Mountmellick, Co. Leix (Laois, Queen's County)
Mountmellick Poor Law Union was formally declared on the 7th December 1839 and covered an area of 345 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 30 in number, representing its 16 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Queen's County: Ballybrittas, Ballyfin (2), Castlebrack, Clonaslee, Coolbanagher, Matyborough (4), Mountmellick (4), Mountrath (3), Rearymore (2), Rosanallis, East Upperwoods (2), West Upperwoods (2). King's County: East Ballykean, West Ballykean, Cloneyhurk, Portarlington (3).
The Board also included 10 ex-officio Guardians, making a total of 40. The Guardians met each week on Saturday.
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 63,601 with divisions ranging in size from East Ballykean (population 870) to Mountmellick itself (10,390).
The new Mountmellick Union workhouse was erected in 1842-4 on a six-acre site half a mile to the south of Mountmellick. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, the building was based on one of his standard plans to accommodate 800 inmates. Its construction cost £6,915 plus £1,381 for fittings etc. The workhouse was declared fit for the reception of paupers on 31st August 1844, and received its first admissions on 3rd January 1845. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1909 map below.
During the famine in the mid-1840s, a store was hired to accommodate an additional 400 inmates. A fever hospital accommodating 44 patients was erected at the south-west of the workhouse.
The main buildings followed Wilkinson's standard layout with an entrance and administrative block at the east containing a porter's room and waiting room with the Guardians' board room on the first floor above.
The administrative block was later converted to a boiler room with a laundry at its south.
To its rear, the main accommodation block had the Master's quarters at the centre, with male and female wings to each side. A central spine containing the chapel and dining-hall linked to the infirmary.
The workhouse later became St Vincent's Hospital. From 1903 to 1986, nursing care was provided by the Daughters of Charity. The buildings have been much altered and little now remains of the original workhouse structure.
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- Laois County Library, County Hall, James Fintan Lalor Avenue, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. (Will be moving to Kea-Lew Business Park, Portlaoise R32 EHP9.)
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