Cavan, Co. Cavan

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Cavan Poor Law Union was formally declared on 27th November 1839, and covered an area of 279 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 30 in number, representing its 23 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Cavan: Arvagh, Ballyconnell (2), Ballyhaise (2), Ballymachugh, Bellintemple, Belturbet (2), Butlersbridge, Cavan (3), Crossdoney, Crosskeys, Denn, Derrylane, Drumlane (2), Kilconny (2), Kildallan, Kill, Killashandra, Killycrone, Killykeen, Kilualeck, Newsun, Redhills, Stradone.

The Board also included 10 ex officio Guardians, making a total of 40. The Guardians met each week on Tusday.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 83,604 with Divisions ranging in size from Kildallan (population 2,211) to Cavan itself (7,030).

The new workhouse, built in 1841-2, was designed by George Wilkinson. It occupied a nine-acre site a mile to the north of CavCavan town. It could accommodate 1,200 inmates, making it Ulster's largest workhouse. The cost of the building was £10,500 plus £2,000 for fixtures and fittings etc. It was declared fit for the admission of paupers on 26th March 1842, and admitted its first inmates just under three months later on the 17th June. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1912 map below.

Cootehill workhouse site, 1912.

The workhouse followed one of Wilkinson's standard designs, with a front block housing receiving rooms on the ground floor and a board-room on the first floor.

Cavan front block from the south-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

A three-storey central block housed dormitories, school rooms, day rooms, kitchen and food serving rooms, and a chapel.

Cavan central block from the north, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

A central spine containing the chapel linked to the rearmost block which housed the two-storey workhouse infirmary.

Cavan central and infirmary blocks composite picture from the north, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

A small mortuary was located at the east of the site.

Cavan mortuary from the north-west, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

During the famine in the mid-1840s, accommodation was provided for 40 convalescent patients in sheds. Fever patients were originally catered for by appropriating the idiot and probationary wards. In 1847, A separate fever hospital was built at the south-west of the site. A small block to its rear may have been used as an isolation ward.

Cavan fever hospital from the north-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

Cavan isolation block(?) from the north-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

A graveyard was located to the north-west of the workhouse.

The workhouse later became Cavan County Hospital, and then St Felim's geriatric hospital.


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Cavan County Library, Farnham Street, Cavan, Co. Cavan. Holdings include: Board of Guardians' minutes (1845-1920); Indoor admission and discharge book (1881-84). Detailed list.



  • None.

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