Womenʼs Dormitory Block

The former Women’s Dormitory Block.


Extract from Masterplan



Block C


Length          Depth           Height

Block C                  37.475m       6.09m          9.3m


Inside GF area         176.53msq              Outside GF area       228.22msq

Inside FF area                   176.53msq              Outside FF area       228.22msq

Inside SF area         176.53msq              Outside SF area       228.22msq


Inside Floor area      529.60msq              Outside Floor area    684.66msq


35 degree pitch on roof


Present Use & Condition: Not in use, however in remarkably good condition with no modern interventions, except a concrete floor at ground level and a large opening in the south gable.

Former Use:Ground Floor: Workroom, Nursery & Matron’s Rooms.

1st Floor and 2nd Floor – Women’s Dormitories


Description of Block C


This building is on the west range of the complex.The building is a long narrow three-storey structure of eleven bays.It has rubble limestone walls finished in rough lime dash externally.It is hipped at either end and has a slate roof. The underside of the slate is parged with lime.There is a stone staircase.The ground floor is of concrete construction.The first and second floors are of timber construction and contain the original platforms on which people slept.The building is typical in structure and layout of mid 19th century institutional structures.The windows are wooden casements with small panes.There are four sash windows in the matron’s offices.

Apart from the concrete floor at ground level and the opening in the gable wall, there have been no alterations carried out to this building.Internally, it is in remarkably good condition.


Roof Form & Cladding:Single A pitched hipped at both ends clad with Killaloe slates, the underside of slating is parged in lime mortar.Slate roof in fair/good condition.


Ironwork:Cast iron gutters supported with iron straps built into wall at eaves and cast iron downpipes.Few gutters and downpipes are intact.


Ironmongery:Original thumb latches are still seen on some doors. Original window latch and restraining arm are still seen on some windows.Most of the ironmongery can be replaced with matching where missing or decayed beyond repair.


Roof Structure:100 x 50 rafters supported by 175 x 100 purlins (2) on King post trusses. The roof is coved on the top floor where the ceiling is open to the underside of the roof. Trusses are joined with iron straps at eaves.Roof timbers are in good condition.


Walls:Limestone random rubble walls with lime mortar, 550mm wide at base and stepped in c. 50mm at first floor.Walls are structurally sound and apart from modification to gable wall are identical to original.


Windows:Timber up-down sash windows to front and rear (north end).All other windows are side or pivot casement/fixed sash type broken down by glazing bars to small rectangular panes.Original windows are generally intact and can be repaired.The casement type windows have had considerable repair and replacement of framing and components and can be repaired and reinstated.


Stairs:Limestone cantilevered stone stairs and landings with wrought iron balustrades.The stairs is still intact and in good condition.


Doors:Timber boarded doors with ledged and braced framing.Doors are mostly still intact and in good condition and can be used as templates for missing doors.Interior doors, where extant, are in good condition.


Upper Floors: Softwood boards on 225 x 50 joists supported on 325 x 225 timber girders.Still all extant with minor modifications.


Ground Floor:Mortar composition floor.


Walkways/Sleeping Platforms:225 x 75 planks with continuous metal strips dowelled into abutting faces. Still extant and in good condition.


External Wall Finish:Lime render dashed onto wall, c. 1:4 mix of lime/fine grit.In poor condition.


Interior Wall Finish: Lime wash.Fair condition.


Notes:This block and block D are almost symmetrical about the east-west axis.The differences are in the opening types and sizes on ground floor.This block contains dormitories on first and second floor level that most clearly show the original form of the workhouse.For this reason, it should be retained and conserved with minimal intervention.



Structural Report: Block C


This three-storey building is in good condition apart from the ground floor which will have to be replaced with new floors.The roof slates should be removed and a new roof be installed.It should be possible to salvage circa 50% of the existing slates.


It would be advisable to allow for splicing a notional figure of 20% of the rafter ends, replacing 20% of the wall plates and making good the mortar capping at the top of the walls.The first and second floors are in quite good condition.There may be localised woodworm damage on these floors.Structural work will be required for any proposed alterations (e.g. installing new stairs).

Allowance should be made for a new ground floor.Some window heads may have to be replaced/repaired.Allow for 15%.



New Use


This building is to be used to tell the story of the Irish Workhouse, as it has been hardly altered since it was built in 1852. It is to be conserved with minimal intervention.



Items to be conserved:


Windows:18 windows have been repaired and conserved.This leaves 41 windows to be done.These are in reasonable condition.All the windows are casement type, with the exception of four sash windows in the Matron’s Offices.The shutters and fittings for these windows are also present in reasonable condition and should be conserved.Three windows are missing and are to be replaced with like-for-like.



Pic Sash Windows & Shutters


Doors: (exterior 4 original doors, interior 9 doors). All with the exception of one exterior door are in good condition and can be conserved.An interesting feature over many of the doors can be seen in this photograph.This board in the fanlight like section was probably perforated to allow for better ventilation.This feature is evident in many of the doorways.



Roof:A new roof is to be installed.



The underside of the slate is parged in lime.A section of the original roof is to be conserved. The lime parging will be re-done when the new roof is in place.



Sleeping Platforms:The original sleeping platforms from the workhouse era are still intact and in very good condition.These are to be conserved.Repairs where required to be carried out.



The stone stairway is an example of excellent craftsmanship and is to be conserved.The iron handrail is original and should be conserved, if possible.



Fireplaces – There are five fireplaces in Block C. These are all to be repaired and conserved.



Ventilators:Ventilators on both interior and exterior are to be conserved.



Paintwork: Some earlier interior decoration survives. Sections of this are to be conserved.




Skirting: Sections of original skirting survive.These are to be repaired and conserved.Where missing, it is to be replaced like-for-like.Most of the original floorboards in the Matron’s Office survive.These are to be conserved and repairs carried out.



Reversal of Modern Unsympathetic Modifications



Closing up of opening in gable to be done in stone and rendered in lime.

The exterior lime render as can be seen here, is missing in places and severely weathered and discoloured.It is to be re-done.



Interventions to allow for new use as visitor centre:


Given the degree of intactness of this building, the over-riding principle here is one of minimum intervention.


  • The concrete section of the ground floor is to be replaced with a new, breathable limecrete floor.


  • The provision of under floor heating is to be investigated for here.Ducting for future cabling is to be provided.


  • A fire alarm and security alarm are to be fitted.

Former Use:Ground Floor: Workroom, Nursery & Matron’s Rooms.

1st Floor and 2nd Floor – Women’s Dormitories

The Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Tel: 00-353 (0) 90-9759200 | info@irishworkhousecentre.ie