Ancestry UK

Larne, Co. Antrim

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Larne Poor Law Union was formed 13th May 1840, and covered an area of 184 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 23 in number, representing its 13 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Antrim: Ardelinis (2), Ballycor, Ballynure, Carncastle, Carrickfergus (4), Glenarm (2), Glencoy, Glynn, Island Magee 2), Kilwaughter, Larne (3), Raloo, Templecorran (2).

The Board also included 7 ex officio Guardians, making a total of 30. The Guardians met each week on Wednesday.

The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 35,694 with divisions ranging in size from Glencoy (population 1,054) to Carrickfergus (8,706) and Larne itself (4,135).

The new workhouse, built in 1841-2, occupied a five-acre site at the west side of Old Glenarm Road at the north-west of Larne. It was designed by George Wilkinson for the accommodation of 400 inmates. The cost of the building was £4,989 plus £333 for fixtures and fittings etc. It was declared fit for the admission of paupers on 31st October 1842, and admitted its first inmates two months later on the 4th January 1843. The site location and layout are shown on the 1905 OS map below.

Larne workhouse site, 1905.

The buildings followed Wilkinson's typical layout. An entrance and administrative block at the south contained a porter's room and waiting room at the centre with the Guardians' board room on the first floor above. The main accommodation block housed the Master's quarters at the centre, and male and female wings to each side.

Larne main block from the south-west, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Ventilation towers in the roof of the main block were placed over the well-holes of internal staircases to improve the circulation of air through the building.

Larne ventilation tower, 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.

Larne chapel/dining-hall and infirmary block from the east, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

During the famine in the mid-1840s, a 40-bed fever hospital was erected at the north-east of the site. Sleeping galleries were erected to accommodate an additional 130 inmates.

At the 1901 census, the population of the Union was 33,029 with 11 officials and 195 inmates in the workhouse.

In 1917, the Guardians decided to close the accommodation for healthy inmates and to board them out at the Ballymena workhouse. The following April, the existing inmates were transferred by motor to their new quarters.

In 1929, the former workhouse buildings were converted to became Larne District Hospital, later Moyle. The former fever hospital was extended in 1936 and became the nurses' home. The front building has been demolished.


In 1905, workhouse staff were as follows:

  • Master - Malcolm Fleming
  • Matron - Mrs AM Fleming
  • Chaplains - Rev. Gerald N Beere (COI), Rev. Jn. Lyle Donaghy (Presbyterian), Very Rev. John Conway (RC)
  • Medical Officer - Jn. Moore Killen
  • Schoolmistress - Martha B Craig


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: Board of Guardians' minutes (1848-1948); Admissions and discharges (1933-48); Indoor registers (1845-1944); Births (1843-1900); Farm accounts (1900-23); 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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