County Home, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Republic of Ireland

The Drogheda County Home had its roots in the Drogheda Union Workhouse, erected in 1841 on a 7.5-acre site on Dublin Road, at the south-east of Drogheda. Like almost all Irish workhouses, the original buildings were designed by George Wilkinson. There was a small entrance block, nearest to the road. The main accommodation block had the Master and Matron's's quarters at the centre, with male and female wings to each side. A single-storey range containing the kitchen and laundry then linked via the dining-hall and chapel to the infirmary and 'idiots wards' at the rear of the complex. The buildings were intended to accommodate up to 800 inmates. During the famine era, a fever hospital was erected to the south of the workhouse.

The Drogheda workhouse site is shown on the 1914 map below.

Drogheda workhouse site, Drogheda, c.1912.

George Wilkinson's model Irish workhouse design. © Peter Higginbotham

Following the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921, the Boards of Guardians that had administered each union area were abolished and the government appointed commissioners to overhaul the existing poor relief system and formulate a county-based plan for its future administration and operation. Boards of Public Assistance and Boards of Health were formed in each county and the existing workhouse sites allocated to new roles. In most cases, the main building in one of the county's former workhouses was adopted as a County Home, accommodating the elderly poor and infirm, the disabled, and people with various mental conditions, referred to at that time as 'lunatics', 'idiots' and 'imbeciles'. County Homes were frequently also used to house unmarried mothers and their children, and some admitted orphaned or abandoned children. Many former workhouse infirmaries, fever hospitals and other medical facilities were redesignated as County, District, Cottage or Fever Hospitals. The county schemes were formalised by Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1923. Unusually, the County Louth scheme did not formally assign any of its institutions as a County Home. Instead, it adopted the former workhouse sites at Drogheda and Drogheda as District Hospitals, but in them allocates wards to receive tcases which would generally reside in a County Home, what in 1927 were referred to as 'the aged, the lunatic, unmarried mothers and children.' Despite its fuzzy status, the Drogheda District Hospital, or at least the section housing welfare cases, was often referred to as the County Home.

In 1951, the county councils of Meath, Westmeath, Cavan, Longford, and Louth formed a consortium to open a new mother and baby home, which opened at Dunboyne in 1955. The Drogheda County Home then stopped being used for this purpose.

The workhouse main building is believed to have been demolished in the 1960s, but the former fever hospital is still in use as part of St Mary's Hospital.

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Louth County Archives Service, Old Gaol, Ardee Road, Dundalk, County Louth. Details of holdings relating to the County Home unknown. Workhouse records include Board of Guardians' minute books (1839-1919).

Bibliography