Dundalk poor law union Board of Guardians

Repository: Louth County Archives Service

Identity Statement

TitleDundalk poor law union Board of Guardians
Archive ReferenceIE LHA BG/DDK/
Web Link to this Entryhttps://iar.ie/archive/dundalk-poor-law-union-board-guardians
Creation Dates1839-1924
Extent Medium212 items consisting largely of bound volumes


Creator(s): Board of Guardians

  • Administrative History ↴

    The poor law came into effect in Ireland with the Poor Law Act of 1838 in response to the widespread poverty in the country and remained in existence until 1923. The country was divided into poor law unions each with its own workhouse. There were three such unions in county Louth: Ardee, Drogheda (sometimes called the Louth union) and Dundalk. The unions were run by a board of guardians - some elected, some appointed from among local magistrates - under the close supervision of the Poor Law Commissioners, and after 1872, the Local Government Board. A rate or 'poor rate' was collected within each area or union from property owners for the maintenance of the poor. In the 1850s, the poor law guardians became responsible for public health; in the 1860s, the boarding out of children; rural housing from 1883; and rural sanitation from 1874-1899. Dundalk: In County Louth, Dundalk poor law union included townlands within the electoral divisions of Greenore, Carlingford, Rathcor, Drumullagh, Ravensdale, Ballymascanlon, Faughart, Dundalk, Castletown, Upper Creggan, Barronstown, Castlering, Haggardstown, Louth, Darver, and Dromiskin. Dundalk poor law union also included townlands in Counties Armagh and Monaghan. Dundalk workhouse was opened in 1842 and provided for 800 inmates.
  • Archival History ↴

    Control of the poor law guardians was achieved partly through record keeping and partly through inspection, thus resulting in the creation of large quantities of archives, the most voluminous of which are the minute books: an almost complete run from Jul 1839 - Apr 1924 exists for Dundalk poor law union, along with other miscellaneous poor law archives; an almost complete run exists for Ardee poor law union (there are a few volumes in private hands); and a quantity of minutes exist for Drogheda poor law union (the remainder of the surviving minutes are in Millmount Museum, Drogheda). The guardians were obliged to send returns to the central authority; however, many of these were destroyed in the Custom House in 1921, while other poor law union archives were destroyed down through the years. Subsequent to 1923, many of the workhouses became county homes or hospitals, as in the case of Ardee and Drogheda. The poor law archives are an invaluable research resource for local historians, students and genealogists and by having the three unions of County Louth accessible together in the County Archives Service, their research value is enhanced as researchers can cross-reference. The archives cover the period from famine through to independence and provide information on the social and economic conditions of the poor law unions. Dundalk: The Dundalk poor law union archive material was held in Louth County Library and in the basement of Dundalk Urban District Council prior to being transferred to Louth County Archives Service in 2000.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Board of Guardians ↴

    The administration sub-sub-fonds contains a list of special jurors for the barony of Upper Dundalk, 1915 (BG/DDK/ADM/001); and a book containing newspaper cuttings of advertisements and notices placed by Dundalk union and Dundalk rural district council, 1915 – 1924 (BG/DDK/ADM/002).

    The finance sub-sub-fonds contains a Treasurers rate in aid cash book for Dundalk union, 1849 – 1851 (BG/DDK/FIN/001); a personal ledger for food supplies, 1855 – 1860 (BG/DDK/FIN/002); a register of mortgages [under the Labourers Acts], 1900 – 1906 (BG/DDK/FIN/003); and a treasurers receipt & payment book for Dundalk poor law union’s account with the Hibernian Bank Limited, 1922 – 1924 (BG/DDK/FIN/004).

    The housing sub-sub-fonds contains a rent book for Dundalk poor law union, kept under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1883 and 1885 detailing names and addresses of labourers for various townlands, 1888 – 1899 (BG/DDK/HSG/001); and a series of letting agreements under the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883, 1890 (BG/DDK/HSG/002/).

    The minute books sub-sub-fonds contains a series of general minute books of proceedings of the Board of Guardians of Dundalk poor law union, 1839 – 1924 (BG/DDK/MB/001/); a rough minute book of proceedings of the Board of Guardians of Dundalk poor law union, 1839 – 1922 (BG/DDK/MB/002/); and a series of minute books of Dundalk poor law union acting as Rural Sanitary Authority under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts 1883 and 1885, 1887 – 1899, (BG/DDK/MB/003/).

    The workhouse relief sub-sub-fonds contains a series of admission & discharge books, 1908, 1913-14, 1916-17 (BG/DDK/WR/001/).

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Accruals ↴

    Further accruals are not expected
  • Arrangement ↴

    The Board of Guardians collection is divided into three sub-fonds which are akin to the three unions: Ardee, Drogheda, and Dundalk. This sub-fonds is divided into several sub-sub-fonds: administration, finance, housing, minute books, and workhouse relief. Within each sub-sub-fonds, archives are arranged into series and items, which are arranged in chronological order as far as possible.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Open Access, by appointment
Conditions Governing ReproductionMany items may be copied. Bound volumes cannot be photocopied. Copying can be discussed further with the County Archivist.
Creation Dates1839-1924
Extent Medium212 items consisting largely of bound volumes
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Characteristics Tech ReqGenerally fair-good condition. However, some bound volumes are in poor condition. A quantity of minute books have been conserved with financial assistance from the Heritage Council. Some of the archives in this collection require careful handling
Finding Aids Descriptive list can be found on on-line catalogue available at http://www.louthcoco.ie Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Originals InformationLouth County Archives Service
Copies InformationSome digitised documents may occasionally be found on http://www.louthcoco.ie
Related MaterialRDC/DLK/ BG/ARD/ BG/DRO/
Publication NoteO’Connor, John, Workhouses of Ireland: The fate of Ireland’s poor (Anvil, Dublin 1995) Wilson, Maureen, Dundalk Poor-Law Union Workhouse: the first twenty-five years 1839-64 (Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society vol. xx (No.3) 1983, pp190-209) O’Sullivan, Harold, A History of Local Government in Louth: from earliest times to the present time (IPA, Dublin 2000)

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteLorraine McCann
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions2003-2011