Mallow Board of Guardians

Repository: Cork City and County Archives

Identity Statement

TitleMallow Board of Guardians
Archive ReferenceIE CCCA/BG/116
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1839-1919
Extent Medium46 items


Creator(s): Mallow Board of Guardians

  • Administrative History ↴

    Mallow Board of Guardians first met on 19 April 1839. The Workhouse opened on 2 August 1842. The area of the union included the dispensary districts of Mallow; Monanimmy, Clenor, and Rahan; Kilshannig; Caherduggan and Doneraile; Liscarroll and Churchtown; Buttevant and Imphrick; Ballyclough; Ballinamona. There was much initial debate as to whether the workhouse should be located in Mallow or Buttevant, the Poor Law Commissioners favouring the latter as being more central. The guardians narrowly voted in favour of Mallow, resulting in three northern parishes (Charleville, Kilbolane, and Shandrum) being severed and added to the Kilmallock union. 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. 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 an infirmary and a fever hospital. The workhouse also provided nursery care and 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 Acts (1848-49), Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act 1878, and Labourers’ Acts (1883-86). 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 the Mallow Rural District Council, the latter assuming responsibility for labourers’ cottages. The board continued to administer the workhouse and its hospital, and to supervise some forms of outdoor relief. In 1915 the workhouse buildings were temporarily taken over by the British military, and inmates were in the main transferred to Millstreet workhouse. Some were also sent to Kilmallock workhouse and those of other unions. In 1921 Mallow workhouse received inmates from the Kanturk union who had been obliged to vacate the workhouse there following its occupation by the British military. Despite the Kanturk board of guardians continuing to function, its workhouse did not re-open, and Mallow workhouse continued to accommodate inmates from the Kanturk union. 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. Mallow General Hospital occupies the site of the former workhouse buildings.
  • Archival History ↴

    The surviving records of the Mallow Board of Guardians were deposited in the Archives in the early 1980s, and in an accession of records from County Council Offices, Annabella, Mallow, in 2007.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Mallow Board of Guardians ↴

    The surviving archives of the Mallow Board of Guardians consist, apart from one related item, of 44 minute books containing minutes of full meetings of the board of guardians, 1839-1917 (with gaps). The ordinary minutes include statistical information on workhouse inmates and details of workhouse life and administration. From the 1850s the volumes contain minutes of proceedings under the Medical Charities Acts and, from the 1870s, the Public Health Acts, documenting the board’s increasing role in health and sanitation, and the work of dispensaries and medical officers in the dispensary districts. From the late 1880s, the minutes also record proceedings in connection with providing labourers’ cottages to agricultural labourers and their families. From 1899, this work became a function of Mallow Rural District Council, and some labourers records created by the union were transferred to the RDC, and now form part of the Mallow RDC collection (RDC/116), also at this Archive.
    Another item present, an agenda book 1917-19, was kept by the clerk of the union, who also served as clerk of the RDC. The volume covers agendas for meetings of both bodies, but contains more Poor Law Union material, including lists of payments to be submitted to the board’s finance committee. The volume illustrates the close relationship between the two bodies, and also provides a partial record of the board’s activities up to July 1919.
    The only financial record present is a Statement of Union Accounts, prepared by the clerk, for the half year to March 1860, which gives an insight into the financial operations of the union.

    Taken altogether, the records 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 (including vaccination) in dispensary districts, the challenges facing public health and sanitary provision, and the beginnings of the provision of labourers’ cottages. The minute books also shed light on dealings with other bodies including the PLC/LGB, the Office of Public Works, Mallow RDC, Mallow Town Commissioners, and Cork County Council. Subjects such as the Great Famine (1845-49), the First World War (1914-18), and (intermittently) emigration are also documented. In addition, some resolutions provide a glimpse of local issues and politics, e.g., a police attack on demonstrators in Mallow on 22 May 1917 [see BG/116/A/120].

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    1. Minute Books

    A1- 135 Board of Guardian Minute Books 1839-1917 (44 items)
    AC1 Agenda Book (BG and RDC) 1917-1919 (1 item)

    2. Accounts

    CJ1 Clerk’s Statement of Union Accounts 1860 (1 item)

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Open by appointment to researchers holing a current reader's ticket
Conditions Governing ReproductionSubject to rules governing reproduction of records of Cork City and County Archives
Creation Dates1839-1919
Extent Medium46 items
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialCCCA: Board of Guardian records for other poor law unions in County Cork, esp Kanturk (BG/98) Cork County Boards of Health and Public Assistance records, 1921-66 Mallow Rural District Council records, 1899-1925 (including Labourers’ Cottages records, 1887-1925) Cork County Council records, 1899- (including rates valuation and later labourers’ cottages records) Elsewhere: National Archives of Ireland: Archives of the Poor Law Commissioners 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.
Date of Descriptions40634