Ancestry UK

Coleraine, Co. Londonderry

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Coleraine Poor Law Union was formally declared on the 28th November 1839 and covered an area of 175 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 27 in number, representing its 20 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Londonderry: Aghadowey (2), Agivey, Articlave, Baunbrook, Bovaght, Coleraine (3), Downhill, Drumcroon (2), Garvagh (2), Glenkeen, Letterloan, Ringsend, Slaght, Somerset.
Co. Londonderry and Co. Antrim: Ballylagan, Knockantern (2), Port Stewart.
Co. Antrim: Beardiville, Bushmills (2), Port Rush.

The Board also included 9 ex-officio Guardians, making a total of 36. The Guardians met each week on Saturday.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 50,940 with divisions ranging in size from Ringsend (population 1,039) to Coleraine itself (6,645).

The new Coleraine Union workhouse was erected on a seven-acre site at the east of Mountsandel Road in Coleraine. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson, the building was based on one of his standard plans to accommodate 700 inmates. Its construction cost £6,870 plus £1,270 for fittings etc. The workhouse was declared fit for the reception of paupers on 11th April 1842 and admitted its first inmates on 19th April.

The workhouse site location and layout are shown on the 1937 OS map below.

Coleraine workhouse site, 1937.

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.

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

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

During the famine in the mid-1840s, lofts were raised over the boys' dormitories to accommodate an additional 60 inmates. In 1847, a 40-bed fever hospital was erected at the south of the workhouse. The workhouse had its own burial ground at the north of the site.

At the 1901 census, the population of the Union was 29,917 with 12 officials and 109 inmates in the workhouse.

The workhouse site later became Coleraine Hospital and most of the workhouse buildings demolished. The entrance block survived, together with the fever hospital which was used as nurses' home. In 2003, the site was redeveloped for housing.

Coleraine former workhouse site from the south-west, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.


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 (1839-1948); Dispensary minute books (1852-99); Workhouse registers (1906-44); Combined workhouse register and statistical record (1944-9); Indoor relief lists (1943-8); Return of births (1906-44); Return of deaths (1900-48); In letters (1896-1907); Copy advertisements (1892-3); etc.


  • The Workhouses of Ulster by Michael H Gould (1983, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society).
  • Workhouses of the North West Edited by Jack Johnston (1996, WEA)
  • The Workhouses of Ireland by John O'Connor (Anvil Books, 1995)


  • None.

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