Irish Workhouse

Irish Workhouse2021-01-21T15:39:59+00:00

A fascinating insight into Portumna’s past.

Workhouses are a checkered part of Irish history. 163 workhouses operated in Ireland from the early 1840s to the early 1920s. The workhouse or ‘poorhouse’ has been described as “the most feared and hated institution ever established in Ireland.” During and after the Great Famine, people who could not support themselves came to workhouses, where they would work in return for food.

The workhouse in Portumna opened in 1852, originally had 600 residents. Families entered together but were split up into separate quarters. Life in the workhouse was harsh so as not to encourage people to stay. One of the ways that workhouse numbers decreased was through emigration.

The Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna gives visitors a sense of what life was like there. You can see the girls’ yard, women’s dormitory block, matron’s quarters, schoolroom and laundry building — and compare these to the deluxe boardroom, where the board of guardians who ran the workhouse held their meetings. A short film gives a glimpse into the bleakness of life there. Visitors will learn about the fascinating social and historical context of the workhouse.


Is it far from where we collect the bikes?2020-12-21T14:07:03+00:00

It’s located just 4 mins away (1.1km).

Are there guided tours?2020-12-21T14:05:35+00:00

Yes, the average length of the tour is one hour. Click here to visit the Irish Workhouse Centre website to find out more.

Is there a gift shop?2020-12-21T14:03:48+00:00

Yes, there is a craft shop that sells locally made craft gifts. Click here to visit the Irish Workhouse Centre website to find out more.

Is the visitor centre open all year?2020-12-21T14:04:01+00:00

As part of the government’s COVID-19 safety measures, The Irish Workhouse Centre is temporarily closed. Click here to follow them on Facebook or visit their website for updates.

Explore the Irish Workhouse

Dick's Treasure Hunt - Get off yer bike and explore!

Hop off your bike and have a look!

How many workhouses were there in Ireland?

Can you find out how many workhouses operated in Ireland from 1840 – early 1920’s?

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