The final phase of the digitization of the minute books of the Board of Guardians of Rathdrum Poor Law Union, a rich and informative resource for Irish social history, that will be freely available and fully searchable on www.wicklow.ie providing valuable and compelling content for creative and interpretive projects such as dramatic pieces, visual art and literature.
The Irish Poor Law System was a quintessential product of the Victorian enthusiasm for administrative reform in Ireland. Poor Law Unions were established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act 1838 as a response to widespread poverty in Ireland. Poor Law volumes illustrate the sufferings of the poor. The Board of Guardians was the governing body of the Poor Law Union and the workhouse it contained. In Co. Wicklow, the Poor Law Unions were Rathdrum, Baltinglass and Shillelagh and the county was also served by the bordering unions of Naas and Rathdown. From 1994, women could be elected as Poor Law Guardians. The functions of the Board of Guardians were gradually extended to include public health, sanitation and rural housing but the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1989 saw most of its public health functions taken over by the newly created Wicklow County Council. The Board continued to administer the workhouse and its hospital until it was abolished in 1923.
Please note that the details of events listed above are provided by the relevant Local Authorities.