The origins of crystal production in Waterford date back to the 18th century and the industry once provided more than 3,000 jobs in the famous city. So when the Waterford Crystal manufacturing facility closed down in 2009, it hit the Southern and Eastern region of Ireland hard.
Over 600 jobs were lost and the negative impact on tourism was felt throughout the entire region. In the aftermath of the closure, the European Commission approved an application from Ireland for assistance from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF). A grant of over €2.5 million was allocated to help the most disadvantaged 598 redundant workers in the crystal glass industry to find new jobs.
However, it was still unthinkable that Waterford would lose its hard earned reputation as a producer of the finest crystal in the world, so Waterford City Council responded by developing a plan to re-establish a crystal manufacturing and visitor centre in the city of Waterford.
How ERDF funding helped find a new home for Waterford Crystal
The tradition and quality of craftsmanship, as well as the excellent reputation, were already in place, and the EU’s Regional Development Fund was there to help with the cost. The project involved the refurbishment of a collection of adjoining buildings into the crystal manufacturing and visitor centre, which included a retail outlet.
One of the refurbished buildings was a protected structure and needed particular care but its conversion enhanced the industrial character of what was previously a humble granary. Two low headroom floors were removed creating large, airy gallery spaces and as the new centre was right in the heart of Waterford City, it was crucial adequate parking be provided for visitors.
Waterford Crystal was opened to the public in June 2010, just 18 months after the factory had closed, and visitor numbers to the centre reached a very successful 70,000 in its first year.
There has also been a positive knock-on effect on other businesses in the region and Waterford is once again a major centre for quality crystal.
Now, visitors can learn about the history of crystal making in the town and see it being made as they pass through rooms showing the different steps such as blowing, moulding, cutting, sculpting and engraving.
The House of Waterford Crystal project had a total cost of €5,520,000, with the EU’s Regional Development Fund contributing €2,760 000 through the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Regional Operational Programme 2007-13.