Portumna, Co. Galway
Portumna was one of the new Poor Law Unions created in Ireland between 1848 and 1850. Portumna Union was formally declared on 22nd February 1850. It was created from the southern parts of the Ballinasloe and Loughrea unions, and occupied an area of 121 square miles. The population falling within the Portumna Union at the 1901 census was 9,054. In 1905, it comprised the following electoral divisions:
Co. Galway: Abbeyville, Ballyglass, Coos, Derrew, Drummin, Eyrecourt, Killimor, Kilmalinoge, Kilquain, Meelick, Moat, Pallas, Portumna, Tiranascragh, Tynagh.
The Guardians met each week on Saturday.
The new Portumna Union workhouse was erected on a nine-acre site half a mile to the north of Portumna. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, the building was intended to accommodate 600 inmates. Its construction cost £6,700 plus £1,175 for fittings etc. The site location and layout are shown on the 1933 OS map below.
The layout was somewhat different to Wilkinson's earlier designs, and was a similar size and layout to the workhouses at Castlecomer, Clonakilty, Urlingford and Mitchelstown which were built at around the same time. The front of the site at the south had a central entrance, flanked by a long two-storey block at each side.
To the rear, the main buildings had a T-shaped layout. The single-storey wing to the south probably contained the dining-hall and kitchens. Above it hung the workhouse bell which governed the daily life of the inmates.
The two main accommodation wings, one for men and one for women, were three storeys high.
A two-storey hospital block stood at the north of the site.
By 2002, the former workhouse site had become semi-derelict with one of the front blocks being used as a local council depot. In recent years, the buildings have undergone extensive renovations which revealed the survival of many unique features. In July 2011, the site was reopened as the Irish Workhouse Centre giving visitors a chance to explore one of Ireland's best preserved workhouses.
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.
- Galway local archives, Island House, Cathedral Square, Galway.
- Crossman, V (2006) Politics, Pauperism and Power in Late Nineteenth-century Ireland
- Gray, P (2009) The Making of the Irish Poor Law, 1815-43
- O'Connor, J (1995) The Workhouses of Ireland
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