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Boards of Guardians

Information on Board of Guardians minute books held by the Wicklow County Archives.

Extract from the minute book of the Rathdrum Board of Guardians, of their first meeting held in the Flannel Hall, Rathdrum in 1839.

Poor Law Unions were established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act 1838 as a response to widespread poverty. The Board of Guardians was the governing body of the workhouse and poor law union. The functions of the Board of Guardians were gradually extended to include public health, sanitation and rural housing, but 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, until its abolition in 1923.

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 board consisted of elected candidates as well as ex-officio members, appointed usually from amongst local magistrates and landowners, creating an interesting mix of backgrounds and attitudes of the day.

Our collection of Board of Guardians minute books includes:

  • Rathdrum Union (1839-1921)
  • Shillelagh Union (1852-1921)