A system of publicly funded asylums was established in Ireland subsequent to legislation passed in 1817. Carlow District Lunatic Asylum admitted its first patient on 7 May 1832 and initially served the counties of Carlow, Kildare, Wexford and Kilkenny, and the city of Kilkenny.
The Carlow Asylum District was divided twice: in 1852, an asylum opened in Kilkenny city to cater for patients from Kilkenny city and county; and in 1868, an asylum opened at Enniscorthy for Wexford patients. After 1868 then, Carlow District Lunatic Asylum catered only for Carlow and Kildare patients.
From the enactment of the Local Government Act, 1925, Carlow District Lunatic Asylum became known as Carlow District Mental Hospital. It became known by its current name, St Dympna’s, in 1958.
From 1821-1899, district asylums were in the general control of the Lord Lieutenant and bodies whom he appointed, namely, the Board of Control, the Board of Governors and the Inspectors of Lunatics.
This management system changed following the introduction of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. The powers of the Lord Lieutenant and Inspectors of Lunatics regarding the appointment and removal of officers, and the regulation of expenditure, were transferred to the new County Councils. The Councils’ powers were exercised through a committee of management appointed by them. This committee was known as the Joint Committee in instances where two or more counties, as in Carlow, shared responsibility for an asylum.
Archival History ↴
Records were transferred by St Dympna’s Hospital to the Delany Archive in 2014
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: St Dympna's Hospital ↴
Records have been arranged in sixteen thematic sections.
Minute books (1832-1912) contain minutes of meetings of the board of management, known as the Board of Governors and Directors (1832-1899) and the Committee of Management or Joint Committee (1899 onwards). Minutes generally refer to: the admission, discharge and death of named patients; appointment, disciplining, salaries, suspension, dismissal and resignation of named staff; financial matters including income and expenditure; the awarding of contracts for goods and services; building and improvements works; correspondence with civil servants and government bodies including the Lord Lieutenant, Board of Works, Board of Control and the Inspectors of Lunatics. There are also four rough minute books (1832-1900) in which draft minutes were recorded before being written into the aforementioned minute books.
Patient registers (1832-) take several different forms and content varies slightly. Collectively, the classes of information recorded about patients in registers include: date of admission; name; previous abode (may be a gaol, workhouse or another asylum); place of birth; marital status; gender; religious denomination; age; occupation or trade; literacy and education; next of kin; name of Magistrate or medical person certifying illness; cause and species of illness; duration of illness; previous admissions and relapses; discharge and whether recovered, relieved or not improved; and death. One register (SDH/002/008) contains physicians’ monthly reports and reports of post-mortems (15 September 1852-21 November 1864).
Reports and publications (1844-)
Maps and drawings [c 1870-1900]. Includes several drawings connected with improvement works carried out between 1893-1899.
Correspondence (1892-1959). Includes damp press letterbook (SDH/007/001, 17 September 1892-25 October 1910) which contains copies of letters written by the incumbent resident medical superintendent to a wide range of recipients including Asylum staff, the Board of Control, Registrar of Lunacy, solicitors, suppliers and relatives of patients.
Male case book (1906-1915). Contains detailed records regarding male patients admitted between 1 January 1906-30 September 1907. The information which is recorded includes a description of the patient’s physical appearance; and clinical history and treatment. Photographs of many patients are present. [These photographs may have been taken by Stephen Nolan, the Asylum’s storekeeper]. He was a keen amateur photographer.
Provisions and stock records (1939-1982)
County Manager’s Orders (1942-1960). The Orders commonly refer to the appointment and resignation of named staff; the admission and discharge of named patients; and expenditure.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
Due to the sensitive nature of records in this collection, some access conditions (detailed below) apply. The collection includes further records, of a similar nature to those currently available for research, which will become eligible for public access as restrictions expire.
Records have been arranged in sixteen thematic sections
Conditions of Access & Use
Due to the sensitive nature of records in this collection, some access conditions apply. Access applications are administered by the Archivist, Delany Archive, and are subject to the approval of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Access queries may be addressed to the Archivist.
Detailed information about access is available from the Archivist, however, in general, the following conditions are in place: records regarding individual patients shall be available 100 years after date of admission; documentation pertaining to County Manager’s Orders and personnel records shall be available 50 years after date of creation; and administration records shall be available 30 years after date of creation.
Researchers are subject to the normal procedures of the Delany Archive. Open by appointment.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Records cannot be reproduced without the permission of the HSE.
Material Language Script
Item-level descriptions are available in the Archive reading room and on website, www.delanyarchive.ie
Archive Web Link →
Cox, Catherine. Negotiating insanity in the southeast of Ireland, 1820-1900 (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2012)
Descriptive Control Area
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000