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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow Poor Law Union

The Early Years

Written by Sean O'Shea and previously published in CARLOVIANA December 2003. No. 52. Pages 28 to 35.

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9th. April. 1851
Original Building 936
Auxiliary Workhouse at brewery 519
do at Foundary 308
do at Mill Lane 33
do at Distillery 167
do at Dunne's Stores 127
do at Starch Yard 167
do at Monacurragh 88
Barrow Fever Hospital 207
Doonane              do 56
Bagenalstown      do 40
Tullow                 do 25
Total  2661

However by September 1851, the worst of the cholera and famine was over. Doonane Fever Hospital was closed, with patients accommodated in the Carlow Hospital. The Guardians had under consideration the closing of a number of auxiliary hospitals, but with applicants still seeking admission had to defer taking this action.

Towards the end of 1851 the Medical Charities Act, was passed which expanded the work of the Guardians by transferring full responsibility of the dispensary system to them. There were eight dispensary districts in the Union namely:- Tullow, Borris, Ballickmoyler, Newtown, Fenagh and Myshall, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown and Carlow.

During the next couple of years, as social conditions became more normal, the number of workhouse inmates, particularly the adult population greatly reduced. Inmates "under the class properly fitted" and approved by the emigration inspector Charles F. Crawford were offered passage paid and financial help by the Guardians to emigrate. A considerable number availed of the offer and emigrated to Canada and America, which also helped to reduce the population of the workhouse. The Brewery and Mill Lane Auxiliaries were dosed in 1852 with Dunns Stores (Graiguecullen) and the Distillery closed in 1853. At Mid August 1853 the following report sets out the State of the Workhouse and Fever Hospitals.


Original Building 799
Auxiliary Workhouse at Foundry 68
do at Starch Yard 140
do at Monacurragh 85
Barrow Fever Hospital  2
Bagenalstown      do 8
Tullow                   do 16
Total  1118

The Starch Yard Auxiliary was closed early in 1854, with inmates transferred to the Barrow Fever Hospital, which had few patients at the time. In April that year there were 146 inmates in the Barrow Fever Hospital, 95 inmates in the Foundary. and 80 inmates in Monacurragh Auxiliary. Monacurragh Auxiliary had been established in or around June 1850. Inmates farmed the land adjoining, under the supervision of Patrick Darragh, Agriculturist, and supplied vegetables to the work house and other Auxiliaries. Official report published in May 1855 by the House of Commons gives the following information relating to the Carlow Union:

In 1853 the number relieved in-door was 3924, out-door 76.

In 1854 the number relieved in-door was 2946, out-door 74.

The Foundary Auxiliary was closed in early 1855,. despite evident of Distress, particularly in Carlow. Tullow and Bagenalstown. However, by late 1855, with improved conditions. Monacurra. Auxiliary and the Barrow Hospital were also closed.

As the century progressed, additional powers were vested in Boards of Guardians, which were considered inappropriate to entrust to the Grand Juries, since these bodies met only twice yearly. With the coming of Modern Public Health Legislation, the Guardians were made the Custodians of Burial Grounds in the Rural District and accountable for the Registration of Births and Deaths (1865 Under Sanitary legislation they became responsible for the provision and maintenance of sewers; for the construction of water works supply of water, and the enforcement of law relating to Public in the Rural District. The Guardians became Rural Sanitary Authorities under the Public Health Act 1878.

Under the Local Government Act 1898, Rural District Councils were established and assigned the Rural Sanitary Functions of the Board of Guardians and the Guardians Power to Levy the Poor Rate was transferred to the County Councils. These changes resulted in Boards of Guardians being now confined to Poor (including Medical) Relief, the purpose for which they were originally established.

The Boards of Guardians survived for another quarter of a century until abolished under the Act of 1923. Poor Relief was then administrated by County Councils through Boards of Health and Pubic Assistance.

