The original entrance to Reginald’s Tower was at the rear of the building, inside the town walls. The present entrance doorway was added in the 1590s as seen in this map to allow access to a blockhouse, a small stone fort to hold cannon that was built outside the tower and into the river. The fort was demolished in 1704.
In 1819 the tower was used as a prison and the secure iron door that we see today in the present entrance, was installed.
Between 1819 and 1850 Reginald’s Tower was used as a prison for petty criminals as well as for those arrested for drunkenness.
The last prisoner in Reginald’s Tower was Meg Collender who was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment here for being drunk and disorderly in 1850. It was revealed at her court appearance that she had been confined in Reginald’s Tower for the same offence on over 150 previous occasions!
In the early 19th century there was an acute shortage of prison spaces for petty criminals in Waterford and in July 1819 Waterford City Council decided to fit out Reginald's Tower as a prison. It was used to detain those convicted and sentenced to short periods of detention for petty crimes and was also used as a 'lock-up' for anyone arrested for being drunk in public. The bars that can be seen on the outside of some of the windows today date from this period. The windows on the ground floor were blocked up completely.
Living conditions for the prisoners were very grim. The tower was dark, very cold and very damp. The tower could be very overcrowded at times with little or no privacy. The food served to the prisoners was truly appalling. In 1837 an inquest was held into the death of one of the prisoners in the tower and the verdict was pretty damning. The attention of Waterford City Council was drawn to the extremely improper condition of Reginald's Tower for the lodgement of prisoners. The utter bareness and discomfort of its few apartments was condemned and the stench was reported as the most insalubrious that can be imagined.
In February 1848 it was so cold in the tower that the City Council decided to buy rugs for the prisoners in order to prevent them freezing to death at night.
Both men and wemon were confined in Reginald's Tower - although they were strictly segregated! The women occupied the top floor which was called the 'Ball Room', because the women held there were in the habit of indulging in jigs, reels and country dances to while away the tedious hours, much to the annoyance of the men confined on the floor below!
Waterford City Council finally decided to close Reginald's Tower as a prison and lock up from the 1 January 1851.
Reginald's Tower then became the official residence of the High Constable of Waterford. The very last High Constable of the city was James O’Mahony who died in this tower in 1901.