Children and families in the workhouse populations of the Antrim, Ballymena, and Ballymoney Poor Law Unions in the mid-nineteenth century

23 Feb 2018

This article is a workhouse population study of the Antrim, Ballymena, and Ballymoney Poor Law Unions in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1850-1851 and 1860-1861. Under the Irish Poor Law, the workhouse was the central institution for the welfare of the destitute poor during the nineteenth century. Beyond national trends and a broad regional framework, however, little is known of how workhouse populations varied at the local level or the place of poor relief within the economies of makeshifts of individuals and families. The article draws upon statistical returns to show that changes in the workhouse populations in this area of Ulster diverged from the national pattern in consequence of local economic and social conditions. The familial circumstances of children in these workhouses are explored through analysis of the admission and discharge registers. Far from presenting a monolithic group, children were admitted to the workhouse in a wide variety of family forms which used the workhouses of this locality in multiple ways.