Ancestry UK

Donaghmore, Co. Leix (Co. Laois, Queen's County)

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Donaghmore Poor Law Union was one of the second wave of Irish unions created between 1848 and 1850. It formally came into existence on 7th June 1850. Donaghmore Union was created from electoral divisions which had previously been part of the Roscrea Union with the exception of Grantstown, formerly in Abbeyleix. The new union's operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 15 in number, representing its 13 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Leix: Ballybrophy, Borris-in-Ossory (2), Donaghmore, Errill, Glemore, Grantstown, Kilcoke, Kildellig, Kyle, Moneenalassa, Moneymore, Rathdowney (2), Rathsaran.

The new Donaghmore workhouse occupied an 6-acre site to the north-west of Donaghmore, and was designed to hold 400 inmates. Its construction cost £4,750 plus £775 for fixtures and fittings etc. It opened its doors for the reception of paupers on 23rd September 1853. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1908 map below.

Donaghmore workhouse site, 1908

The workhouse layout was similar to others from the same period, for example at Castletowndelvin, Ballymahon, Glenamaddy, Mountbellew, and Portumna. At the east of the site, nearest to the road, were a pair of long two-storey blocks — for males at the north and for females at the south. The workhouse entrance would have originally been through an entrance archway that lay between these two blocks. To the rear lay a T-shaped block with its single-storey eastern range containing the workhouse chapel, and the three-storey north and south ranges provided further accommodation. A burial ground was located at the south-west of the workhouse.

Donaghmore workhouse site from the north-east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Donaghmore workhouse central axis from the east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Donaghmore workhouse from the south-west, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

On 30th September 1886, following a petition from the Donaghmore Board of Guardians, the Local Government Board dissolved the union with its electoral divisions being distributed among the adjacent Abbeyleix, Roscrea and Urlingford unions. Following the closure of the workhouse, the building was offered for sale for use as a school or other institution.

On 25th September 1927, the premises were taken over by the Donaghmore Co-operative Dairies.

In 1989, parts of the former workhouse buildings were renovated for use as an agricultural and workhouse museum. Many of the internal rooms can now be seen virtually as they were in the mid-nineteenth century.

Donaghmore ground-floor room with coffin-carrier, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

In the dormitories, the raised sleeping platforms can be seen.

Donaghmore first-floor dormitory, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Many original fittings survive such as the door to the girls' dormitory.

Donaghmore door to girls' dormitory, 2000.
© 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.

  • Laois County Library, County Hall, James Fintan Lalor Avenue, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. (Will be moving to Kea-Lew Business Park, Portlaoise R32 EHP9.)


  • Donaghmore Workhouse by Michael Dillane (Donaghmore Museum).


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