The Genesis of elected local representatives had its roots in Boards of Guardians and existing Local Government and Health Board structures can trace their origins to those initiated by Guardians. During a period of untold hardship and in wretched conditions, the Guardians laid the foundation of an organised procedural system in the face of inconceivable odds, famine, fever, financial, administrative and staff problems. While history shows that the system was not perfect, it is unlikely that any group of Public representatives since that time, have had to grapple with the enormity of the task of dealing with the reality of life and death on a continuous basis. They did not spare themselves in the efforts to cope with the problem and without recompense met each week in an endeavour to provide a solution to the predicament that confronted them. For that they deserve some recognition.

To The Editor Of The Carlow Sentinel

Dear Sir - The following short statistical report of the mortality from Cholera in this town, which probably suffered more than any other of the same class in the British Dominion, has been laid before the Board of Guardians for this Union.

Total admissions to the Cholera Hospital, 395; in July - 4, in August - 114. September - 250, October-  27.

Taking the population at the last census-

Carlow lost 5%,                  or 1 in 20 from Cholera in 3 months

Graigue lost 1.25%             or 1 in 84            do              do

London (pop. 2 mil) 0.7%     or 1 in 139          do      in 12 months

As epidemics occasionally visit this locality with some severity, it is peculiarly necessary for those who have the power to attend the sanitary improvement of the town. Private individuals have been doing much in this way, by filling the quarry holes on the Dublin Road, where the Cholera raged with great violence, in fact, commenced as an epidemic. Much money has also been granted for the sewerage of the town, from which it is hoped all the benefit, intended by the rate payers, may be derived.

As an instance of the evil effects from the stagnant water near the dwellings of the poor, attention may be directed to Lowery's Lane, Tullow Street, in which were 12 fatal cases of Asiatic Cholera.

Some localities favourable to the generation, reception, and spread of disease, no doubt, may at times be unvisited by a prevailing epidemic; but such are exceptions to a general rule.

In conclusion, I beg, on the part of the public, to return sincere thanks to the Guardians of the Union, for unhesitatingly granting every assistance necessary for the care of treatment of those attacked, or likely to be attacked with the awful disease here noticed.

I remain, Dear Sir,
Yours &c.,
Shewbridge Connor, M.D


No. of fatal cases in and from the respective localities.

25        Workhouses and auxiliaries
70        Tullow-street 58, Lowry's Lane 12
50        Staplestown Road (Closh)
37        Pollerton Road
32        Barrack-street 29, Gallipot 3
14        Hanover-bridge and road
14        Green-lane
34        Bridewell Lane 27, Scragg's Alley 7
11        Potato-market 6, Cockpit-lane 5
24        Chapel Lane  19, School-lane 5
21        Browne-street 7, Charlotte-street 8, M'Guinness's-lane  6
27        Quarries, Dublin-road 21, Bernard's-lane 3, Kenny's-lane 3
13        Dublin-street.
15        Castle-hill 11, Coal-market 4.
13        Mill-lane 8, Castle-street 5
17        Burren-street 8, Granby-row 8, New-street 1
10        Water and Grave Lanes, Montgomery & Centaur-streets, Strawhall  2 each.
5          Barrow Hospital 2, County Fever Hospital 3 (matron and 2 nurses)
6          Carlow 4, Wexford 2, (locality or lodging not known)
2          John-street 1, Clarke's-lane 1.
5          Paupish, Kilkenny-road, Newgarden, Tinryland, Burton-hall.
4          Prumplestown, Ballymoon, (Kildare), Arles, Ballyfoyle (Queen's) 1 each.
23        Graigue

Dead Males Females Total
In Hospital 97 132 229
Out Hospital 111 127 238
Total 208 259 467 438 Inhabitants of Carlow died

Died under 10 years of age 103
Above 63 19
Average age of the fatal cases nearly 31

No. of Inhabitants died:
20 Graigue
9 Co. Carlow
5 Kildare 
2 Queen's

Carlow Board of Guardians - Minute Books
The Carlow sentinel
Roche: Local Government in Ireland
Keane: Law of Local Government in Republic of Ireland
Carloviana: Journal of the Carlow Historical and Archaeological Society.
Ireland since the Famine F.S. L. Lyons
The Carlow Sentinel, 24th. November, 1849

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