routeways where many people passed by. So the placement of Ireland’s first runestone next to the popular Waterford Greenway is particularly appropriate.
The colour palette and illustrations on the panel are all designed to reflect Viking culture at the time that the settlement at Woodstown was founded. Information about the site is provided in both Irish and English, and a band of Old Norse runic script around the edge recreates a first-hand account of life at Woodstown from a Viking perspective. Translated into English it reads:
“This was our home. We lived here, traded here and worked the land. This was our base alongside the broad river, balanced between Irish kingdoms. This is where we buried our dead. This was a place of noise, laughter, commerce and industry. It is now silent.”
You can find the panel between the Carriganore and section Kilotteran of the Greenway.