Tuam Poor Law Union, established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838, was formally declared on the 19th September 1839, and covered an area of 214 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 31 in number, representing its 13 electoral divisions: Abbey, Annaghdown, Cummer, Clare Tuam, Cloonbern, Downpatrick, Dunmore, Headford, Kilbanon, Killererin, Lisgeevy, Monivea, and Tuam. The Board also included 10 ex-officio Guardians, making a total of 41. The Guardians met initially for the first few years monthly, and thereafter each week on Saturday.
The workhouse was originally built to accommodate 800 inmates. It cost £8,682.6.6 to build.
The first meeting of the Board of Guardians took place on 11 November 1839 in the Courthouse in Tuam. Major Kirwan was unanimously elected Chairman.
The new Tuam Union workhouse was erected in 1840 on a six-acre site on the Dublin Road, half a mile to the south-east of Tuam. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect, George Wilkinson, the building was based on one of his standard plans to accommodate 800 inmates. The workhouse was declared fit for the reception of paupers on 15th August 1842.
Auxiliary workhouses and sheds were provided during the famine period, in various locations such as the Tirboy Barracks and Galway Road in Tuam, and an additional fever hospital at Ballygaddy in Tuam, and Dunmore.
The workhouse was taken over by the British Military in 1920, with the Master reporting ‘That the Military took over male side of the House on 12th Inst. (GPL5/106, p476). In June 1921 the Clerk advised the Board that the Military had advised it would be taking over the remaining portion of the workhouse. He then approached other Unions to ask if they could take some inmates. It was subsequently decided to ‘send the Inmates to Loughrea workhouse’ (23 July 1921, GPL5/106, 799).
At its meeting of 5th November 1921 the Board resolved ‘That the Clerk be directed to give formal notice to termination of employment of each Poor Law officials in the service of the Guardians (with the exception of Dispensary Doctors and Midwives) as from the 31st December 1921’ (GPL5/106, p900).
The former workhouse site is now occupied by housing and nothing remains except an old wall at the northern edge of the site.
Archival History ↴
This incomplete collection was acquired by Galway County Libraries in 1977. It was transferred to Galway County Council Archives in 2010, when the branch Library in Tuam moved to new premises.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Tuam Board of Guardians ↴
The Tuam Board of Guardians was the governing body of Tuam workhouse and poor law union, which was established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838. 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 over time ‘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 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’ (Muldoon & G. McSweeny, G., A Guide to Irish Local Government Comprising an Account of the Law Relating to the Local Government of Counties, Cities and Districts, with a Full Explanation of the Act of 1898, (Dublin, 1898) Eason & Son, Ltd.).
This collection consists of an incomplete set of Board of Guardian minutes (38 volumes), together with several miscellaneous items, such as one of each of the following, Minutes of the Burial Board, a Contractors’ Ledger, a Day Book, a Matron’s book, a Medical record book, a Payment book, an Indoor & outdoor relief returns book, an Indoor relief register (1913-15), and a Superintendent’s registration book.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
The collection is arranged chronologically
Conditions of Access & Use
Unrestricted access. Available online at http://www.galway.ie/digitalarchives/
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Material may only be reproduced, in accordance with Galway County Council's Library and Archives access policy, with permission of the archivist, and in accordance with relevant copyright legislation.