Kilrush Poor Law Union Minutes Collection


Identity Statement

Reference code(s)



Kilrush Poor Law Union Minutes Collection



Level of description

Sub series

Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)

126 volumes


Name of creator(s)

Board of Guardians

Administrative / Biographical history

The Poor Law was extended to Ireland by an Act of 1838, based on the English Poor Law Act of 1834 and operated until 1923. The country was divided into Poor Law unions, each of which built a work house which were run by Poor Law boards of elected guardians, and ex-officio guardians. Ex-officio guardians were elected yearly at meetings of local magistrates and were composed mainly of Justices of the Peace. These were the first representative local bodies in Ireland, elected by owners and occupiers of property. Tenants were entitled however to deduct half their rates from their rent. These were placed under the centralised control of the Poor Law Commissioners. The system was funded by cess payers, assessed originally on District Electoral Divisions according to the numbers of paupers. The Poor Law Guardians were responsible for the provision of relief to the poor but gathered other functions over time. In 1846, they became responsible for providing and equipping hospitals and dispensaries for the sick poor; in 1856 operated as the burial board for the rural parts of the union and from 1863 were responsible for the registration of births and deaths notably relating to public health, the boarding out of children and rural housing. Between 1874 and 1899 they were the rural sanitary authority employing dispensary medical officers to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Ireland was divided into 130 Poor Law Unions, each of which built a workhouse. 
Kilrush Union: 
Original electoral divisions included Kilballyoan, Kildysart, Kilfiddane, Kilkee, Killimer, Killard, Killofin, Kilmacdooaun, Kilmihil, Kilmurray, Kilrush, Knock, Moyarta.

After 1850, it included Cahermurphy, Cloonadrum, Clooncoorha, Cooraclare, Creagh, Doonbeg, Drumellihy, Einagh, Glenmore, Kilballyowen, Kilkee, Killard, Killimer, Kilmihil, Kilmurray, Kilrush, Knock, Knocknaboley, knocknagore, Moveen, Moyarta, Mullagh, Querrin, Rahona, St. Martin’s, Tullig, and Tullycreen

Archival history

The surviving records of the Clare Boards of Guardians were deposited in the County Archives in 1999 by Clare Local Studies Library.

Content and Structure

Scope and content

The Boards of Guardians were obliged to maintain a large variety of records, which were closely inspected by the Poor Law Commissioners. Although a multitude of records once existed for each union it is largely minute books that have survived. Meetings were usually held twice a week and the minutes were entered in pre-printed minute books. Rough minute books for many unions have survived. These generally were not indexed. 

The minutes contain mainly statistical information on the financial administration and maintenance of the workhouses under their control; includes details of the workhouse population under the following subheadings, the numbers remaining in, inmates admitted during the week, those discharged or the number that had died-subdivided into able bodied males and female, aged and infirm persons and adults above 15 years of age but not working, boys and girls above nine and under 15 years of age, children above 5 and under 9 years of age, infants under two years of age, with the total remaining on the said date under each heading, with a return of the number of ‘sick and lunatics.’ Later minutes include a return of destitute persons relieved out of the workhouse.

Minutes of the proceedings include a list of attending Guardians, notices of marriage, confirmation of numbers in the workhouse register, financial reports on payments and receipts and the balance in the account, details of rates collected from cess payers listing the ratepayer’s name, electoral division, the amount collected and amount remaining; a report from the clerk detailing the cost of provisions and necessaries during the week, the general average cost of an inmate, the average cost in the infirmary and in the Fever Hospital, orders for provisions details of the clothing account, and establishment account, workhouse invoice account, outdoor relief invoice account. 

The collection includes an abstract of letters received from the Local Government Board with a note of decisions reached and orders made. These deal with the general running of the workhouse, tenders and contracts for maintenance, workhouse staff recruitment, remuneration and disciplinary matters.


None expected

System of arrangement

The Minutes are arranged chronologically according to each union. Also included are Rough Minute Books. The Clare Board of Guardian collection is divided into five sub series; these subseries being the records which survived from each Unions.

Conditions of Access and Use

Conditions governing access

By appointment with the Archivist

Conditions governing reproduction

Not to be reproduced in any format without the prior consent of the Archivist.

Language/scripts of material


Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Bound volumes

Finding aids

Descriptive Lists

Allied Materials

Existence and location of originals

Clare County Archives


Subject / Keywords

Board of Guardians, Kilrush Poor Law Union, workhouse, IE CLCCA BG K, 1854

Rules or Conventions