Thursday Doors – The Poorhouse (1)

The Bawnboy workhouse, often referred to in the old days as the poorhouse, is the subject of this week’s Thursday Doors. You can see a glimpse of it in the first photo and it’s one of the largest workhouses that I’ve come across so far. The next few images will show how big it is.

Would you like to see inside? Unfortunately, there wasn’t any public access but there was an information board at the entrance, displaying some interior images.

I think this was later used as a sports hall.
These are the straw beds the inmates slept on. I’ll never complain about a mattress again.
The first image is of a cell, where those who broke the strict workhouse rules were locked up and the second one is of the latrines. No privacy in those days. However, because men and women (even married couples) were kept segregated and housed in separate areas of the workhouse, they didn’t have to share the same toilets.
You can get an idea of it’s size from this plan.
Here is an old aerial shot of the grounds. The workhouse buildings are on the top left, with the front facing the main road which runs diagonally across the photograph.
This may have been part of the infirmary.

The workhouse is a cut-stone structure which was built in 1852 and the funding for it came from rates paid by land and property owners. The diet was very limited and strict rules were enforced. It was a last resort for anyone to enter the poorhouse, as couples were separated and even children found themselves apart from their mothers and fathers. In 1920 the boys school room became a dance hall and was used for concerts, meetings and for Irish dance classes. In later years it was used for indoor sports, such as basketball and volleyball. In 1933 a vocational school was also in operation in the Bawnboy workhouse.

For next week’s blogpost I have more images from Bawnboy Workhouse and a wee bit more history, too. If you travel over to Norm’s blog you’ll find lots of lovely Thursday Doors to view, with links to even more in the comments at the end of his post.


About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
This entry was posted in castles and ruins, Cavan, Historical buildings, History, Ireland, social issues, Thursday Doors, Travel, victorian ireland and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Thursday Doors – The Poorhouse (1)

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Wow. This was an interesting tour, Jean. I, too will never complain about a mattress again. It’s easy to see why people would choose to live out in the open.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean says:

    Oh man! These photos and the story that goes with them is grim. That being said, thanks for sharing them here. Like you, I’ll never complain about a lumpy mattress again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Junieper2 says:

    Depressing environment. How serendipitous that Norm and you tackled the same subject on the same week! I can see how homelessness is a better choice than this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. JT Twissel says:

    It’s an awful thing to be punished for being poor. I’m sure in the winter it was really miserable. Great pictures though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This workhouse seemed to have a lot of vents in the walls, probably to keep fresh air circulating and reduce the spread of fever in overcrowded conditions. That would certainly have added to the chill indoors in wintertime, Jan.


  5. Norm 2.0 says:

    After seeing this post I’m going to appreciate my big comfy mattress a bit more than usual tonight πŸ˜€
    Like Jan, I can’t help but feel terrible that people were subjected to conditions like this just for being poor.
    Thanks Jean. I look forward to reading rest of your report about this visit next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. TCast says:

    Depressing site but Great shots Jean.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. sydspix says:

    Very interesting Jean – look forward to the next blog! Sounds like this facility was used for all kinds of things depending on the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. sjhigbee says:

    A grim chapter in our history – punishing people for being poor without giving them any kind of chance to escape poverty:(. I wish I felt this mindset could also be consigned to history, too… Once more a brilliant post, Jean.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. slfinnell says:

    This is an important piece of history to be remembered for sure! Tragic many/most never left.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. joey says:

    Wow! That’s a fascinating building, and it has the added benefit of encouraging gratitude, so, that’s nice. Beautiful shot of fence and flowers, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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