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

The Dundalk County Home had its roots in the Dundalk Union Workhouse, erected in 1841 on a eight-acre site on Ardee Road, at the west of Dundalk. 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 at the east of the site.

The Dundalk workhouse site is shown on the 1911 map below. The position of the main building, destroyed by a fire in 1909, is shown in yellow.

Dundalk workhouse site, Dundalk, c.1911.

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 Dundalk and Drogheda as District Hospitals but in them allocate 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 Dundalk District Hospital, or at least the section housing welfare cases, with often referred to as the County Home. In around 1934, the whole of the site adapted for used as a 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 Dundalk County Home then stopped being used for housing unmarried mothers and children.

The County Home closed in 1987 and the main building demolished. Only the entrance lodge and old fever hospital building now survive. The site is now occupied by St John of God Hilltop Services

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 (1839-1922).

Bibliography