Strokestown, Co. Roscommon
Strokestown was one of the new Poor Law Unions created in Ireland between 1848 and 1850. It was set up in the wake of severe overcrowding in the workhouses at Roscommon, Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle and Longford. The new Strokestown Union was formally declared on 22nd February, 1850, and largely created from the northern part of the Roscommon Union and the southern part of the Carrick-on-Shannon Union.
The Strokestown Union occupied an area of 141 square miles. The population falling within the Union at the 1901 census was 15,560. In 1905, it comprised the following electoral divisions:
Co. Roscommon: Annagmore, Ballygarden, Bumlin, Cloonfinlough, Cloonyquin, Creeve, Cregga, Elia, Elphin, North Kilglass, South Kilglass, Killavackan, Killukin, Lissonuffy, Ogulla, Roosky, Rossmore, Strokestown, Tarmonbarry, Tulsk.
The Guardians met each week on Friday.
At a meeting of the Guardians on 21 March 1850 it was revealed that 1,184 inmates of the neighbouring workhouses would fall under the jurisdiction of the new Union. Plans were made to re-house the Strokestown paupers in poorly renovated rented accommodation to avoid the expense of building a workhouse. The minutes of the Strokestown Board of Guardians for the 3rd of May, 1851, recorded that:
The houses of Mr Egan of Strokestown are well suited for an auxiliary house but the inhabitants of the town seem very much against them being taken, not wishing the paupers to be brought into the town for fear of disease.
Finally, the sum of £50 was spent modifying a building at Toberpatrick outside the town 'to meet the demand which we consider will be of temporary duration'. Men and boys were to be housed there; the sick and infirm were placed on outdoor relief, and the house of Mr Cox at Churchview was fitted up as a Fever hospital. Female Paupers were housed at Egan's house in Strokestown. The building was fitted out by John Ross Mahon who had a high perimeter wall constructed to ensure the inmates' separation front the townspeople. However, under pressure from the Poor Law Commissioners a workhouse was eventually constructed in 1851-2 on a thirteen-acre site half a mile to the south-west of Strokestown at Cloonslanor
Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, the building was based on one of his standard plans to accommodate 600 inmates. Its construction cost £6,500 plus £1,075 for fittings etc. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1915 map below.
The design was somewhat different to Wilkinson's earlier plans, and was a similar size and layout to workhouses such as those at Glenamaddy and Portumna which were built at around the same time. The front of the site at the north had an entrance gate, flanked by two two-storey blocks containing the board room, school rooms and accommodation for boys (to the west) and girls (to the east).
To the rear, the main buildings had a T-shaped layout. The central wing running towards the south-west was a single-storey block containing the dining-hall and kitchens. To each side were accommodation wings for men, one and one for women. A fever hospital lay at the south-east of the site, with a burial ground close by.
The workhouse remained in operation until 1920 when, under a scheme to reduce the number of workhouses in the area, the Strokestown Union was re-amalgamated with Roscommon. The Strokestown and Castlerea workhouses were closed, to the consternation of local traders who were heavily dependent on Union Contracts. Shortly afterwards the buildings were demolished. Nothing now remains of the Strokestown workhouse but 'bully's acre', a prehistoric earthwork which was used as a cemetery. The last Master of the Strokestown workhouse died in 1977.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.
- Roscommon County Library, Abbey Street, Roscommon.
- Morahan, Mary Strokestown Poor Law Union 1850-1870 (in County Roscommon Historical and Archaeological Society Journal, Volume 13, 2015)
- O'Connor, John The Workhouses of Ireland (1995, Anvil Books)
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