Ancillary buildings during the Famine

In September 1848 it was claimed that an order forbidding outdoor relief in the Dungannon union had been sanctioned and 115 people were knocked off the list, but none of them applied for entry to the workhouse suggesting that either they were afraid to enter or did not need to. It is little wonder that some were reluctant to enter the workhouse.
 In January 1849 a government report found that the fever sheds which had been condemned ‘as unfit for purpose’ were actually being used as a day room and dormitory for the so-called ‘healthy’ female paupers. Edward Senior in his report stated: 
the building is in every way unfit for human habitation, being damp, dark, and badly ventilated, that it is divided by a slight wooden partition, one part being unoccupied, in the centre of which is a large open filthy cesspool, now being emptied, and its contents scattered over the floor, and that the inmates of this building literally live over and breathe the effluvia of the infirmary cesspools.

In addition, Senior found that there were 876 people in the workhouse when the Poor Law Commissioners in Dublin had put a cap on the building having 840 people and ordered that they should reduce the numbers by putting them on outdoor relief lists. ‘The fever sheds’, he said, should no longer be inhabited ‘there being the most imminent danger of disease breaking out in the union from its occupation’

The Dungannon guardians responded by appointing a committee to investigate the matter but they did not agree with Senior in relation to the fever sheds. However, they did identify 76 people who could be placed solely on outdoor relief and went on to claim that the fever sheds were quite habitable. Unsatisfied with the response, the poor law commissioners in Dublin, with William Stanley as secretary, replied that if ‘in the event of epidemic disease breaking out, the responsibility of the guardians would be very serious’. Stanley also complained about the fact that no plans for the fever sheds were ever submitted for approval which could have saved money. 

The guardians must have been pressed into action by this rebuttal, because plans were submitted for extra accommodation, but it came to nothing. The plans to house a further 550 ‘inmates’ would have greatly alleiviated the pressure on the main workhouse building and perhaps prevented the spread of disease.