Waterford Poor Law Union was established under the Poor Law Union Act, 1838. Under this Act the country was divided into poor law unions each of which had a Workhouse run by elected and ex-officio guardians. These guardians were supervised by the Poor Law Commissioners and after 1872, the Local Government Board. The Poor law system has gained a dark reputation due to the fact that only the most destitute were granted ‘indoor relief’ and entry into the Workhouse was contingent on it being a last resort rather than a source of hope and comfort. The Workhouses were unable to cope with the fast flood of the destitute that was a result of the famine and they became overcrowded and contributed to the death toll due to the swift spread of disease through their packed wards. Over the years the Board of Guardians acquired further duties in relation to the poor. In the 1850s they accumulated duties in the area of public health, boarding out of children in the 1860s and rural housing from 1883.The Medical Charities Act of 1851 introduced the dispensary system which provided for the appointment of a medical doctor, the provision of a dispensary and the supply of medicines and medical appliances for a number of districts in each Union. The work of the dispensary was overseen by the Dispensary Committee, which was composed of Guardians and local rate payers elected on an annual basis. In 1878 the Public Health (Ireland) Act established the Dungarvan Board of Guardians as a Rural Sanitary Authority adding further duties in relation to sanitation and public health to their workload. The work of the Board of Guardians was funded by the Poor Rate which the Guardians were empowered to levy in the Union. Under the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898 this power passed to Waterford County Council. The Guardians then applied to the Council for funds until they ceased to exist in 1923.
Archival History ↴
The Minute Books were deposited with Waterford County Library and were transferred to the County Archive on its establishment.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Waterford Board of Guardians ↴
The archives of Waterford Poor Law Union are extensive and contain information regarding the social, economic and political situation of the time. The Minute Books contain a vast array of information, including a letter from A.C. Buchanon, Chief Agent, Government Emigrant Office, Quebec, Canada to the Clerk of the Union regarding a party of thirty female emigrants from sent by the Union (BG/WTFD/30) and a dietary for healthy and infirm inmates of the Workhouse (BG/WTFD/54). A ledger provides details of the cost of provisions for the Workhouse and evidence of the food provided for the inmates. A contract between the Union and ‘Catherine Conway’ provide a glimpse of the manner in which orphan children were provided for (BG/WTFD/96) and a statement showing the salaries, rations and other remuneration provides a record of the manner in which the work of the officers of the Union was rewarded. Contains the Clerk’s Account of provisions and expenses for the Workhouse, the Relieving Officers’ Accounts, the Clothing, Establishment, Invoice and Outdoor Relief Invoice Accounts and also details of the emigrant expenses. States the motions brought by the guardians detailing those for and against each motion and the tenders accepted by the Board. Contains minutes of proceedings under the Medical Charities Act (BG/WTFD/28) which are later recorded more formally in a printed form style with an estimate of medicines required by Medical Officers, the rate-payers elected to be members of the Committees of Management of the Dispensary Districts and the orders and correspondence with the Poor Law Commissioners all recorded (BG/WTFD/32). Provides a return of night lodgers admitted and discharged from the Workhouse weekly (BG/WTFD/38). Minutes of the proceedings of the Board as Sanitary Authority are recorded the reports of the Sanitary Officers, the directions of the Sanitary Officers’ Report Books and the expenses incurred under the Sanitary Acts. Index to resolutions and orders on occasion. Includes a series of letters from the Poor Law Commissioners showing how closely the central authority supervised the work of the Unions. The letters refer to the business of the Union, to observations made by the Commissioners on the Minute Books sent by Union for their inspection, reports of Visiting Committees and to audits of the accounts of the Union. Requests are made for the returns of persons employed by the Union and the returns of the funds of the Union. Transmits orders of the Commissioners regarding the form in which information is to be recorded. Includes copies of letters sent by the Clerk of Waterford Union to the Chief Clerk of the Poor Law Commissioners. Letters are both printed and hand-written. From 1872 letters are sent by the Local Government Board who took over the duties of the Poor Law Commissioner (BG/WTFD/131).
Appraisal Destruction ↴
Little arrangement of the collection has been carried out. The Minute Books are listed first and following these are the descriptions of sundry items from the Board of Guardians and the Workhouse records arranged in date order. The descriptions of the volumes containing the letters of the Poor Law Commissioners and the description of the volumes of sealed orders from the Commissioners follow those relating to the Workhouse and the list is concluded with a description of a letter received by the Poor Law Commissioners from ‘Scrutator’ regarding the election of rate collectors and the influence of the Waterford Board of Guardians on the election of rate collectors.
Conditions of Access & Use
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Bound volumes no copying allowed
Material Language Script
Characteristics Tech Req
Binding is fragile in some volumes, care is required when handling
Some documents digitised and available online at www.waterfordcoco.ie or www.learnaboutarchives.ie
BG/LISM Lismore Board of Guardians, BG/KILTHOM Kilmacthomas Board of Guardians, BG/DVN Dungarvan Board of Guardians
Descriptive Control Area
IGAD: Irish Guidelines for Archival Description. Dublin: Society of Archivists, Ireland, 2009.
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997.
Date of Descriptions
March 1999, Revised April 2010