Gort Poor Law Union

Repository: Galway County Council Archives

Identity Statement

TitleGort Poor Law Union
Archive ReferenceIE GCCA/G01/12
Web Link to this Entryhttps://iar.ie/archive/gort-poor-law-union
Creation Dates1844-1921
Extent Mediumc130 volumes


Creator(s): Gort Poor Law Union (Board of Guardians)

  • Administrative History ↴

    The Poor Law Act for the ‘more effectual Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland’ was introduced to Ireland by the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act, 1838 and operated until 1925. The Poor Law system was originally constituted for the sole purpose of relieving paupers in workhouses, but by the 1880s had gathered to itself a great variety of powers. Each Union was under the close supervision and control of a central governing body. A Board of Guardians, consisting of two thirds elected and one-third ex-officio members, had direct responsibility for the administration of the union workhouses. The Board regulated, ratified and controlled, subject to approval from the central governing body (prior to 1872 the Poor Law Commission for Ireland, thereafter the Local Government Board), all aspects of Union administration. The Board was also responsible for the erection, maintenance and administration of a workhouse. In addition to providing directly for the poor and the day to day administration of the workhouse, the poor law guardians gradually accumulated further responsibilities. The Guardians became overtime ‘the public sewer-makers, the custodians of burial grounds and wells, the constructors of waterworks, the proprietors of dwellings for labourers, the executors of compulsory vaccination laws, and the laws relating to the sanitation of dwellings and public nuisances, and the repositories of a number of other powers down to the muzzling of dogs and the slaughtering of diseased animals’. Under the Medical Charities Act of 1851 they were responsible for the provision and management of dispensaries to provide free medical attendance for the sick poor, and from the early 1860s they were responsible for the boarding-out of children. Under the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898 county councils and rural district councils were established. From 1898 the Boards of Guardians were ‘restricted to poor relief and dispensary district work and were relieved of their power to strike a poor rate’. The district councils were granted responsibility for the Unions’ functions relating to housing and sanitary services. These functions were in turn transferred to council councils in 1925 following the dissolution of rural district councils under the Local Government Act of that year. The Gort Poor Law Union was established in August 1839, and covered an area of 140 square miles. Its workhouse which opened on 11 December 1841 was located on a seven-acre site in the south of the town. It cost £5,359 to build and £1,150 for fittings. Its original capacity was for 500 inmates. The Gort Board of Guardians generally met weekly in the Boardroom of the Workhouse. Following the amalgamation of the Unions in county Galway in 1921 the Connacht Tribune of 21 January 1922 stated that ‘Clifden, Oughterard, Gort and Glenamaddy are completely closed down as workhouses, while the remaining institutions will probably be closed towards the weekend’. Under the newly founded Free State government Poor Law Unions were formally dissolved in 1925 and their functions assumed by local authorities.
  • Archival History ↴

    Following the dissolution of Poor Law Unions (1923), their records were often transferred to the local Rural District Council office and thereafter to the local Co. Co. area office. The collection was transferred to the custody of Galway County Libraries in the late 1980s.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Gort Poor Law Union (Board of Guardians) ↴

    This collection of Gort Poor Law Union archives consists primarily of Board of Guardian minute books, dating from 1842 to 1921 with some gaps. It also includes an Indoor Relief Register (1914-1920) and an indoor relief list (1917-1919), an incoming letter book (1912-1916), a provisions check account (1917-1919), and 24 volumes of rough minutes (1844-1859). Several of the earlier volumes have suffered severe mould damage, with resultant loss of substantial qualities of text and rendering other sections illegible.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection consists of 91 volumes of handwritten minute books, together with one volume listing out-door relief recipients, and several other minor documents. The minutes are arranged chronologically, and the remaining material is arranged according to significance, concluding with the Rough Minute Books, which in some cases fill gaps where the signed minutes are missing. These should be crossed referenced to the actual signed and dated Minute Book for the corresponding period.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Available by appointment. Disclosure form required. The material in this collection is available to all bona fide researchers by appointment only, and subject to the conditions of access governing the consultation of archival material at Galway County Council Archives.
Conditions Governing ReproductionNo material may be reproduced from this collection without the written permission of the archivist, and reproductions are subject to the conditions of access.
Creation Dates1844-1921
Extent Mediumc130 volumes
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Characteristics Tech ReqAvailable on microfilm, by appointment. Several of the earlier volumes have suffered severe mould damage, with resultant loss of substantial qualities of text and rendering other sections illegible.
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials


NoteThis is a shortened version of the original description for this collection. A longer description is available by contacting the Archive directly. Conservation of several volumes in the collection was granted aided by the Heritage Council.

Descriptive Control Area

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