Saturday, 7 May 2016

Londonderry Poor Law Guardians

I recently came upon a copy of an assurance dated 7th August 1874 whereby the Commissioners of Church Temporalities in Ireland pursuant to the powers vested in them by the Irish Church Act of 1869 caused several burial grounds within the Poor Law Union of Londonderry to be vested in the Guardians of the said Union.

The term, "Union," appears to have come into usuage subsequent to the passing of Thomas Gilbert's Act in 1782 which permitted adjacent parishes in England and Wales to combine into, "unions," to provide workhouses for the old, the sick and the infirm. On 31st July 1837 , "An Act for the More Effective Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland ," authorised the formation of Unions within Ireland based on Electoral divisions which in their turn were made up of townlands. By the end of 1841 there were 130 Unions a figure which would increase between 1848 and 1850 by a further thirty three. This second tranche of Unions was created by the subdivision of existing Unions, primarily in the west of Ireland.

The Poor Law Union of Londonderry extended into Donegal hence the inclusion of Fahan and Grange Burial Grounds in the schedule to the 1874 deed. It was 217sq miles in extent. Twenty seven of the Guardians were elected from the constituent townlands. There were a further nine ex officio guardians. Weekly meetings, (on a Saturday), took place at the Union Workhouse. The tenure of the elected Guardians ran on an annual basis from 25th March. The franchise for the election of Poor Law Guardians was limited to ratepayers and was weighted, (1-6) dependant upon the valuation of the individual's property. There is a certain attraction and logic to the notion of weighted voting.




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