Schull (Skull), Co. Cork

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Schull (or Skull) was one of the new Poor Law Unions created in Ireland between 1848 and 1850. Schull Poor Law Union formally came into existence on 3rd October 1849. It was created from the western part of the Skibbereen Union and occupied an area of 89 square miles. The population falling within the Schull Union at the 1901 census was 11,233. In 1902, it comprised the following electoral divisions:

Co. Cork: Ballybane, Ballydehob, Coolagh, Crookhaven, Dunbeacon, Dunmanus, Goleen, Kilmoe, Lowerton, Skull, Toormore.

The Guardians met each week on Tuesday at noon.

The new Schull Union workhouse was erected in 1852 on an eleven-acre site a mile to the north-east of Schull in a valley at the foot of Mount Gabriel. Owing to its situation at the head of Schull Bay, and its whitewashed walls, a local directory was later to describe it as "a striking object". Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, the building accommodated 600 inmates. Its construction cost £6,000 plus £1,115 for fittings etc. The site location and layout are shown on the 1901 OS map below.

Schull workhouse site, 1901.

The layout was somewhat different to Wilkinson's earlier designs, and was a similar size and design to the workhouses at Clonakilty, Urlingford and Mitchelstown which were built at around the same time. The front of the site at the south-west would probably have had an entrance gate, flanked by two two-storey blocks which contained school rooms and accommodation for boys and girls.

To the rear, the main buildings had a T-shaped layout. The central wing running westwards towards the entrance probably contained the dining-hall and kitchens. To each side were accommodation wings for men and one for women. A hospital block and mortuary lay at the east of the site, with a burial ground nearby.

At the 1901 census, the population of the Union was 11,233.

The building was burned down in the early hours of Sunday 24 June 1921 by Sinn Fein forces. Only a few overgrown ruins now remain.

Schull workhouse site entrance from the south-west, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

Schull main building from the west, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

Schull hospital block from the north, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.


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  • The Workhouses of Ireland by John O'Connor (Anvil Books, 1995)


  • None.

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