Collections: Boards of Guardians

Boards of Guardians Minute Books

Poor Law Unions were established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838 as a response to widespread poverty and the Board of Guardians was the governing body of the workhouse and poor law union.  The functions of the Boards of Guardians were gradually extended to include public health and rural housing and sanitation until their abolition in 1923.  While the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 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, and to supervise some forms of outdoor relief.

Minute books are the largest series of poor law archives, reflecting not only the functions of the Board, but also resolutions on internal and poor law matters and on wider political or social issues.  The boards consisted of elected candidates as well ex-officio members, appointed usually from amongst local magistrates and landowners, creating an interesting mix of backgrounds and attitudes of the day. 


Board of Guardians Minute Books:

Rathdrum Union (1839 – 1921)

Shillelagh Union (1852 – 1921)

See below image of an extract from the minute book of the Rathdrum Board of Guardians, showing their first meeting held in the Flannel Hall, Rathdrum.  The board included members of the famous County Wicklow families of Parnell and Synge: