The Workhouse Schools 1839 – c.1914

The Poor Law Union system in Ireland was set up in in 1838 and workhouse building began 1839. Each union had a workhouse which catered for the poor in the area and was administered by a board of Governors. The workhouses were constructed along a set design with separate schoolrooms for boys and girls with dormitories above.

Education in the workhouse was based on the system used by the Board of National Education using the same books as the national schools. Whilst the Board of National Education had no power over the workhouse schools, it could offer advice.

Inspectors from the Board of Education visited the schools and made reports on their findings.

Plan of workhouse for 800

Tipperary Studies holds a district inspector’s observation book for Tipperary Town workhouse school from 1856 – 1914 (TL/A/39).

1856B
1886B

The boy’s school had one schoolmaster who taught reading, writing, arithmetic and industrial training.

Here is a sample of a writing exercise from the report book.

The workhouse schools were phased out in the early 20th century and children living in the workhouse attended local national schools instead.

Writing exercise Tipperary workhouse school