Ancestry UK

Rathdown, Co. Dublin

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Rathdown Poor Law Union was formally declared on the 8th August 1839 and covered an area of 75 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 24 in number, representing its 10 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Dublin: Blackrock (4), Dundrum (2), Glencullen (2), Killiney (2), Kingstown (4), Rathmichael, Stillorgan (2).
Co. Wicklow: Powerscourt (2), Delgany (2).
Co. Dublin and Co. Wicklow: Bray (3).

The Board also included 8 ex-officio Guardians, making a total of 32. The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 28,124 with Divisions ranging in size from Clonmethon (population 890) to Balbriggan (5,078).

The new Rathdown Union workhouse was erected on an eight-acre site at Loughlinstown. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, the building was based on one of his standard designs to accommodate 600 inmates. Its construction cost £6,500 plus £1,100 for fittings etc. The site location and layout are shown on the 1912 OS map below.

Rathdown workhouse site, 1912.

The workhouse was declared fit for the reception of paupers on 1st February, 1841, and received its first admissions on 15th March.

During the famine in the mid 1840s, additional accommodation was provided by appropriating the workhouse stables. Fever patients were sent to the Rathdown Fever Hospital, although the 1912 map shows what appear to be fever or isolation blocks at the south-west of the site where the workhouse burial ground was located.

The entrance block was at the east of the site and included an entrance archway.

Rathdown entrance block from the south-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

Rathdown entrance archway from the north-east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

At the centre rear, a single-storey block probably containing kitchens and dining hall linked to a two-story accommodation block. On the 1912 map this is elongated with extensive cross-wings at each end.

Rathdown kitchen/dining-hall and accommodation blocks from the east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

Rathdown south cross-wing from the east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

A separate chapel was erected at the north of the workhouse.

Rathdown chapel from the east, 2002
© Peter Higginbotham.

In 1920, the Guardians decided to close the workhouse and transfer the existing inmates to the South Dublin workhouse. The workhouse hospital was then to be redployed as a district hospital. In May 1920, the buildings were occupied by the military.

The former workhouse site is now the home of St. Columcille's 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.


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


  • None.

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