Youghal Union formally came into existence on 7th June 1850, and was one of the new Poor Law Unions created in Ireland between 1848 and 1850. It was created from parts of the Dungarvan, Lismore and Midleton Unions and occupied an area of 57 square miles, covering parts of both East County Cork and West County Waterford. In 1905, the Union comprised the following electoral divisions: In Co. Cork; Ardagh, Clonpriest, Kilcronat, Killeagh, Kilmacdonogh, Youghal Rural, Youghal Urban; in Co. Waterford; Ardmore, Ballyheeny, Clashmore, Glenwilliam, Grallagh, Grange, Kinsalebeg, and Templemichael. In 1911, the population of the Union was 13,942.
The Youghal workhouse was erected on a 12-acre site on an elevated site to the west of Youghal and was designed by Poor Law Commission architect George Wilkinson to hold 700 inmates. Prior to June 1850, when Youghal Union was created, Youghal workhouse operated as an auxiliary workhouse within the Midleton Poor Law Union.
Youghal was one of c.14 poor law unions in the overall County Cork area. Each union was centered on a city or market town and its hinterland, and this union area sometimes ignored existing parish or county boundaries. In this central town was situated the union workhouse, which provided relief for the unemployed and the destitute. Each workhouse was managed by a staff and officers under the charge of a workhouse master.
Overall responsibility within the union rested with the Board of Guardians, most of whom were elected, and some of whom were ex-officio members appointed usually from amongst local justices of the peace /magistrates. The electors were owners and occupiers of property liable to pay the poor rate. The boards of guardians were vested with wide statutory powers and were under the direction and control of the Poor Law Commissioners and from 1872 of the Local Government Board.
The boards of guardians were financially maintained by the poor rate levied on occupiers of property in the union district, and tenants could deduct half of the rates from their rents.
In the first years of the poor law system, in general no relief was provided outside the workhouses, however from 1847, limited outdoor relief was provided in certain cases. Later, various other responsibilities were allocated to the Guardians in the areas of public health, sanitation, and housing. For example, under the Medical Charities Act 1851, Boards of Guardians took over responsibility for dispensaries from the Grand Juries, and the unions were divided into dispensary districts for which medical officers were appointed. In 1856 the Guardians became the burial ground board for the rural parts of the union. In 1863, the unions were used as registration areas for the registration of births and deaths. Under the Sanitary Act 1866, the guardians became ‘sewer and nuisance’ authorities, and under the 1874 and 1878 Public Health Acts, in general, as well as being the poor relief authorities, the Guardians were designated rural sanitary authorities, dealing with various matters such as water and sewerage schemes, scavenging, building control, lodging houses, markets, slaughter houses, infectious diseases and burial grounds. Under the Labourers Act 1883, the building of rural cottages was also allocated to the guardians.
Each union was under the central supervision of the Poor Law Commissioners up to 1872 and thereafter of the Local Government Board. The Youghal Board of Guardians was dissolved in May 1924, its functions taken up by the South Cork County Board of Health and Public Assistance and Cork County Council.
In May 1924 the remaining inmates of the Youghal Workhouse were mainly transferred to the Cork County Home and Hospital. In common with many former workhouses, parts of the Youghal Union workhouse buildings were taken over for use as a hospital.
Archival History ↴
Collection BG/163 was transferred to the Archives with other County Cork board of guardians collections in c.1982 by the Southern Health Board.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Youghal Board of Guardians ↴
Minute books, recording the proceedings of the Board’s meetings, 1850-1924. Many subjects are recorded in the minute books, such as the ongoing struggle to both fund and manage the workhouse and related services, attitudes to poverty, developments in public health provision, and the care of the infirm, the destitute, children, and the mentally ill. From the 1880’s, glimpses of the rise of nationalism may be found.
Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act minute book, 1903 – 1920.
Correspondence in the form of an outgoing letter book, 1888-1896, containing copies of letters sent from the Clerk of the Union to various parties, including the Poor Law Commission (PLC) and later with the Local Government Board (LGB), as well as rate collectors, solicitors, the Master of the Workhouse, staff, suppliers and contractors and others subject to actions and resolutions of the Guardians.
Financial account books, 1889 – 1921, including union ledgers for 1917-1922, a bank loan account book for 1889-1913 and a personal ledger for 1917 – 1918.
Records of the internal administration and day to day management of the workhouse, 1901-1925, including, a Masters journal containing a large number of reports to the Board 1916-1925; and a register of officers appointed 1901-1925 (also containing a partial record from 1927 -1935 and 1943-1947 of some appointments by the South County Board of Public Health).
Records of inmates of the workhouse, 1848-1851, consisting of indoor relief registers. These contain mainly personal information, and are thus a notable source for social history as well as genealogical and family history research.
The collection is of interest to the study of the 19th century and early 20th c. period, the Irish poor law system, and the Great Famine. It helps to document the social, economic and political history of the Youghal Union, and covers many subjects and issues both local and national in scope.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
1. Minute Books, 1850 – 1924 (131 items)
2. Correspondence 1886 – 1896 (1 item)
3. Accounts 1889 – 1921 (4 items)
4. Workhouse: Administration 1901 – 1925 ( 2 items)
5. Workhouse: Inmates 1848 – 1851 (3 items)
(In total, the collection comprises 8 series; see table of contents)
This arrangement is based on that devised by Sean McMenamin of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (see Appendix 2, McMenamin article in Irish Archives Bulletin Vol 1, No 2, October 1971).
Conditions of Access & Use
Open by appointment to researchers holding a current reader's ticket
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Subject to rules governing reproduction of records of Cork City and County Archives
BG/118 Midleton Board of Guardians (Youghal was originally an auxiliary workhouse in Midleton Union)
Various Board of Guardian records for other poor law unions in County Cork.
Cork Board of Health and Public Assistance
Waterford County Archives, Board of Guardian records for County Waterford.
National Archives of Ireland: Archives of the Poor Law Commission and the Relief Commission.
Descriptive Control Area
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.