Abandoned ireland


Wexford Workhouse,

Co. Wexford.

Documenting our Heritage

When Wexford Poor Law Union was formed on the 20th June 1840, the elected Board of Guardians initiated the construction of the Wexford Workhouse. The workhouse was completed on 15 November 1842 but due to a lack of funds it did not begin operation until 5 November 1845.

The workhouse occupied a site of 7 acres, had a capacity of 600 inmates and was built at a cost of £5,780 plus £1,120 for fixtures and fitting.

The main three storey accommodation block housed the workhouse Master's quarters at its centre and had male and female wings on each side. At the rear of the workhouse there was a single storey structure which contained a bake house, a wash house and went on to connect to an infirmary, an idiot’s ward, a chapel and a dining hall.

The terrible conditions of the Great Famine had a drastic effect all across Ireland. From 1845 to 1852 the population dropped by 25 per cent. One million people died from starvation and disease and a further one million people emigrated. In 1847 the ‘Return of Orphan Girls sent out from Workhouses’ recorded that 20 orphan girls had been sent from the Wexford Workhouse to Australia. In 1848, as a result of deteriorating conditions due to the famine, 102 orphan girls had already been sent to Australia in the first three months of that year. Sadly many of those whose sole refuge from the famine was the workhouse would only leave to be taken for burial in mass graves in the paupers’ graveyard.

Wexford Workhouse
Co. Wexford

A later incident is recorded on the treatment of a pauper lunatic:

The Sisters of St John of God founded their congregation in the Diocese of Ferns in 1871. In 1873 the sisters began to work in the Wexford Workhouse. The sisters still continue to care for the patients of the Wexford General Hospital today.

In June 1879 Dr. MacCabe, Local Government Board Inspector recorded the conditions inside the workhouse:

In 1911 the master of the workhouse is recorded as John Joseph Moran, age 33, with Cornillus Costigan, age 41, as the head of the order of nuns working at the workhouse. Cornillus was accompanied by seven other members of the order - five working as nurses and two as matrons. The 45 rooms of the workhouse are listed as being occupied by 236 paupers including farmers, coachmen, labourers, coach builders, pipe makers, servants, shop messengers, masons, sailors, shoe makers etc. It is interesting to note that though most of the paupers are listed as being able to read and write, they are identified on the 'Return of Paupers in workhouses' only by the first letter of their forename and surname.

After 1920 the workhouse was converted for use as the Wexford hospital. It remained in operation until 1992 when the new Wexford General Hospital was opened. All services were transferred to the new hospital and the old workhouse buildings were abandoned and let fall into ruin.

This article is the copyright of Tarquin Blake, Abandoned Ireland, and may not be reproduced in any form without permission.