Ancestry UK

Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

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Letterkenny Poor Law Union was formed on the 26th June 1841 and covered an area of 158 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 21 in number, representing its 14 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Donegal: Ballymacool, Carrickatimpan, Castlewray (2), Connavaddy, Edenacarnan, Gartan, Gortnavern, Killymosny, Kincraigy (2), Letterkenny (3), Magheraboy (2), Manor Cuningham (2), Seacor, Temple Douglas (2).

The Board also included 7 ex officio Guardians, making a total of 28. The Guardians met each week at noon on Friday.

The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 25,322 with divisions ranging in size from Carrickatimpan (population 444) to Letterkenny itself (3,796).

The new workhouse, built in 1844, was designed by George Wilkinson. It occupied a six-acre site at the west side of the Kilmacrenan Road and could accommodate 500 inmates. The cost of the building was £6,450 plus £1,475 for fixtures and fittings etc. It was declared fit for the admission of paupers on 16th December 1844, and admitted its first inmates three months later on 14th March 1845. The site location and layout are shown on the 1907 map below.

Letterkenny workhouse site, 1907.

The buildings followed Wilkinson's typical layout. An entrance and administrative block at the east 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. 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, temporary sheds were erected to accommodate fever patients.

At the 1901 census, the population of the Union was 13,080 with 6 officials and 79 inmates in the workhouse.

The workhouse later became Letterkenny District Hospital. The former master's house is now home to the Donegal County Museum.


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.

  • Donegal County Record Office, Three Rivers Centre, Lifford, County Donegal. Holdings include: Guardians' Minutes (1841-1923); Rough Minutes (1841-1869); Guardians' Treasurers' Book (1917-1923); Abstract of Accounts (1874-1875); Admissions and discharges (1864-1878); Outdoor Relief Register (1855-1899); Notice for contract to supply workhouse (1881); 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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