Kanturk Board of Guardians

Repository: Cork City and County Archives

Identity Statement

TitleKanturk Board of Guardians
Archive ReferenceIE CCCA/BG/98
Web Link to this Entryhttps://iar.ie/archive/kanturk-board-guardians
Creation Dates1858-1924
Extent Medium31 items, all volumes


Creator(s): Kanturk Board of Guardians

  • Administrative History ↴

    The Kanturk Board of Guardians was the governing body of Kanturk workhouse and poor law union. Kanturk Poor Law Union was established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838. Kanturk board of guardians first met on 27 February 1840. Kanturk Workhouse opened on 18 July 1844. The earliest minutes to have survived are from 1858. The area of the union included the dispensary districts of Newmarket, Kanturk, Milford, and Boherbue . In April 1878 the Poor Law Union Inquiry Commissioners held a meeting to hear evidence on the proposed dissolution of Millstreet union, and its amalgamation into those of Macroom, Killarney, and Kanturk. Each workhouse was managed by a staff and officers under the charge of a workhouse master, who reported to the board. Overall responsibility rested with the union's board of guardians, some of whom were elected, and some of whom were ex-officio members appointed usually from amongst local magistrates. The board appointed its own inhouse committees, and received reports from workhouse officers and from dispensary district committees and district medical officers. It also made resolutions on internal and poor law matters and, sometimes, on wider political or social issues. Poor law services were principally financed by a poor rate levied on property owners in the union’s districts, and collected by rate collectors appointed by the board. Central government also provided loans. Each union was under the central supervision of the Poor Law Commissioners up to 1874 and thereafter of the Local Government Board (later Local Government Board in Ireland). These government-appointed bodies received reports from the board and its officers, appointed inspectors and auditors, sanctioned or rejected proposed expenditure, appointments, and policies, and made the final decision on major administrative issues. The board also had dealings with the Commissioners for Public Works (later Office of Public Works) on premises and labourers cottages, and with the Government’s Veterinary Department on contagious diseases in animals, and with other government departments from time to time. In October 1920 the board resolved not to submit minutes to the Local Government Board any longer, instead accepting the authority of Dail Eireann, and subsequently that of the Department of Local Government of the Irish Free State. Over time, the responsibilities of the guardians increased to encompass public health, including some medical relief for the destitute at the workhouse, ‘outdoor’ relief though a system of dispensary districts, and other functions including overseeing smallpox vaccinations, the boarding-out of orphan and deserted children, monitoring contagious diseases in animals, and providing labourers’ cottages and improved sanitation. The workhouse buildings included a fever hospital, and fever sheds were created in local districts when larger outbreaks occurred. The workhouse also provided education to child inmates, and employed school teachers. These changing responsibilities were governed by legislation, including the Public Health (Ireland) Acts 1874 and 1878, Medical Charities Acts, Vaccination Acts, Dispensary Houses Act, the Nuisances Removal and Diseases Prevention Act, Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act 1878, and Labourers’ Acts. While these acts tended to increase the role of the board, the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 saw most of its public health functions taken over by the newly-created Cork County Council and Kanturk Rural District Council. The board continued to administer the workhouse and its hospital, and to supervise some forms of outdoor relief. In April 1921 the British military occupied the main workhouse building, and inmates had to be transferred to other buildings. In July it was ordered that all civilians be removed from all workhouse buildings. Those not discharged were transferred to Mallow Union workhouse. In January 1922 the buildings were vacated by the British military, but were swiftly occupied by the 4th Cork Brigade of the IRA. The workhouse was officially abolished, but the board continued to meet and oversee out door relief and other functions. On 11 August 1922 the workhouse building was destroyed by a fire lit by IRA troops vacating the premises. Newmarket Dispensary House was also occupied by military throughout this period. The Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act 1923 led to the abolition of the workhouse system, and its replacement with the formation of the county boards of health and public assistance. The final recorded meeting of Kanturk board of guardians was held on 18 April 1924.
  • Archival History ↴

    The records of the Kanturk Board of Guardians were deposited in the Archives in the early 1980s.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Kanturk Board of Guardians ↴

    The surviving archives of the Kanturk Board of Guardians consist of minute books, including 26 volumes of minutes of full meetings of the board of guardians, 1858-1924 (with gaps). These include statistical information on workhouse inmates and details of workhouse life and administration. They also trace the provision and development of poor law services in the area, including the treatment of the sick and those with mental illnesses, arrangements for children, out door relief and medical treatment in dispensary districts, the challenges facing public health and sanitary provision, and the building of labourers’ cottages. The minute books also provide a glimpse of local issues and politics.

    The Newmarket Dispensary committee minute book (1852-92) sheds light on the provision of public medical services in a local context. Clinics, vaccinations, midwife services, and tickets for out door relief and admission to the workhouse were all managed locally and reported on to the board of guardians, which approved matters requiring sanction.

    The minutes of proceedings of the board acting as a local authority under the Labourers’ Acts (1886-1897) supply much detail on the beginnings of the provision of social housing in this large rural area. Information on the location, construction, tenancy, and quality of labourers’ cottages is recorded, along with many of the difficulties faced, such as initial poor construction standards, legal disputes with landowners, and the withholding of rent by some tenants.

    The minutes of proceedings as a local authority under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts (1879-99) is a rare example of such a minute book. While some information on this aspect of the board’s work is recorded in the full minutes, these distinct minutes provide much greater detail on inspections, cases, actions, and policies in this important area of agricultural hygiene and public health.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection is arranged into 4 separate series, all under the heading of minutes (see table of contents). This arrangement is based on that devised for Poor Law records nationally by Sean McMenamin of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (see Appendix 2 to McMenamin’s article in Irish Archives Bulletin Vol 1, No 2, October 1971). Please note that gaps occur.

    1. Minute Books

    A1-1302 Board of Guardian Minute Books 1858-1924 (26 items)

    AJ1 Newmarket Dispensary District Minutes 1852-1892 (1 item)

    AL1-5 Minutes, Local Authority, Labourers Acts 1886-1897 (3 items)

    AM1 Minutes, Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts 1879-1899 (1 item)

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Open by appointment to those holding a current readers’ ticket.
Conditions Governing ReproductionSubject to Rules Governing Reproduction of Images, Cork City and County Archives
Creation Dates1858-1924
Extent Medium31 items, all volumes
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialCCCA: Board of Guardian records for other poor law unions in County Cork Cork County Boards of Health and Public Assistance records, 1921-66 Kanturk Rural District Council records, 1899-1925 Cork County Council records, 1899-1925 (including Labourers’ Cottages ledgers, 1887- ) Elsewhere: National Archives of Ireland: Archives of the Poor Law Commissioners Archives of the Commissioners for Public Works/Office of Public Works Archives of the Local Government Board in Ireland Archives of the Department of Local Government

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteTimmy O’Connor
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000. IGAD: Irish Guidelines for Archival Description. Dublin: Society of Archivists, Ireland, 2009.
Date of Descriptions40603