Ancestry UK

Armagh, Co. Armagh

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Armagh Poor Law Union was formed on the 25th April 1839, and covered an area of 241 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 37 in number, representing its 25 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Armagh: Annaghmore, Armabrogue, Armagh (4), Ballyards, Ballymartrim, Brootally, Charlemont (2), Clady, Crossmore, Derrynoose (2), Glenaud, Grange, Hamilton's Bawn, Hockley, Keady (2), Killeen, Killyman, Kilmore, Lisnadill, Louhgall (2), Market Hill (2), Middleton (2), Richill (2), Tynan (2).
Co. Tyrone: Caledon (2).

The Board also included 12 ex officio Guardians, making a total of 49. The Guardians met each week on Tuesday.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 107,145 with divisions ranging in size from Killyman (population 1,950) to Armagh itself (10,343).

The new workhouse, built in 1840, was designed by George Wilkinson. It occupied a seven-acre site at the north-east of Armagh and could accommodate 1,000 inmates. The cost of the building was £7,200 plus £1,554 for fixtures and fittings etc. It was declared fit for the admission of paupers on 14th December 1841, and admitted its first inmates three weeks later on the 4th January 1842. The site location and layout are shown on the 1907 map below.

Armagh workhouse site, 1907.

The buildings followed Wilkinson's typical layout. An entrance and administrative block at the west contained a porter's room and waiting room at the centre with the Guardians' board room on the first floor above.

Armagh entrance block from the south-west, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The main accommodation block housed the Master's quarters at the centre, and male and female wings to each side.

Armagh main block from the north-west, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Armagh main block from the north-east, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

At the rear, a range of single-storey utility rooms such as bakehouse and washhouse connected through to the infirmary and idiots' wards via a central spine containing the chapel and dining-hall.

Armagh infirmary block from the south-west, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

During the famine in the mid-1840s, a 40-bed fever hospital was erected at the east of the site. An additional 350 inmates were accommodated in: wards added over the dining-hall (100), sheds (100), new nurseries (50), and a hired extension to the fever hospital (100).

Armagh fever hospital from the south-east, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The workhouse burial ground stood at the south of the site. A memorial now stands at its entrance.

Armagh burial ground from the north, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

At the 1901 census, the population of the Union was 46,856 with 17 officials and 233 inmates in the workhouse.

The workhouse later became Tower Hill Hospital, now a community hospital. The entrance block, main block and fever hospital survive, together with part of the much altered infirmary block.



In 1905, workhouse staff were as follows:

  • Master - James Stuart
  • Matron - Fanny Stuart
  • Chaplains - Ven. Charles King Irwin (COI), Rev. RJ Patterson (Presbyterian), Rev. Michael Quinn (RC)
  • Medical Officer - Robert T Herron


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.

  • Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast BT3 9HQ. Holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1839-1946); Dispensary minute books (1852-98); Workhouse registers (1843-1917. 1843-1904 available on microfilm); Admissions and discharges (1933-48);Indoor relief lists (1935-50); Return of births (1933-44); Outward letter books (1901-2); Masters' Journals (1921-48); Porters' books (1932-53); etc.


  • The Workhouses of Ulster by Michael H Gould, 1983.
  • The Workhouses of Ireland by John O'Connor (Anvil Books, 1995)


  • None.

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