The Building of the Workhouse

The first task facing each newly established union was the building of the workhouse. The Poor Law Commissioners had engaged the architect, George Wilkinson of Oxford, to design the workhouse. He was left in no doubt that the style of the building was to be of:
"The cheapest description compatible with durability".

Wilkinson drew up two designs for workhouses, one for 600 and the other for 800 to 1000 paupers. Workhouses were deliberately grim buildings. All decoration was excluded. The penal and repellent character was intended to discourage any but the most destitute from seeking admission or staying longer than absolutely necessary. The fundamental aim of the Irish workhouse system was not so much to meet the needs of the poor and the destitute as to protect the rest of the community from the pauper.

At a meeting held by the Ennistymon board of guardians in October 1840, it was resolved that "In pursuance of the order of the Poor Law Commissioners the sum of 8400 be borrowed from the Exchequer Loan Commission for fitting and furnishing the workhouse of the Ennistymon Union and for providing utensils, instruments and machinery for setting the poor to work therein’. A 6 acre site was purchased from Andrew Stackpoole, Lahinch, and by 1842 the workhouse was built and opened to paupers.

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