Limerick Docks lie on the southern shores of the River Shannon about 11 kilometers inland from the Shannon Estuary. Limerick is the county seat of County Limerick and part of the Cork-Limerick-Galway urban corridor that is home to about a million people. The city is divided into three main sections: English Town on King’s Island, Irish Town, and Newtown Pery. The city’s ancient center is English Town, and Newtown Pery contains most of the busiest modern streets. Navigation from the Atlantic Ocean to the Limerick Docks comes through a canal, and quays lie on both sides of the river. In 2006, over 52 thousand people lived in the city proper.
Fishing and agriculture are the traditional mainstays of the Limerick Docks economy and its major exports. The city is the center of the Shannon salmon fisheries. Another traditional industry since the 1830s is the production of machine-made net, Limerick lace that looks like real lace. Modern industries include computers and electronics. Tourism is also important to the local economy.
The Norse destroyed an earlier settlement on the site of Limerick Docks in the early 9th Century, and the city of Limerick is known to have been a Viking settlement as early as 812 AD. They made Limerick a principal town in their Kingdom of Limerick in 922, using it as a base to attack monasteries in the area.
At the end of the 10th Century, Brian Boru, an Irish hero, drove the Norse out of the area. From 1106 until 1174, Limerick Docks was the seat for the kings of Thomond. Normans controlled the town by the 12th Century, building most of the city’s best historic architecture. In 1197, King John gave the city to Norman William de Burgh. De Burgh established English Town and built King John’s Castle on King’s Island. In the 15th Century, the fortifications were expanded to take in Irish Town, making Limerick one of the kingdom’s strongest fortresses.
Limerick received city status in 1609, and a society of merchants was incorporated.
During the 17th Century civil wars, Limerick Docks was besieged by Oliver Cromwell’s forces and William of Orange’s armies. The famous Treaty Stone was used to sign the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 between opponents and supporters of William of Orange
During the late 18th Century, Limerick Docks became rich from trade. However, the 1800 merger of Ireland into Great Britain and the terrible Irish Famine of the 1830s brought economic decay that lasted until the late 20th Century. In the 19th Century, railways came to Limerick Docks, connecting the city with Dublin, Cork, and Waterford and making the city a regional communications center.
Today, King’s Island is the historic center of Ireland’s third largest urban area, and Limerick is the cultural, commercial, and industrial center of mid-west Ireland. The city’s skyline has changed dramatically in the past decades with the addition of Ireland’s tallest hotel (The Clarion) and the River Point development. Current developments include a new Opera Centre and a possible Arthur’s Quay Park. The city has announced the largest Regeneration Plan in Ireland for remodeling and pedestrianizing the city center.