Creator(s): Wexford Board of Guardians (Wexford Poor Law Union)
Administrative History ↴
The Board of Guardians for Wexford Union was established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838 which divided the country into a number of poor law unions (initially 130 unions until it was found that some electoral divisions were too large for effective administration and the number was subsequently increased to 163). The townland was designated as the unit of organisation and these were grouped together to form electoral divisions which each elected a Board of Guardians. Each union was required to build a workhouse for the single purpose of relieving the poor and destitute and this building was administered by the board of guardians. A central governing body in Dublin, the Poor Law Commissioners, oversaw and directed the work of each union and ensured that regulations and directives were followed at local level. The Local Government Board took over this role from 1872.
The money to construct and maintain each workhouse was obtained from the poor rate, a tax levied in equal parts on the owners and occupiers of holdings. The workhouse building was basic in design, and deliberately devoid of comforts so that only dire necessity could drive a poor person to seek admission.
The workhouse in Wexford Union, built in 1840, was a medium size building designed to accommodate 600 persons. It received its first admissions on 25 July 1842.
Initially concerned with the administration of poor relief, as time progressed, the guardians took on more varied responsibilities including the boarding-out of children from the 1860s, outdoor relief, dispensers of public health, and providers of houses for labourers under the Labourers Acts, 1883. The Medical Charities Act,1851 brought dispensaries under the control of the Irish Poor Law Commission for the first time, with each union having a salaried Medical Officer. Under the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, the boards of guardians became the rural sanitary authorities.
The poor law system was finally abolished in 1923 when the responsibilities of the guardians were transferred to county councils. The workhouses were replaced by a system of county homes and county hospitals.
There were four poor law unions in Co. Wexford – Wexford, Enniscorthy, New Ross and Gorey.
Archival History ↴
The collection was housed in the old Wexford gaol and remained in the custody of Wexford County Library Service until the establishment of Wexford County Archive in 2002
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Wexford Board of Guardians (Wexford Poor Law Union) ↴
Although a significant volume of record series were generated by Wexford Poor Law Union, invariably only the minute books have survived as a relatively intact series. These weekly minutes document the administration of the workhouse, the collection of the poor rate in each electoral division, the food and drink provisions consumed each week, brief reports from the master and from the visiting committee in addition to correspondence to and from the board of guardians and the Commissioners. Other record series include Commissioners’ letters (1851-55), circulars from the Local Government Board to the clerk of Wexford Union (1897-1900) and a register of children at nurse (1903-18)
Appraisal Destruction ↴
1. Minute Books, 1840-1922
2. Commissioners’ correspondence, 1851-55
3. Circulars to the clerk, 1897-1900
4. Boarding Out, 1903-18
Conditions of Access & Use
Full access by advance appointment only
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Bound volumes - no copying. Limited photography permitted
227 items (4 series)
Material Language Script
Characteristics Tech Req
Minute books microfilmed and consulted in that format only