04 August 2013 - Opening Hours
The Irish Workhouse Centre will be open until 31st October, 2013. 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with last admissions at 5 p.m.
Adults €6, Seniors/Students €4, Familes €14.
31 October 2012 - €187,000 for Irish Workhouse Centre
The recently opened Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna has been allocated €187,000 by Galway Rural Development Ltd. under the "Conservation and Upgrading of the Rural Heritage" measure of the National Rural Development Programme (LEADER) 2007 – 2013. This funding has been allocated to re-develop Block A, which housed the board room, the waiting room, probationary wards, clerk's office and girl's dormitories. The funding will allow for conservation and redevelopment of this block ensuring that excellent visitor facilities will be in place for 2013. These facilities will also be available for local use. The ground floor of Block A will be redeveloped to allow for a canteen and meeting room, a presentation/audio-visual room, conservation of the original waiting room/entrance room and visitor reception. Toilets will also be provided. The building has already been re-slated. Under this phase, the roof will be insulated. All original forty four windows will be restored and the external render repaired. The project promoters are committed to implementing best conservation practice, using ecologically sound methods and materials where appropriate and practical, making the buildings as accessible as possible and improving the energy efficiency of the buildings.
The Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna is managed by South East Galway IRD, with the help of many local volunteers and participants on the Rural Social Scheme and TÚS Programmes. The aim of the project is to tell the story of the Irish Workhouse and find new sustainable uses for the site. In so doing, it hopes to attract visitors to the area and provide employment locally. During 2012, its first year of operation, more than 3,000 people visited the site. Three people are employed full-time on the project with five working on a part-time basis. In addition, during the past year, employment was given to two local contractors, who carried out window restoration and re-roofing. Tour guiding is carried out by paid staff and 20 local volunteer guides. The Centre is now closed to visitors and will re-open on 1st May, 2013.
The funding allocated by Galway Rural Development Ltd. is greatly welcomed by the project promoters, who must also make a contribution to the conservation and re-development costs. People wishing to support the project can do so by becoming Friends of the Irish Workhouse Centre. Friends give €2 per week to the project. Friends' names will be placed on a plaque beside each window. Friends also receive free admission for up to 10 people in any given year, are acknowledged in the Friends Book and also on the website. New guides will also be needed for 2013. Full training is given and guides work one day a month for six months. For more information on the project: tel: SE Galway IRD at 090-9741867 or e-mail: email@example.com
All going to plan, the Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna will be open to the public for July and August 2011.
The basic idea of the Workhouse System was that families in dire poverty could enter the workhouse and work for food, thus avoiding death from starvation.
163 workhouses were built in Ireland from 1840 to 1858. This was the single biggest building project undertaken in Ireland ever. The workhouse system was an English solution to an Irish problem. It failed
Portumna Workhouse opened in 1852. It operated as a workhouse from the time it opened until the early part of the twentieth century.
The Portumna Workhouse complex is reasonably intact. All the original main buildings (7) survive. SE Galway IRD approached the Health Service Executive, who own the complex, to see if the site could be developed in a way that would benefit the community.
It has been decided to use a number of buildings to house the Irish Workhouse Centre and also to find sustainable uses for the other buildings.
For generations, the workhouse was barely spoken about. The voices of the nineteenth century destitute were mainly unrecorded. And so at the Irish Workhouse Centre, the story of life in the workhouse and society at that time will be told.
While the workhouse represents the life of the "ordinary folk" at this time, in Portumna, one can also visit the Castle, where the landlord lived and so see both sides of the story.
There is another dimension to the Irish Workhouse Centre. In finding new sustainable uses for old buildings, it is an exciting conservation and redevelopment project.
Work carried out on the Project to date includes: the development of a Masterplan; the removal of damaging ivy growth from the buildings; the re-roofing of three buildings and the conservation of 18 original windows. At all times, best conservation practice is adhered to. This work was carried out with the help of Galway Rural Development Ltd., Galway County Council, the Heritage Council and the Department of the Environment. A short documentary was made with the help of the Galway Film Centre and a dedicated project website is currently being prepared.
Participants on the Rural Social Scheme are now working on the Project and carrying out great work in clearing out all the buildings and tidying the site in general.
If you would like further information or to get involved in this exciting Project, contact:
Ursula or Eric
The Irish Workhouse Centre
c/o South East Galway IRD
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